Friday, December 14, 2007

The best opponent

I played $3/$6 at Palace last Saturday night, and doubled my $100 buy-in in three hours. A large chunk of this change came from a guy in seat 2, two seats to my right. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was confused about what drink the waitress had brought him, up until the point where the waitress realized how inebriated he was, and politely declined to serve him.

He left the table for a few minutes, and when he returned he staggered over one of the low rolling tables, splashing seat 1's drink. Ten minutes later, I hit an ace-high flush on the turn, raised and capped the pot against him, and he doesn't slow down on the river; I extract another $24 from him. He's frustrated after I show the nuts to his ten-high flush, and I conciliatorily tell him, "that's tough; there no way you could have laid that down." I didn't mention to him that it should have been easy to stop raising, though.

He plays several more hands, including several against one of the best players in the room, someone who is always here, and loses almost every time. The drunk offhandedly calls him "Mr. Lucky", and the rest of the table chuckles. We rib Mr. Lucky for the next 30 minutes, until he leaves to go get some dinner. A few minutes later, I'm dealt J9 on the button. I check, and the flop is JT6. I bet to see who else has a jack, and nobody raises me. The turn is a 9, I bet again, and everyone folds, except for Mr. Tipsy, who raises me. I put him on a 1-in-5 flush draw, so re-raise him. He stares at me, I joke about Mr. Lucky leaving the table, and tell him that I'm trying to make myself the new lucky guy. He re-raises, capping it, and I call.

The river is a Q♠, making a possible straight if he has an 8 or a king. I slyly check, and he asks me if I'm going to check raise him if he bets. I'm non-committal, and he bets. "I call. Two pair." I show my jacks and sixes. He shows me his A6, for a pair of sixes. Awesome.

(Oh, and my four-figure check from PlayersOnly arrived this week. Awesome^2.)

An 827% player edge at the office Christmas party

The theme of the office Christmas party was "Vegas, Baby," and I looked forward to some fun times at the poker table. Everyone got somewhere around $200 in play money to start, and after folding pre-wager on a hand of indian poker, I got dealt KJ in Texas hold 'em, in the small blind. It was $20 to me, and I raised to $40. Six callers, and the flop comes QT3, with one heart. I bet $40 again, and get two callers. The turn is a second heart, so I've got 23 outs on the river. I bet another $40 and get called. The river's a brick, I check and fold. Dang.

The next game is five card draw, and after my draw, I push all in with a set of tens. I'm beat by a set of kings, and leave the table after only three hands.

Ryan tells me that the roulette wheel's got crazy-wrong odds, and gives me $100 to play it. "Bet red and black and you'll come out way ahead," he tells me.

The payout for any bet is 20-for-1, except that individual numbers pay 30-for-1. Betting $20 each on even, odd, black, red, high, low, and the 0/00 split is an average payout of $1157, and is typically $1200. The table ran slowly, particularly because they quickly were running out of $100 bills, but after four spins, I ended up with $4820. I "tipped" the croupier a fake $20, gave the fake $100 back to Ryan, and won first place in the office Vegas pool, bringing home a basket of fancy chocolates, candies, and ... pickled asparagus? Good times.

(Yes, it's sad that I'm calculating the edge for games at the office Christmas party. I'm quite the geek, I'm afraid.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Matching Wednesday scaled way back

In my mailbox from this morning:

Starting in December the Match200 bonus will not be awarded every Wednesday of the calendar month. Instead, you’ll be able to register for this promotion and receive 1 bonus per month per account or household.
I figured that Matching Wednesdays was too good to last for long (deposit $200, get $200 more, playthrough $4200, profit!). In the four Wednesdays I played, I was +$100, +$400, +$100, and +$22. Not bad for a few hours work. It's still a good deal at once a month, and it'll help my cash flow to be able to get the payout check before I have to make another deposit. My gambling funds envelope is looking awfully thin with four $200 payments removed.

On top of that, I've started playing in their poker room. They're either really bad players, or my loosening up of starting hands is paying off. I'm inclined to think it's bad play, though, because the first time I did really well at online poker, it was at another casino that had a poker table "on the side." Kind of like my adventure at the bowling alley in Wenatchee a couple of years ago. Or, as my cousin used to tell it, like Tower Lanes in Tacoma (amazing -- link still works!).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vancouver (WA) Cache Machine

The planning for the Vancouver Cache Machine is underway. January 5... yay!

Lakewood gambling forum: a stacked deck

The president of the Tillicum/Woodbrook neighborhood association is on the record in favor of closing all six of Lakewood's casinos. So why, on December 4, are they hosting a forum on gambling at the Clover Park High School PAC? Well, they've invited the six casino managers, and 50 churches. Panelists will include one casino manager (who appears to only have tentatively accepted), the director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling, and a professor from Whatcom county whose organization has recently sued the Nooksack tribe's casino (and lost).

I may show up to bring a little dissonance to their echo chamber. Their announcement is pasted below.

Following are the final confirmed panelists for the Lakewood citywide forum on gambling to be held Tuesday, December 4, 6:30-8:30 PM at the Performing Arts Center of Clover Park High School located at 11023 Gravelly Lake Drive, SW.

Moderator: Peter Callaghan, columnist and reporter with The (Tacoma) News Tribune.


  • John Arbeeny, Lakewood City Councilman
  • Pad Finnigan, Lakewood City Councilman
  • Mike McKenzie, Lakewood Assistant Attorney
  • Craig Mayberry, Lynden, WA - Professor at Whatcom Community College and at Western Washington University. Craig is spokesperson for the North County Alliance (NCCA) of Whatcom County that has a federal lawsuit against the recently opened Nooksack Tribe's casino. Craig believes "solutions to the social injustices (created by gambling) will only come through a grassroots effort by local communities to hold elected officials and government bureaucrats accountable to upholding the civil rights of all individuals, regardless of the amount of campaign contributions."
  • Marueen Greeley, Executive Director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling (formerly Washington Council on Problem Gambling).
  • Gary Hess, Manager, Great American Casino (or possibly Greg Bakamis, former manager now in corporate office). One or the other is confirmed.

The format for the evening:

  • 6:30-6:45 Doors open, seats taken and a presentation of the 2nd Annual Rudy 'Rebel' Baker Award for Outstanding Volunteer Community Service in the Tillicum/Woodbrook Neighborhood. As this forum is sponsored by the Tillicum/Woodbrook Neighborhood Association (TWNA); and as this forum replaces our regular monthly meeting for December, this is the one item of business we want to conduct the evening of the forum - Dec.4.
  • 6:45-7:00 Introductions of Panelists by Peter Callaghan and two-minute statements by each panelist.
  • 7:00-8:20 Interactions between panelists and audience, moderated by Peter Callaghan.
  • 8:30 Adjourn

There is much at stake at this forum. Lakewood leads the state in card tables that, together with other gambling revenues, are slated to generate $2.36 million in taxes for the city next year. And a ban on gambling, supported by one of the largest churches in Lakewood, could mean the end of 800 jobs, "25 police officers, or requiring each city department to cut its budget by 10 percent" (TNT, 10/3/07).

General audience invitations have been sent to all six mini-casinos in Lakewood and to nearly 50 Lakewood churches. The PAC has a 600 seat capacity.

The Planning Advisory Board, that has been charged with the responsibility to study the impact of gambling in Lakewood with recommendations due in January, has also been invited as they have expressed the need for public input.

Thank you for your willingness to be a part of this citywide event, and for promoting it among those like-minded with your position.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Matching Wednesday

It's been a relatively gambling free few weeks, with one exception.

Three weeks ago a newsletter I subscribe to announced that had a surprisingly good bonus offer. Deposit $200 on Wednesday, bet $200 on Wednesday, and you get a $200 bonus the next day. To collect the bonus, playthrough is 20x, or $4000.

So basically, deposit $200, get $200 more for free, and wager $4200. If you play blackjack, a 0.54% house edge game, you'll have an average loss to the house of $4200 x 0.0054, or $22.68, for an average net profit of $177.32. Even at $5 a hand, it goes fairly quickly.

The first week, I ended up $100; the second, $400 more.

PlayersOnly has the appearance of a fairly solid online casino. They've had glossy multi-page ads in Card Player and Poker News for several months now; they've gotten very little bad press on; and they have the recommendation of OBJ as one of the few sites that still take US players. I goofed on week 1 and deposited in their sister site,, and the withdrawal of a check for those funds arrived fairly quickly.

The only drawback -- any withdrawals after the first one each calendar month are assessed a $40 fee. Essentially, it's one withdrawal per month.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Happy Days match play: it's over!

It's a new month, and Happy Days changed their match play policy again. For November, you get a free match play when you bring in a toy for donation to a local charity. It's very altruistic on the casino's part, but the additional cost an effort of getting toys and bringing them in every day makes it hardly worth it. Essentially, the match play is over.

After going 38-39 in October (+$355), the grand total of my five months of match play: 184-194, +$1,825.

So... back to poker. I may have mentioned it before, but I've figured out what may have been the hole in my game. I've been playing ring games like tournament games, and playing too tight. I played for about an hour yesterday, and ended up $64, a lot of which was playing hands like A6 and then keeping with it after an ace flopped, or playing 32o from the small blind, getting in for cheap, and hitting two pair on the flop.

A lot of the hands I won were when my lone opponent folded on the river. They're on a lot more busted flush draws than I expected.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Beating the long timers

I went to Happy Days on Friday night to play the midnight tournament... except it turns out that there's no midnight tournaments on Friday nights. I sat down at a $3/$6 table instead, and was dealt QQ to start, netting $26 on my first hand. The guy to my left was a non-stop talker (the way I like it; it keeps the table happy and spending money).

Happy Days has a monthly freeroll where the players who have put in the most hours at the tables get to play. The chatterbox let me know that the guy two seats to my right was the current time leader, that the woman to his right was high on the list, and that chatterbox himself was also in the top 40.

In other words, he told me I was outmatched. In spite of that I played for 45 minutes, then got out when I was ahead $46. The most amusing hand was when I was dealt 87o, and the board came 4T9/7/9. I mistakenly thought the 7 was a 6, and played as if I had a straight on the turn. Oops. I continued the agressive play on the river, and the other players folded.

My final hand was TT, in middle position, and I raised pre-flop, of course. Chatterbox re-raised to $9, the two blinds called, I capped it at $12, and the other three players called me. The flop came 6QJ. It was checked to me, and I went in for $3. If they had a Q or J, I think they would have bet. Chatterbox called, making me think he might have a J. The turn was a 9, it was checked to me, I bet, chatterbox called, and the blinds folded. The river was nothing, and I bet. Chatterbox inexplicably called and showed a 7♠8♠. My tens won, I bailed out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

All politics are roadkill

I'm driving my daughter and her friend home from school, and in the lane to my right is an SUV with signs on it advocating Lisa Ikeda for city council, and also advertising Lisa's "Ponders Landmark Cafe." I smile a bit, because as I told my daughter, she's the candidate I voted for, in spite of her casino opposition, mainly because she makes a good french dip sandwich.

"That's her?" my daughter asked, excited.

I speed up a bit to get a better look.

"Yep. That's her." "Hit her!" comes the yell from the back seat.


"Extra points!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Orion Experience

I'm at the Starbucks at 1600 Olive in Seattle, and The Orion Experience just finished their show. They're kind of a cross between Save Ferris and the latest Duran Duran album, and their ska-pop sound and high energy made for a great time. They're on the way back to NYC, but I hope they continue to do well and return to the area again.

I bought their album, Cosmicandy, and will be listening to it in the car on the way home.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boom in the Valley

I've posted this to a friends-only mailing list, to the Tacoma LiveJournal community, and to the News Tribune's Lights & Sirens blog. Might as well finish up by posting the same thing here.

I was at the Target on Union, and left about 3:00. I saw the black clouds of smoke pouring into the sky. I got onto eastbound SR16, and traffic was slow, because the flames were very visible and shooting into the sky; the fire department obviously didn't have control over it yet. People were parked on the Sprague overpass watching it, and as I approached the Valley overpass, some people had pulled off to the side. The flames were shooting up well above the north side of the overpass, not gently licking the sky, but jetting up as if they were being accelerated out.

Halfway across the overpass, I turned off the radio and opened the window, because I wanted to see if I could hear the fire. As I rolled down the window, the whole north valley burst into an explosive fireball. It was bigger than most Hollywood type explosions, rocking the car. Maybe the equivalent of four simultaneous gas station explosions, if they were done in a movie.

My first thought was that I was glad the window was down, so that the pressure inside and outside the car was equalized, preventing the window from shattering. My next thought, as the wave of heat swept over, was that I needed to roll up the window to shield myself from the heat. That was a bit too late -- the left side of my face is still a little pinker than my right, and it still stings a tad.

My next thought was, "gee, I'd better swerve left a little bit to avoid that falling, flaming piece of scaffolding.". I did, but it clipped the car in the lane to my right. KING 5 news interviewed someone else who saw flying metal, too.

I kept driving off the viaduct, adrenaline coursing through me. It had gotten warm enough that I wanted to check my car's paint to see if it had gotten damaged.

KOMO radio reports that the explosion was felt a few miles away. I believe it. I'd be surprised if the Java Jive, south of the overpass, is still in one piece.


[Update: The News Tribune just posted some good video of the explosion. I think that was my car that crossed the SR-16 supports about three seconds pre-boom. Toasty.]

[Update 2: YouTube videos here and here.]

Friday, October 05, 2007

September match play results, four month summary

I went 23-34 (40%/60%) with Happy Days match play in September, netting +$135. The First Card Ace promo at Chips/Palace added another $75. Other lucky side bets came up with another 157.50. However, with my lousy poker play and unlucky craps and roulette play in Vegas, I ended up down $88.20 for the month.

Overall, June-September, match play has put me up +$1470, at 146-155. Good thing, because I gave back $678 of it, and $400 of that was at the poker tables. I guess I'm still trying to find the slow leak in my game.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Do you know where you are, sir?

Quick wrapup. Friday night at the Imperial Palace poker table, I dropped another $87. Saturday morning I stopped back in to the conference and the four people there plus the podcaster were obviusly very bored; one person left during the hour I was there; I got the impression that several of us were flitting in and out.

As my last poker game, I headed over to the $4/$8 game at the Bellagio. I knew I was overclassed, and was pleased to only drop $35. The best quote at the table, though, was when a new player sat down to the dealer's right, the table welcomed him by taking his first bets from him, and he asked "Is there a bad beat jackpot?" The dealer looked down and shook his head, and the guy to my right, a relative loud mouth, looked at him and jokingly said in a snooty voice, "Do you know where you are, sir? This is the Bellahh-gio." Heh.

I think I saw a recognizeable poker pro in the high limit room, but I can't place his name. It might have been Johnny Chan, but I don't think so. I'll look thru some back issues of Card Player and see if I can figure it out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My poker money, on its way to Detroit

After extensive research and a bit of shoe leather, I found a 5 cent video poker machine with a theoretical 0.07% player edge. Problem is, the variance is about 70, so until you hit the $200 royal flush, you're gonna be very slowly losing money. I played the machine (at Hooters) for a little more than an hour, before boredom over took me, and I bailed out down $30.

I then went to Imperial Palace and played poker for another 90 minutes against a crew of six former college roommates from Detroit. It was a lot of fun, and I stayed even until the table started shrinking. I suck at short-handed play though, because I view it through the inaccurate perspective that fewer players increase the value of each hand (this is wrong) instead of the correct perspective to treat empty seats as folding players. I dropped $65 in about four orbitz before the four of us at the table broke it up.

I then went a little tilty, and tried to win some of it back at roulette, but dropped a Benjamin there.

I hit the craps table at Bill's Gambling House at lunch (I had a match play), and extrordinary bad luck dropped me down another $62.

I've read that the poker tables at Paris are very fishy, primarily because it's in the middle of the casino, which pulls in the gambling types. I'll hit that after the final session at the conference tonight. I'n going to bail out early. It's a live-fire network defense exercise, and when it started, I was one of about 60 observers. After they all discovered how exciting it is to watch people through CCTV as they maintain a network -- with no screenshots -- I'm one of the last six.

The PaulDotCom Security Podcast is recording, but that can only do so much to keep the interest up. I'm outta here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


It's the birthplace of the WSOP, the largest poker room downtown, and it's... well, it's a bit of a dive.

It's got the wall of photos of champions, but it's not really a structural wall -- it's a half wall in the middle of the room, as you might find in a museum, for displaying artwork. The dealers are old and crusty, and all of them talk with various accents: Russian, southern, Spanish. The other players are either really good or first time players, there's no in-between, except me.

Three hours of play, and I bailed out as I fell back down to breaking even.

The most amusing thing to me is that I've got a WSOP game for the PC that came out in the early 90's, and this place feels like it was last modernized at about the same time. Sadly, I think only six of the three do2n tables were in use, and when I sat down at the table, I was the 4th player. Eventually, it filled up, but I suck in short handed games.

Still, it was cool to look down at T2o, think "the Doyle", and realize this was where it happened so many years ago.

I folded.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ye Olde Poker Roome

I played $2/$4 limit at the Excalibur last night. Cheey, but not scary chezy like Circus Circus. Players were a little better than the Imperial Palace, but not great. It not only seemed like I was playing with the typical crowd from the Palace casino in Lakewood, but the guy two seats to my right was from Olympia, works as a car dealer in Shelton, and we chewed the fat about the poker rooms at Little Creek, Hawks Prairie, and Red Wind.

He says Red Wind is closing their poker room; I'm not surprised. The one time I tried to play there, they canceled their tourney due to lack of players.

I was down $50 in the first 90 minutes, but realized I was playing like I'd done a few months ago, loosened up a little, didn't bet suited aces as strongly, and ended up ahead $16 on the night.

Tonight, I'm bonus hunting my way to Binions. My table game luck has been mediocre, and I'm a few bucks down in spite of the bonuses. Hopefully, that'll turn around downtown.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Losing, Wynning

Emboldened by my $70 win at IP last night, I jumped in feet-first to the $4/$8 table at the Wynn poker room. It's by far the most elegant poker room I've ever been in. Cushy chairs, rich wood paneling and cabinetry, a hushed reverence among the players, and no posters for $1 Corona on the walls... Snazzy. The player to my left quietly muttered a f-bomb once when his flush got out flushed, and the dealer seemed seconds away from calling security before the guy apologized.

The woman to my right, although smokin' hot and posessing an equally hot James Bondian eastern European accent, got highly offended (in the way that high-maintenance people do, like Lovie on Gilligan's Island) when she called a bet on the river. The player who she called won, and when he remarked that he feared she'd had an ace, the dealer (correctly) pointed out that if she'd had an ace in this situation, she'd have raised him instead of calling. She didn't like this commentary on her game, "right in front of me, like I'm not here." The dealer apologized, although I think they were both out of line.

Oh, yeah. I dropped $100 over about 90 minutes. The players at this table were the best I've ever been up against (sorry, home game compatriots), and although I started playing premium hands only, then mixed it up when I thrice got my raises folded to (tiny pots, grrr), I frequently missed the flop; the cards weren't coming.

Finally, with only $18 left, I make a pure bluff stab at the pot pre-flop with a late position raise to $8 with 5h3c. Two other players call. The flop comes 2h4h6d. The big blind bets, I raise, he puts me all in, I call. The 7h and Th fall, and my flopped straight loses to his J high flush.

I think I'll head back to ghetto poker tomorrow. The elegance was nice, but its obviously better on the bankroll to play with folks who hope their pocket deuces will hold up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Poker in Vegas: Imperial Palace

After class and they keynote last night, I went a-wandering. I intend to play poker at the two nicest rooms in Vegas (Bellagio and Wynn) and at the fishiest* (Excalibur and Imperial Palace).

I wandered past the Bellagio poker room (surprisingly small, about the same size as Muckleshoot), but I wanted to prove to myself that I could win in the fish rooms first. On the way to IP, I stopped at Treasure Island for a $5 bonus (lost net $10), then at the ghetto-on-the-strip Casino Royale (free $50 in very limited slot pay, net $0, as expected).

At IP, I started a $2/$4 limit table, and we played six, seven, or eight-handed for a couple hours. One guy had never played poker before; straightforward play worked against him.. The guy to my left always failed to hide his cards when he peeked at them; heads up, I checked and folded AJ against his 76 on a flop of 669. A couple sat down, but as they approached, the dealer remarked that they had raised every hand pre-flop the night before. When I got into pots with them at the table, it was with made hands, raising to get heads-up. Most to the time, they folded on the river. Net +$71.25 (yes, they used quarters for their 10% rake).

I then headed back to the hotel, dropping $30 on the roulette wheel at O'Sheas, another fine ghetto property.

* According to

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Forensics quote of the day

"A 9mm wouldn't work. You've gotta use a .357. Voice of experience." - Student in my forensics class, correcting the instructor's suggestion of the best, fastest way to destroy a hard drive.

Thank goodness for the $20 trick

I arrived at the SANS conference at Caesars' Palace at about 1:00 a.m., and used the $20 trick when I checked in, hoping for an upgrade. They upgraded me to a 900 sq. ft. suite for the first night, but I have to change rooms today. But what a room it was. Bigger than my first apartment, marble everything, a walk-in closet big enough to do ironing in, three thermostats for three different rooms (yes, one of the two bathrooms had its own thermostat)... wow.

They assure me that my new room is almost as nice, but has more techy stuff. It's a bit of a hassle, but I overheard another hotel guest complaining about the alternative he got. Caesars' overbooked: he was told to check into the Flamingo last night instead.

Followup: based on the price on the back of the door of my new room ($700 is listed for a $180 room) the room I was In last night was a $6400 room ($25,000 listed on the door).

(Jaw drops)

I doubt I'll ever see the inside of a room like that again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Federal Gambling Act fallout: Bodog loses domain

A newsletter I received earlier this week, and an e-mail I received today, point out some collateral damage resulting from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Bodog, which is the biggest name in North American non-poker internet gaming, was the defendant in a largely baseless patent infringement action. The lawsuit was filed in Vegas. Bodog representatives, fearing arrest if they set foot in the US, failed to appear. The plaintiff got a default judgement, forcing bodog to give up their flagship domain name. The Vancouver Sun writes:

The Las Vegas company obtained the judgment after the Bodog companies failed to answer allegations, filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, that downloaded software used by Bodog customers to facilitate its gaming activities infringed upon 1st Technology's patents.

It is not clear why Bodog officials did not respond to the allegations. One possibility is they were scared away by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has declared war on Internet gambling.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cache machine this weekend

It's gonna be a busy couple of weeks. I'll be in Seattle for an all day CLE on Thursday. I have to be in Aberdeen by 7:00 on Friday night for the Grays Harbor Cache Machine pre-dinner. This is followed by a half day of caching on Saturday (Kim and Krys will be cache machining for the first time - yay!) before I have to make it to SeaTac for a 7:00 PM flight to a network security conference in Las Vegas. Yes, I'll be playing some poker (CheapoVegas says the Excalibur and Imperial Palace poker rooms are full of fish, and I've got to play at the Bellagio and Wynn at least once in my life), but I think my table time will be limited, as I do need to study for my GCFA certification test.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mid month status, Macau bonus

Pai gow hasn't been nearly as good this month. I'm 19-32, only +$75. The First Card Ace bonus at Palace/Chips has been OK; I'm at +$0 in spite of the single $75 loss I mentioned in an earlier posting.

But, hey, I got this $20 bonus in the mail today. See? I think everyone in the neighborhood got these; too bad they track the "one per player" with their player's card.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The oddity of casino laws: La Center poker

I went to Portland for three days this week for a training class, which left me with evening free of family obligations. Time for poker. But where?

Other than some pointless strip club poker (free chips, free rebuy, skanky distractions), there's no legal poker in Portland. The nearest spot is 15 miles north, in La Center. Otherwise, it's 100 miles either way to Spirit Mountain (south) or Lucky Eagle (north).

They way the laws must be written, it sounds like Clark County has banned casinos, except they've left it up to municipalities to determine whether they want casinos within their boundaries. La Center is the only town that allows it, and it appears they've strictly zoned it. There's no casinos within 100 miles, but there's four of them here so close together, that with a baseball and good arm you could stand at any of them and hit any other.

Tuesday night, I played at Last Frontier, brought my super tight game, and ended up down $142. The game was $3/$6 full kill, which means that when a player wins two hands in a row, the bets jump up to $6/$12 for the next hand. My sets ran into straights, my flushes ran into boats, my AK and AQ never hit, and I mis-bet a $6/$12 hand, giving away weakness when I asked to pull back a $6 bet on a $12 round. Several hands were short-handed five or six player games, and my aggression only served to cost me money.

Frustrated, I wandered over to New Phoenix, which had two full tables, then to Palace, which doesn't have poker, then to Chips, where I got into a standard $3/$6 game, decided to play a little looser, and won $40. Still, being down $102 for the night was frustrating.

Wednesday night, after studying for my Thursday exam for a few hours, I tried to decide whether I was up to driving 15 miles to play again. The slightly looser play seemed to work the night before, so I decided that if I could double a $1 buyin at PokerStars' 2¢/4¢ limit tables, I'd be able to do well at the real thing. In 40 minutes of play, I was up $1.04, and hit the road.

Chips La Center had two full kill $3/$6 games going, and although I signed up, I really didn't want to play a full kill game, so I wandered around again, but didn't find anything better. All of the pai gow games charged 5% commission, so no go there.

I returned to Chips, and the waiting list had gotten long enough that they opened a third $3/$6 table, no kill. Nice. Two hours of play, and I was up $158, plus a comped dinner. Yeah, a comped dinner doesn't mean a lot when the office would otherwise pay for it, but still, that's cool. The change in my game? Looser, but not crazy loose. Luck helped a lot, too. I played A2o in late position, hit an ace on the flop, and won with it. An early position 98s hit two pair on the flop and won, as did Q8s on the button, which rivered a full house to beat a flush. Mid-position pocket fives hit a set, and beat a flush when the board paired on the river.

Is my game back? It's too early to say. I'm looking forward to Vegas later this month, though.

Monday, September 10, 2007

First card ace, second card ace, third card ace

I played the First Card Ace coupon again today at Palace. I was dealt another ace, and split them against the dealer's 5.

My first hand became A5, and my second became AA. I split my second hand, so it became A8, and my third hand became A8.

So I've got A5, A8, and A8 against a dealer 5. Very nice. The dealer takes his first card -- OMFG, it's a 6. He takes the next card, and I breathe again: it's a 2. He takes a fourth card, snags an 8, hitting 21, and taking my $75.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

First Card Ace

The Palace and Chips casinos are handing out free "First Card Ace $25 max" coupons the first four hours they're open each day (except Thursdays). I've played them twice, hitting blackjack with the first one (+$37.50) and losing the second (-$25). I'm not sure what the actual value of them is -- my math skills have gotten too rusty -- but one quote of one source says that the first card ace coupon gives a 50.5% player edge. Compare this to the roughly 1% house edge in blackjack or no-commission pai gow. I think it's close in value, percentage-wise, to the match plays.

Speaking of match plays, September is running badly: I'm 10-17, so I'm "only" up $45. I'm going to be traveling several days this month, too (three days in Portland, seven days in Vegas), so I'm not going to match August's +$570, unless the First Card Aces take up the slack, or if Happy Days keeps running out of match plays. Details?

They've finally got their policy and routine down. I walk up to the cage. They recognize me, stamp two match play coupons with the date and time, and hand them over, unless they've run out for the day. Then they direct me to the pit boss, who twice has given me a single $25 match play (value: about $12.25) instead of two $10s (value: about $9.70).

My cousin also gave me a handful of $10 match plays that he'd picked up this week -- he's been eating at Happy Days, but not playing there -- so I'll need to figure out how to extract some value out of them, given the fact that they give them out for free at the cage, and they limit you to using two per day. Maybe I'll just carry an extra, and try and schmooze the dealer into letting me play a third one once in a while.

(Image is of a similar "first card ace" coupon that the Sahara put out a few years ago.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tour deGenerate

Today was my daughter's first day of school, so I took it as a vacation day so I could drop her off and pick her up. In between? Poker.

The Palace tourney started too early, and the Happy Days tourney too late, so I looked for other tourneys and events.

First, I stopped by Palace and picked up a "first card ace" coupon, which when played with a $25 bet in blackjack, has a 50% player edge. In other words, unlike a $10 match play with an expected return of about $5, it has an expected return of about $37.50. I'm not certain of this, and am still researching the numbers.

Then I played $3/$6 for about an hour, ending up +$24. Then, off to Bowlero for their 11 a.m. tourney. No luck; the table games are all shut down, a note on the door says payroll checks will be distributed September 3 (yesterday). The lone table running was an Omaha Hi-Lo, but the tournaments are no more.

Next, I stopped by Macau to find out about their tourney. Noon start, $35. I made a quick jaunt to Happy Days to do today's match play (today's version: cage says talk to pit, pit gives one $25 match play, I lose), and return to Macau to play $3/$6 for half an hour, where two of my sets lose to full houses, as does my ace-high flush. Loss: $100.

In the tourney, I played really well, getting in with the best hand every time I should, but (sigh) went out on the bubble, getting my $35 buy-in back. Top four positions paid, and with 6 players left and less, under the gun, with exactly enough to pay the blinds, I pushed all in with AJo, hitting an ace, beating the guy to my left who pushed with his KT, but losing to a flush held by the big stack.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

They don't know their own policy

On Thursday, August 30, I showed the Gambling Journal ad to the cage, got two match play coupons, and played them.

On Friday, August 31, I showed the Gambling Journal ad to the cage, they told me to check with the pit boss, he said the ad wasn't good until September, but would give me a couple match plays after I played for a while.

Today, Saturday, September 1, just after openiing, I showed the Gambling Journal ad to the cage, they called the pit boss over, and the pit boss went to the back to talk to the casino manager. Eventually, they reached this conclusion: take the whole ad in exchange for two match plays.

Never mind the fact that the ad says "mention this ad". I suppose I'll have to collect a few for the times they decide to collect the ad. Silly, but easier than drawing unwanted attention.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

August winnings, September simplicity

Ignoring tomorrow, the August Happy Days bonus numbers are in. It was a little bit better than July. I went 45-41, +$570. I lost about $70 on tips and Fortune side bets (a positive edge when there's a full table, but huge variance -- you're waiting for someone to get quads or better) and lost about $105 on a night of poker.

Overall, the last three months I've gone 123-121, and am +$1335. A good chunk of that has gone away at the poker tables, but I'll still have a good bankroll to lose on my trip to Vegas at the end of September.

For September, Happy Days has made it even easier. For the last three months, I've spent many lunch hours searching for copies of the Gambling Journal so I could get enough coupons. How's it easier? Here's the coupon from the August ad:

And here's the same corner from the September ad:

Yep: no coupons, just show up and ask.

I was wondering... perhaps they'd be checking ID to prevent someone from using more than two per day? (I still haven't asked them how they define "day" yet.) But no, they just write the date on two match play coupons and hand them over. September's looking like it's going to be good, and I get my lunch hours back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No notels soon?

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the Rose Garden Motel being closed by the city, which comes on the heels of the Colonial (re-opened), Fort Clark, and Vagabond. What's next? It's gotten the eye of the Seattle PI:

LAKEWOOD -- Rundown motels are vanishing from this Tacoma suburb near Fort Lewis to make way for redevelopment along Pacific Highway South and Tacoma Way.

The 28-unit Rose Garden Motel and its 15-unit recreational vehicle park were closed last week. The Fort Clarke Motel and Budget Inn, with a total of 72 rooms, closed after state health inspectors reported serious problems, including uncollected garbage, unsafe electrical wiring, dirty rooms and other violations.

The owner of Victory Motel [near Schucks and the 7-11] decided to close voluntarily, and the buildings will be torn down within two months, city officials said.

The closures have reduced the number of rooms in Lakewood to 533, down from 648, records show. Operators of the Budget Inn say they are working on repairs and plan to reapply.

Somebody ditched a broken down camping trailer filled with trash in the alley behind our house last week. An unconfirmed neighborhood rumor is that it belonged to someone who used to live at the Rose Garden. My tax dollars worked: I called the cops on Thursday, and it was gone by Monday.

The Biltmor's still open. And the Fort Lewis is in business (and I've noticed it has had a lot less garbage overflowing their dumpster lately). The Western up on 112th is open (which used to be the Quality Inn). Is that it now?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Final PAX posting

I'm back home, done with PAX for this year. It was a lot of fun, very high energy, with a lot of memorable moments. I got Wil Wheaton to autograph my copies of his three books, I'm still raving about his keynote (MP3 here), I played Gauntlet Legends for way too long, I played Ticket to Ride the fastest I'd ever played it with some guy from San Francisco I'd just met (it reminded me of the Boston University Games Club), and I feel like I kind of caught up to all the happenings in the world of video games, a world that I don't know nearly as much about as when I was younger, was the target of their marketing, and talked video games with my friends on a much more frequent basis.

I'll be back next year, definitely. Maybe only for one day, though, depending on the schedule. Good times.

To wrap up, I compiled a list of the best t-shirt sayings of the weekend:

  • Girls Gone WoW
  • Live in your world, get pwned in mine
  • It's not you, I needed gold pieces
  • I'm in ur [blank], [blank]ing ur [blank]
  • Sex, drugs, and D&D
  • I digg your mom
  • Real gamers shower
  • You had me at Halo
  • Will play for mushrooms
  • We prefer to be called buccaneer-americans

But my favorite: Mal Shot First

Trade show schwag

Time was, I used to collect every hoohaw and doodad that booth vendors gave out (aside: if this is the new E3, why doesn't it have all the booth babes like Comdex used to?). After losing most of the worthless schwag in a house fire a few years ago, and having a refreshing I'm-tired-of-geocaching-so-I'm-dumping-my-schwag-in-this-here-dumpster session, it's been pleasant to go without, to look at the pins and buttons and other stuff and realize that it won't make me feel better to have it.

That said, I did pick up a few LotR Online demo CD's (I'll play them or toss them within the month, I'm sure), a Big Buck Hunter coaster for the canal collection ("who would you pick for your hunting partner; Boba Fett, a ninja, or Dick Cheney?"), and.a couple of free t-shirts (pajamas for the kid). A couple more hours to go.

Notes from "Finding Time for Gaming"

Notes from the old peoples' "Finding Time for Gaming" panel, some serious, most tongue-in-cheek:
  • Have your two year old farm for you in WoW.
  • Play more sports games, and games with frequent save points
  • Spend lots of time in character design, like costumes in the new Band game that I can't remember the name of), or car painting in racing games
  • Buy your wife a DS and PuzzleQuest and see her three months later
  • In order to improve your family and your relationship withthem, spend more wime with them, and improve another family by outsourcing your farming to a chinese family.

Lunch time at PAX

It's been a slower morning than yesterday. Three friends and I drove over, parked in a $6 garage, and amused ourselves with a random door at the end of an open wall; the door opened to the other side of the wall, which could be walked around faster than opening the door.

We waited in the same long line as yesterday, which broke down as we approached the end. Bah.

In the expo hall, I got a free t-shirt and bough Unexploded Cow, a Cheapass Game. I'm thinking about getting my daughter a Halo 3 t-shirt, but it's $20.

We then headed over to the tabletop games area, and were amused that among the four of us, we owned almost every game the North Seattle Gaming Group had brought. We played Ticket to Ride; Steve kicked butt when Bill forgot to connect LA to SFO. Jeremy, a guy we met from SFO, was a good, capable player.

Good times so far.

I'm in Joystiq

Someone took a photo of the line for the Wil Wheaton keynote. That's my back, on the left, with the messenger bag.

Heading back for day 2...

Friday, August 24, 2007

30000 geeks, at least two cachers

Hey, I can tie this one into the theme of my blog.

Its been 20 minutes standing in line to get Wil Wheaton's autograph, and I'm halfway there. Who do I see but fellow geocacher Romulus cutting through the slow moving line to get to the convention hall.

He's one of those guys in my life that I know from seeing him a few times, but don't really know. We found a few caches together during some cache machine events, and we've found some of each others' caches, so we said hi, made small talk for a few minutes, and he went on his way. Cool.

Surprise: movies suck

There was a surprise Q&A with director Uwe Boll, who has made some critically panned movies based on video games, such as Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, and Bloodrayne. He's got a dark comedy coming out, based on the mid 90's game Postal, which, from the trailer, looks neither comedic nor game-ish.

He got several boos, the hall pretty much cleared out, and got called "racist" and "idiotic.". I left early, too. Maybe he's right that nobody in the room understand satire.

Wave your gadgets in the air

At a Q&A, prompted by an audience request, Jerry sang the complete My Belruell. About two verses in, the audience started waving their screens and lighters in the air. As you'd expect, there were a lot of gadgets.

Awesomest speech ever

Wil's speech better make it on YouTube quickly. I've been to several keynote speeches in several venues, and this was easily the best speech ever.

He talked of Jack Tompson, and of strip Atari Combat; he spoke of Excitebike and ofthe fact that video games are social activities, not the antisocial pox that some politicians make them out to be. Video games like GTA 3 are interactive art, which give even more of a sense of loss at the end than a long novel (a few hours) or a movie trilogy (LoTR, not Star Wars), because of the time and effort involved.

Find it, watch it, enjoy it.

(Wil said there's 30,000 people at the conference. Wow.)

Well, the line went out the door, past the escaltors, across the area in front of Subway, through a tunnel-like corridor, and across the Pike street skybridge.

The exhibit hall seems about as big as the bank of exhibit halls at the Puyallup Fair, but without the straw and food scraps on the floor (but, oddly, with a similar animal smell). Lots of console games, fewer tabletop games, although the maker of "Pirates of the Spanish Main" (Yarrrr!) has a new expansion set out. On a nearby table, there's another new constructable card game (not Racer Knights - carrrr!) based on Star Wars. Obviously, I'm christening this one as "Yarrr! Wars")

There's a surprising amount of very short pleated skirts. Mostly on women, but a few kilts, too.

I'm now in line for the keynote to open. Of the seven people closest to me in line, six of us are using our gadgets. Me on my blackberry, three on their Nintendo DSes, and two PSPs.

Looks like Wil will have a table out here on the skybridge for autographs and his new book once the keynote's over.

Lines and Bawls triangle

I'm bad at coming up with estimates like this, buut assuminng we've got 15 rows of 125 people each in the line that snakes into the center, that's about 2000 people in these two rooms waiting to get in. The the line appears to go back outside, and perhaps up the escalators.

90 minutes to Wheaton.

They came back with more Bawls and are handing it out. About 400 people past the handout point -- drinking distance -- there's a growing well-packed triangle of the empty blue bottles on the floor. Some guy who set his empty Sprie bottle next to it got booed by the crowd.

The constant background sound seems to be the clanging of kicked Bawls bottles. I'm surprised there's none broken yet.

Sweet. I just spotted somebody older than me.

welcome to PAX

Here we go... My first liveblogging experience.

I'm at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle for the next two days. At this moment, I'm in a liine of 1500 or so people waiting to get into the exhibition hall, which is the first step towards getting into the theater where Wil Wheaton is giving his keynote in two hours. I've given up trying to reach the first presentation (Speed Demo: Quake in 13 minutes)

Apparently, they were giving away free bottles of Bawls to some of the people waiting in line, but ran out before we reached the right spot.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hello, Mr. Franklin

At Happy Days last night, they were having some kind of player appreciation day (as indicated by the 100% I'd check at the door), and when I sat down at the empty high limit pai gow table with my two $10 match play coupons, they gave me two $25 match play coupons, and let me use all four.

Both $25 coupons won, for a juicy $100 payout. The $10 coupons went 1-1, for another $10. I tipped the dealer $5 for persuading the pit to let me use all four, and left quickly. Four hands, +$105. Nice to see you, Benjamin.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Caching at lunch

For the first time in almost two years, I went geocaching at lunch. I searched for North Lake Woodland Walk. My log follows, Blackberry typos and all:

[found] August 17 by travisl (1165 found)

It's lunch time, and I'm faced with two options. I could go to the new Round Table Pizza for the third time this week, and have all I can eat yet again. The latitude of my pants have been strongly opposed to this idea, and if my bathroom scale were a GPS, it would be throwing longitude errors ("max value 180").. That idea's out. I could head over to PJ's and play poker for an hour. Nah. I've told myself that if I ever do that, it's proof that I am indeed the degenerate everyone suspects I am.

A third option comes to.mind: I could go geocaching. I haven't done that at lunchtime in ages. The weather's cool, and although I don't have my geopack, my GPS has been rattling around in the car since the Spokane Cache Machine.

This one fit the bill perfectly. It's close by, a short hike, just off the trail, it's not a bleepin' micro. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to lose a pound and not a dollar. TNLNSL.

(And this is the first cache I've ever posted a find to from a cache site. Technology's getting cooler every day.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A $100 lesson: the idiot at the table

When I asked my friends for advice on finding the hole in my poker game, they suggested I take notes at the table (or to play no-limit instead of limit). I did neither: I played $3/$6 limit at Palace on Saturday night, and lost $100 over the next two hours. I think, however, that I've clearly identified one big leak in my game, the same one I mentioned last week.

Most poker books advise,* as rule number 1, to start by picking a good table. The 10th best player in the world will suck at a table against the best 9. The 10th worst player in the room will bake big money against the worst 9. Pick a table with bad players. Avoid tables with thoughtful, smart players.

You can identify a good table easily: there's a lot of banter back and forth, a couple of friendly drunks, and frequent overly-dramatic congenial outbursts. The last two times I played at tables like this (against a drunk who told us that money didn't matter and against The Walrus), I did really well. The three games after that, the table was almost silent, contemplative, and I did poorly.

Problem is, with a small poker room (Washington state law limits to 15 tables total, including blackjack, etc.), you don't get much choice of which table to sit at.

The problem, therefore, isn't that I'm not following the books' advice -- that's tough to do in this state -- but rather that I'm not adjusting properly to the tighter, smarter tables. This is the exact same problem that I've faced this year in online play. When I have a decent hand (top pair top kicker), I take the perspective that unless someone else is raising, I've got a monster, and the other players in the pot are idiots. The problem with this? Most of the other players aren't idiots any more.

Two illustrative hands which cost me $27 each. I'm in late position raise pre-flop, and get heads up on the flop. Early position checks and calls my bets through the river. I lose:

Example 1: I've got AJ, and the board is AT3/T/8. I lose to TT which hit quads; he was check-calling so not to lose me and hit the $133 quads bonus.

Example 2: I've got A9o, and the board is 945/2/K. I lose to 54.

When my bet gets check-called on the turn, should I be checking the turn? I think so. I've got to stop and ask myself "why are they calling?" And "because they're an idiot" isn't a good answer any more.

A third example with different circumstances: I'm in early position with 33, heads up on the flop, and the board is 449/K/K. I bet the flop, get called, bet the turn, get called, and then without realizing that my hand's been forfeited by the two pair on the board, bet the river, and get beaten by A7o. I'm showing agression, and getting called on the flop, which means he either has a 9 (I'm dead), overcards (I'm about a 70% favorite), or a flush draw (I'm a 60% favorite). It's pretty close to even odds that I'm going down here, so I should slow down. I didn't.

(He won't have a 4 or an overpair, or else he'd have raised.)

Against better-than-mediocre players, I need to play smarter post-flop. If they're raising, they've got a reason. If they're calling, they've often got the right odds to do so.

It cost me $100 over two hours, which is twice as good as I did the last two times (where it cost me $200+ in the same time period). I did win a few hands, and won a partial pot with my ace-high flush against an all-in full house and a two pair). Although I didn't like my play in the examples above, it reinforced my learnings from the home game at OS17: if you play like everyone else at the table is an idiot, you'll learn that there's only one idiot at the table.

* Sklansky's and Carson's Low Limit Hold Em titles, for example.

What's a crackhead to do?

Another Lakewood slum motel is closing its doors. The Suburban Times is reporting:

The City of Lakewood Community Development Department will proceed with the abatement of a public nuisance and dangerous buildings in addition to the revocation of the business license for the Rose Garden Motel located at 11701 Pacific Highway SW on August 14, 2007.

Existing unsanitary conditions and numerous building violations with existing structures identified by the Washington State Department of Public Health have prompted the City’s actions. All patrons and residents of all existing recreational vehicles have been required to leave the premises by 5 p.m. on August 13, 2007.

Man, first the Colonial Motel gets shut down and is reopened under new management. The cops cut off the back-door sales of bulk Sudafed from Joon's Variety Store (great URL!). The Fort Clark motel gets burned out. The Vagabond gets closed by the health department. And now this. What's a crackhead to do?

No problem. You can always turn to the nearby crackheads from downtown Tacoma, or the other Tacoma druggies who can roll you one at the South Hill Taco Del Mar.

(Other closures previously mentioned.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bingo bango bongo

My brother's girlfriend's family has a place out on Fox Island, and they invited us out for hamwiches and the Fox Island Fair, and warned me that the main feature was 25 cent bingo, with prizes that aren't worth the money. However, they said that the fun part is hooting and hollering for the young kids who win, and second best is trying to pick the worst, dumbest, or most offensive prizes possible. Apparently last year, one of the cousins won Fixident and a ceramic doll, and used them together.

I played for about two hours, winning twice late. I ended up with a jumbo ballpoint pen (my wife said that it would be a much better prize if the long plastic cylinder took batteries) and a set of dollar store BBQ tongs. I also lost $15.50 playing, but it was a lot more fun -- because of the social aspect -- than the bingo game I'd played on my computer in December 2005, which I'd described as "a pointless, mindless game. How can the old folks find this stimulating?"

Ironically, my dad stopped by the bingo room partway through the fair, and although I offered to buy him a card, he replied "nah... I'm not old enough to play bingo yet.". Touché.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Grays Harbor Cache Machine

After two years off, I'm hosting another cache machine event: the Grays Harbor Cache Machine on September 22. It's not likely that I'll actually make it to dinner that night, because I'll need to be in Vegas by 9:00 a.m. the next day (a six day computer forensics class), but for me, planning is just as fun as the event itself.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

With a little help from my friends

I went on my 17th annual camping trip with a group of friends this weekend, and they helped critique my poker game. One hole we identified is when I'm ahead on the flop, I don't admit to myself that I fell behind on the turn or river, even when it's obvious. It's something to work on.

(Also, there's the fact that I play limit poker, not no-limit, which gives the maniacs the right odds to call more often, but what can you do about that?)

For dinner, 15 of us stopped at the buffet at Little Creek. Yum. They also helped me pick up 49 match play coupons for Happy Days for August. Yep -- it's back, and I went 2-0 tonight.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Match play done for July; outlook uncertain

July was a good month for match play. I went 47-39 (55%/45%), netting $560 for the month, which is more than twice the $205 I got in June. For the two months, I'm 78-80, nicely in line with the 49%/51% expectation.

(Funny, I don't think this is what the state -- or Congress -- had in mind when they tried to ban online gambling.)

This is offset, slightly, by $231.50 in non-match play losses for the two months, including a net of $89 in poker losses and a net of $142.50 in table game play. This chunk of change came as a surprise to me -- looks like I was feeling a little tilty there on a couple of 0-4 days. Good thing I'm keeping track; that's a dangerous something I really need to avoid.

The August Western Gambling Journal isn't out yet, so I don't know if Happy Days is doing this again. I hope so; I doubt it'll happen.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Something's wrong with my game, again

Here's my brick and mortar poker winnings and losses, since May:


I haven't had a winning session in the last four. The big wins in June came when I felt on top of my game, the cards were running good, and I followed the strategy to raise with a good drawing hand in late position.

I hadn't changed that strategy, but in my July 14 session, I only won five hands, and my thought was that I was overplaying over cards. I vowed not to do that again.

Tonight, with a solid player to my right and an agressive raiser to my left, I was in a prime spot to raise with good drawing hands preflop (AQ? TT? K8s in late position?).


I played two hours, dropped almost $200, and didn't win a single hand. Three times I was dealt AQ; three times the flop missed me entirely, and the betting (and the ending) showed that it had hit someone else. Once I got dealt TT, and the flop came AQ3. And once I got 66, and the board came 758/4/7, and I lost to a guy on the button playing 74s.

I'm lost. Over the last few years, I've read every poker book I can get my hands on, I understand the concepts of pot odds, the importance of position, and that tournament play and cash play are different. I know and believe Sklansky's fundamental theory: the money we make comes from opponents' mistakes, and the money we lose comes from our mistakes; a mistake is when we play our hand differently than we would if we knew the opponents' cards. I know that the most costly mistake isn't calling with a losing hand on the river, but instead is folding a winning hand on the river. But being down $573 for poker in 2007 (but down only $45.91 overall for the year -- thank goodness for all the money I've won with the match play coupons)... I'm clearly still doing something significantly wrong, and I'm not seeing what it is.

I thought perhaps it was that I tend to make continuation bets against opponents who won't fold -- betting in late position when I'm the first into the pot, even when I don't have a hand. An article in Card Player last month reminded me that the reason to make a continuation bet is to get opponents to fold, which few will do for only $3. But that's not the case -- I never even had a situation tonight where I was in late position and the pot hadn't been bet at yet.

I play tight. I'm easily the tightest at the table. When six or seven players see the flop, I'm rarely one of them. However, my tight play doesn't scare most players out of the pots when I go aggressive and raise, though, which is to be expected at the $3/$6 level. I raise on the button with K♠6♠, miss the flop, get out, and that's another $6 gone. Or I hit a spade draw, and call to the river, where I fold when I miss it.

I hate to say that it's just bad cards for the last four sessions; it feels like a cop out. It really feels like it tonight, though, when I never had top pair on the river (the two times I got that far), never hit big cards on the flop when I had them, and never completed a flopped flush draw.

Should I be getting into more pots? Should I be seeing the flop under the gun with QTo? Should I call with 75o in middle position? My leak seems large, but I'm obviously blind to it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

They know me, they know me not

The bonus hunt continues, and some unusual things have happened in the last week or so. The strangest? After being recognized as a quasi-regular for a couple of weeks, I got carded at the door yesterday afternoon. I haven't been carded in years.

Also yesterday, I sit down at an empty pai gow table with my two match plays, and the pit boss tosses me a third one. She also handing them out to the other tables, and I ask my dealer if this gets around the two-a-day limit. The pit boss recognizes me, and says it's OK. I win all three.

Last week, I stop in on my way home, at about 6:00 p.m. Later that night, at somewhere close to 12:01 a.m., I return to make my next day's play. It's the same dealer. Two days ago, the same dealer correctly pointed out that I wasn't in the night before.

Earlier last week, I stop in before work, and only the Spanish 21 table is running. I sit down, and a the dealer, different than the one who would later recognize me, asks me "no pai gow today?". I point out that the pai gow table's closed.

And two weeks ago, when I stopped in before work, again with only Spanish 21 running, as I placed my second match play bet, the pit boss announced that it was the final bet for the table; they were closing down.

I'm generally using four match plays per 24 hour period: one pair during their 11:00 a.m. to midnight "day", and one pair during their midnight to 7:00 a.m. "day". They've not clarified what they mean a day to be, and I'm not going to ask. Knowing that I'm being recognized now, I'm thinking that the "two per day" rule is there to keep someone from sitting down with a big wad of match plays at once. I've been doing this for 50 days now, and they've not asked me to stop.

Three times I've used three in one sitting with the permission of the dealer. Two days ago, I saw another player use three in a row without asking (I've seen more people using them lately). Earlier this year, different dealers told different people the same thing about the poker match plays -- two per day per table: take your extras to the next table over; the pit boss won't complain.

I think it also helps that there's been a couple of times that I've stuck around for a few hands after losing match plays, chasing my losses (for shame... don't do that, but the result? broke even) and the relatively large bets got the pit boss' attention.

Six days left, unless the coupons start showing up in the August Gambling Journal. I haven't updated my spreadsheet lately, but I think I'm up about $250 for July.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bonus hunting slots? Lucky Dog.

I poked my head into the Lucky Dog casino on the way back from a food run to Shelton (we've sequestered ourselves at our Hood Canal place to marathon read Deathly Hallows), to look at their poker room, and found that they've got a daily promotion where you get a $5 match play coupon for table games, and they'll load $30 on your slot card for $25.

I'm not sure if there's anything stopping someone from immediately cashing out their card and collecting the extra $5, but in the interest of fairness, I burned through $18 worth of $1.50 spins (Meltdown's got a tiny top prize, meaning more then usual smaller payouts), ending with $51 on the card. I stopped at the $3 blackjack table, pocketed one chip for my collection, won the match play, won one more hand, toked the dealer a buck, and ended up ahead another $9.

Up $34. Not bad for a 10 minute stop. I also got a $2 food coupon that I should have used, but didn't.

Oh, and their poker room is -- to put it nicely -- quaint. The size of a normal house's kitchen, it's got only two 10-seat tables. It doesn't open until 5 p.m. (although I was there at 5 and it was empty) and closes at 2 (midnight on weeknights). No idea what they spread, but with only two tables, you know it's probably $3/$6 and one higher limit game.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pai Gow correction

I made a mistake a couple of weeks ago when I said that no-commission pai gow was a game with no house edge. No, the edge doesn't come, as a clueless Happy Days dealer said last week, that the players don't see the dealer's hand when they set their hands (W.T.F.)

No, the edge comes from the fact that ties aren't pushes (as I said earlier), but they are treated as wins for the dealer.

Once I get back to a real net connection, I'll find out what the edge really is. Playing as dealer makes a lot more sense if there's an edge.

(Edit March 15, 2008: Mooski, a local poker room manager, tells me that the house edge is 1.5%, and implied that playing as dealer at no-commission is a 1.5% edge for the player. That sounds about right.)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Overcards are my bane

I played $3/$6 at Palace last night, and it was four hours of a very slow leak. I think I won a total of five hands, none of which were hands I'd made on the flop. I played overcards to the flop every time I had them, and they never hit. Pocket tens saw a flop of AKQ, it was checked me me in late position, I bet, and everybody called. I was committed at that point, and in spite of not hitting a jack, I couldn't let it go. My one hand of pocket aces lost to two pair. I flopped top/bottom pair and lost to top two pair. My agressive raises in late position with Kxs or Qxs only paid off once, with QsJs, againt an all-in player with 8s2s who started the hand with only $10. AQo hit an ace on the flop, losing to AK. After the first two hours, down to $10, I bought in for another $100. I made it up to $140, then it slowly trickled away like the first $90 did. Like is often the case with me, I need to work on folding big cards after the flop if I don't have top pair, a flush draw, or an open ended straight draw. It's incredibly tough for me to throw away AJo when the flop comes something like T62 rainbow. At least I won all four Happy Days pai gow hands I played yesterday. Nice money, but skill-free winning isn't nearly as satisfying.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's one long game

When it comes to gambling and probabilities, we often talk about "the long run." In the short run, just about anything can happen. You could roll snake eyes three times in a row. You could hit runner-runner to suck out with a winning flush, two hands in a row. Or, like I did in my June bonus hunt, you could go 31-41 in a game with a 51% house edge.

But in the long run, it's just one long game. After my last stop at Happy Days, my July totals are 18-10, +$240. Combine that with June, and I'm 49-51, exactly where probabilities say I should be. Have I reached that mythical "long run"? No. 100 hands does not a long run make. But it's an interesting checkpoint along the way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I suck at this poker thing

For all the reading, for all the talking, for the little blogging I do, you'd think I'd know how to play this game. You'd think I'd be ahead. Heck, with all the spending I've done with my winnings (Disney World, a moped, charity), you'd think I'd be way ahead.

Not according to Excel. I've finally gotten around to plotting my overall poker profit, online plus brick and mortar plus home games. Since January 1, 2006, I hit a high of +$292.83 just before Thanksgiving 2006, and bottomed out two months ago at -$483.18. I'm now at about -$24. It was my bonus hunting and other gambling wins that have paid for all the perks. Who knew?

Looking at the chart (right), what seems immediately obvious is the effect of individual brick and mortar sessions compared to individual online sessions, where the big B&M losses (-$237 in early May) and wins (+$210 and +$200 in June) incredibly overshadow the big online losses (-$58, -$52) and wins (two at +$36). A few bad B&M nights have to be made up with a few good B&M nights. A run of good online nights won't even come close.

If I could get back to playing $5/$10 online like I did back in the wild heyday of 2004, the difference would be a lot less. I'd also be losing my money a lot faster, because online play has improved immensely, and the weakest fish are now extinct.

Yeah, those were the days.

(Aside: Happy Days pai gow bonus hunting is going well. I'm 11-7 in July, +$150.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Nothing much new

Not a lot new. A couple July pai gow games - up $20. PokerStars has been down a bit; I'm back to the problem of not being able to fold after I see the flop. A minor correction to my pai gow posting of last week: some Washington casinos take a 5% commission on wins. Look for "no-commission pai gow" instead.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Law change: $25 is now $40

Yeah, I'm a few months behind on this one. In the Washington State Gambling Commission's March Focus on Gambling newsletter (.pdf), they announced a rule change that became effective April 9: poker wagering limits, which had been a maximum of $25, have been bumped up to $40. That explains why I'm seeing $8/$16 and $10/$20 tables now, when I never remembered seeing them before.

The newsletters are a fun read -- you get to see what happens to dealers who are caught stealing, who deal drunk, who rig raffles, and who give out money to players who don't win. There's also lists of casinos who allow minors to play and who don't file their paperwork on time.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Pai gow primer

I'll be focusing on pai gow instead of blackjack during my July bonus hunting. It's got a lower house edge than blackjack (zero instead of around 1%), and much less variance. So that you'll know what I'm talking about, here's how pai gow is played.

In Washington casinos, they offer "no commission Fortune Pai Gow Poker", which, if I understand correctly, differs from Vegas pai gow in that Vegas casinos take a 5% commission on your wins. In Washington, there is no commission.

At the pai gow table, there are six positions for players and one for the house. It's statistically irrelevant, but some players think it's very important that Player 1 be determined randomly. Most Washington casinos assign the seven seats sequential numbers 1-18, giving the house seats 7 and 14, so that all players have a 31/216 chance of being player 1, and the house a 30/216 chance of being player 1. Like I said, it's statistically irrelevant, so don't worry about it. Play the hand you're dealt.

Using a 53-card deck (one joker), a hand of seven cards is dealt to each of the seven positions. The remaining four cards are discarded. Empty positions have their hands discarded.

From those seven cards, you must create a two-card poker hand and a five-card poker hand. Your two-card hand must be lower than your five-card hand. The joker can only be used in straights or flushes, or as an ace. "Pai gow", as best as I can tell, is Chinese for "crappy hand", because players were rooting for the dealer to have a pai gow, which is a hand that had no pairs, straights, or flushes.

If your two-card hand is higher than the dealer's two-card hand, and if your five-card hand is higher than the dealer's five-card hand, you win 1:1. If both hands are lower, you lose. If one is higher and the other is lower, you push. If one hand ties, the winner of the other hand wins. If both hands tie... I don't know. I expect it's a push. If it is a push instead of a house win, this is truly a zero house edge game if you play the same published strategy that the house uses. In theory, there's slightly better strategies out there ( has them explained), but the difference is so minimal that it's maybe one out of 1000 hands.

There's a crappy "fortune" side bet that everyone always takes, and if you don't take the bet, the other players and the house will look at you funny, but don't do it.

One thing I've heard about, but had never seen until last night, is the option for a player to be the dealer. As the dealer, that player pays out wins and collects losses from the other players (and the house, which will be the same amount that the dealer bet last time). You can't be the dealer in consecutive hands. Washington has a $200 per hand bet limit; I don't know what happens if the amount that other players bet totals more than $200.

As I said, the player-as-dealer is very unusual in Washington, although I hear it's much more common in Vegas (perhaps the dealer keeps the commission?). Last night at Happy Days was the first time I saw it, and it got very confusing with two of the players using match plays. Heck, it was confusing for the house even without the match plays, because it got her out of her rhythm of comparing players cards to hers.

The player in the far right seat wanted to be banker for a hand, and after everyone's hands were set, the house turned over its cards and incorrectly tried to compare them to another player's hand. The dealer/player stopped her, called the pit boss over, and they slowly went step-by-step to make sure they did it right. The house compared its cards to the dealer/player. The house lost. The house gave the dealer/player $15. The house mucked its losing cards.

The player in the far left seat mucked his cards, and the dealer took them, his money, and his match play. As the player walked away from the table, the pit boss decided that match play coupons can't be used with a player as dealer, so he called out to the guy to come back. The guy didn't, and the pit boss eventually threw the match play ticket in the trash. I knew my hand had lost, but I didn't muck my cards, and the pit boss collected my $10 but gave me my match play coupon back. They resolved the remaining three positions, the player/banker came out well ahead, and we moved onto the next hand.

I won the next two, with match plays, for +$40.

If I were properly capitalized, and didn't feel queasy at the thought of the possibility of losing $200 a hand, there might be an advantage to play as dealer as often as possible. Although the house shouldn't play less than perfectly, other players are much more likely to do so.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yippy skippy, July's got a coupon, too

I grabbed a July issue of the Western Gambling Journal from Happy Days this evening. It's got $10 match play coupons again. Sweet. Let the bonus hunting continue.

(For the record, I'm 28-39 and +$165 with match plays for June.)

And here's something random I heard on the Five Hundy By Midnight podcast:

I don't have a gambling problem, I'm winning, and winning is not a problem. That's like saying Michael Jordan has a basketball problem, or Def Leppard has an awesomeness problem. So why don't y'all pour some sugar on that?
Earl, My Name Is Earl, "Born a Gamblin Man"

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Back in black

I keep a fairly detailed history of my gambling wins and losses, mostly so I don't lie to myself and think I'm a better poker player than I am, but also for tax purposes. For 2007, my total wins have been in the red after losing $52.80 on PokerStars on February 16.

Until last night.

I swung by Happy Days to use my match plays at about 10:15 p.m., winning both hands of blackjack (+$40). I then went to Palace and played poker for about three hours. It was a quiet table -- which usually means a tight table -- and with a husband/wife pair in seats 1 and 5, I figured there might be some unintentional soft play between them. She won a straight flush jackpot and a quad kings jackpot, which was great, because she saw almost every flop and then folded the majority of the turns. He earned the nickname "The Fisherman" for his ability to fish for a card on the river and catch it (busted my jacks with a rivered 9 for a set; rivered a flush on me twice; did it a lot more with several other people).

I got to the point that whenever he was in going to the river with two of a suit showing, we'd all ask The Fisherman what bait he was using, whether he was going to catch anything, and so on. "A real big lure!" he beamed, and the majority of the time, he'd hit a card that helped.

Contrary to how I might have felt in the past, I really like players who draw to the river to try and beat me. He had a 1-in-22 chance to get his nine (1-in-45 really, since his wife mucked the last nine), and the pot wasn't $132 going to the river. Late in the session, a pair of ladies moved over from another table, one with a poker t-shirt "I can't believe you played that crap" and one with a denim jacket from The Riviera hotel in Vegas. They played tight, but I took my final monster pot from Riv holding KJo on the button, with a board of T3J/K/J, when she held JT.

Raising drawing hands in late position: that's where the hole in my game was. I wasn't doing it nearly enough. I've been doing it for more than a month now, and the change is dramatic. +$200 at Palace last night.

Then, at 1:30 a.m., I returned to Happy Days to use the match plays. Blackjack was full, so I played Pai Gow, winning one and losing one (+$10). I'm +$165 in match play, 22-28. I grabbed another four Gambling Journals from Palace, and was going to grab the last two from Happy Days, but the guy to my right at the Pai Gow table asked about the coupons, so I showed him where to get them.

For the night, +$250. This brings my 2007 gambling winnings back above zero, to $74.32. Excluding bonuses and other games, my poker winnings for 2007 are just below zero, at -$5.47. I'm a happy person.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bonus not better after all

On Tuesday, the dealer told me that the bonus coupons were limited to two per day instead of three; the pit boss confirmed. My guess is that the poker room match play coupons are allowed three per day (one of each color), but that the newspaper coupons I have are limited to two per day. Whether "day" means calendar day (midnight to midnight) or business day (11 AM to 7 AM), I'm not sure, and I've doubled up a few days, thinking I might find out.

Seeing that there's nobody there at 6:30 a.m. who was there at 5:00 p.m. the previous calendar day, and that nobody who was there at 5:00 p.m. was there at 6:30 a.m. the previous business day, I was able to play four coupons per day. With the previous two-per-day poker match play coupons, a pit boss has told me in the past "you can only use two at this table, but you can move to another table to use your other two." I don't know if I'm acting unethically or not. I'm thinking I might be, and in spite of the fact that I'm getting an advantage against the EvilCasinoIndustry, I'm not comfortable continuing to do that if I conclude that it is unethical.

In my Happy Days bonus hunt, I'm 17-23, +$115.

(Aside: A couple of times this week, the blackjack tables have been pretty full, so I've used my match play on pai gow instead. Washington is fairly unique in that pai gow is commission-free. In Vegas, for example, the house takes a percentage of all your winnings. That makes it very close to a game with no house edge. If played the house way, the only advantage the casino has is if the rank of all seven of the dealer's cards match the rank of all seven of the player's cards, unless there's a flush in one of the hands. In the event of a seven card tie, the house wins.

The reason it's offered is that there's a "fortune" side bet, that pays off three-of-a-kinds or better. The house edge on that side bet is something like 5%.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've got a tell

Cool. Last Friday I played at the Palace $3/$6 game and ended up down $4 after about three hours. There weren't any really exiting players, no drunks or anything, and the play was fairly tight.

One of the poker tips I read several months ago has to do with the flop. You've got AK, you've made your bet, it's been called, and here comes the flop. What is the first thing you're looking for? (Hint: It's not an ace or a king.)

You should be looking at the person who called you, to see if the flop helped or hurt them. You should be looking for their reaction. You can look at the flop itself in a few seconds. That first instant the cards come down though, you should be looking at another player. Same with the turn and the river.

I've tried to do this, but get distracted and maybe only really do it about a third of the time. On Friday, I've got AK, and the flop comes with three little cards. It's checked to me, and I bet. I get one caller.

The turn is a king. I'm looking at the cards, not the player, and he checks. I bet. He thinks for a minute, then says "I think you've got it. When that king came down, you smiled." He folds.

I need to watch other players more. And smile more.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bad variance, no biscuit

I've lost 5 of the last 6 bonus hunting hands, bringing my win/loss record to 11-18, net +$35. Bah.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The bonus gets better

At tonight's game, the dealer told me that management has changed the terms on the coupons. They will now accept three per day instead of two. Sweet.

I ended up +$10 tonight. The first two coupons were losses (-$20), but the third coupon was dealt A5 versus the dealer's 4. I doubled down, got a scary A58, but the dealer busts, I get +$30.

It's back to trying to hunt down copies of the Western Gambling Journal this week. I'm suddenly about 33% short.

Bonus coupons secure, sir

Happy Days had a big stack of Gambling Journals in their entryway yesterday. I've got enough to almost last me until the coupons expire, and plan on picking up the remainder this evening. Through yesterday, I've won 10 and lost 13 so far, and I'm up +$55. Expected result after 11 sessions would be somewhere around $105, but the $55 is within expected variance.

Anatomy of a monster pot

It's a 10-player 5¢/10¢ limit table at PokerStars. I'm in middle position, and am dealt 3 3. Four players and I call, another player raises, and we get seven players to the flop:

5 7 3

The first three players check to me. I've hit my set of threes, but there's a flush draw out there, and if some crazies are at this table, an inside straight draw. It's too early to assume that I'm behind, and if I'm not behind, the proper move here is to bet. I'm in for a nickel. Two players call, and the original raiser raises again. It's unlikely to me that he raised preflop on a flush draw; I put him on a high pocket pair or two high cards, none of which matched the board. I'm still ahead. The cutoff player, the button, and the small blind fold, but the big blind calls. It's time to raise to build the pot, because even if the two players between me and the raiser fold, the three players to my right are sure to at least call. Everyone calls, including the original raiser. Nobody's got a made hand yet, I'm sure.

The turn makes the board 5 7 3 / 8.

A straight might have hit; a flush might have hit. I'm sure I'm behind now, but the first two players check, so I bet 10¢ to find out where I am. Two callers again, and then the original raiser raises. I'm putting him on a couple of high hearts, maybe KJ. He's hit the flush, and I'm behind. With everyone else calling, though, I do to. I need a 5, 7, 3, or 8 to hit the board to make me a full boat to win. That's 10 cards, and the pot odds are certainly better than 4.5:1 here. Heck, even a raise might have been a good choice, but I just call. Six players to the river:

The river card is a nice looking one, making the board 5 7 3 / 8 / 7

I've hit my full house. The only hands that I can reasonably expect that someone has to beat me are pocket 5's, 7's, or 8's. Any of those hands would have raised more aggressively on the flop, I think. I'm nearly certain I'm winning, and I think someone else has their flush and are incorrectly sure they're ahead.

It's checked to me, and I bet. To my surprise, a guy to my left (KarizZma2k) raises. I think he's got a seven and he doesn't think we have flushes. Good news for us. The original raiser just calls (does he know his flush is no good?), I raise, and the guy with the sevens caps it. Five of us go to the showdown.

The late raiser, shows 7 6 for three of a kind, Sevens. Just what I expected. He was on a straight draw, and backed into trips.

The big raiser, as I almost predicted, shows Q K for a King high flush.

Another player mucks his T 8 (I've no idea why he stuck around after the flop). The fourth player mucks his pocket deuces (how can he stay in with a board like that?) My full house, threes over sevens, wins. I take down a $4.72 pot, netting $3.30. In the chat box, I express my amazement.

LauricT: wow
KarizZma2k: 3 3 vs 3 7 ???
KarizZma2k: you win???
LauricT: 333-77 versus 777-85
KarizZma2k: oh okay didnt see :-D
KarizZma2k: full house
KarizZma2k: :-D

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

B&M bonus hunting: that's more like it

With only three Happy Days match play coupons left, I was on the hunt for more Gambling Journals. I happened to be in Auburn this afternoon, and stopped in at the Iron Horse casino. Nothing there, although I did learn that they host a HORSE tournament on Sundays and Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m.

I'd checked PJ Pockets (in Federal Way) a few days ago with no luck. Pretty much out of options, I called a number I found on the intertubes for the Gambling Journal office and asked if they knew where I could pick up about 30 copies (2 coupons per day for the rest of the month). They suggested Freddie's Club in Fife.

The friendly security guard seemed willing to let me take "about 20 copies", but at the last second, he figured he'd better check with the manager. That gave me a few minutes to look at their "new" poker room, which they've moved out of their enclosed room and next to the other gaming tables. There's about six tables, and they have a $30 buy-in tournament at 11:30 a.m. daily.

The manager said that 20 copies was OK, so security counted out 20 copies for me. I'll just swing by there some time later this month and pick up the rest, unless they run out or if Palace or Happy Days ends up "finding" more copies in their back rooms.

So... at Happy Days this evening, I played two hands. The first one won when the dealer busted. The second one hit a blackjack. +$45 for two hands. I'm 8-9 and ahead $55 in this bonus hunt.

(I also cashed in my $100 chip today. I don't want to be holding it if they decide to go out of business without notice.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Happy Days bonus hunt continues

In the Happy Days bonus hunt, I'm up to 13 games. It's a statistically unlikely* 4 wins and 8 losses, plus I split aces once for another +$20 win and a loss. At 5-9, I'm up $10.

Palace was out of Gambling Journal's today. As I feared, as the month progresses, the coupons will be harder to find. I've got three coupons left. Maybe Freddy's in Fife has some.

Surprisingly, in my seven brief bonus hunting visits, six of the dealers had never seen these coupons before. The seventh didn't act like they were anything strange.

The pit boss today says that they've brought back match play coupons for poker tournament play. However, instead of two match play coupons, they only give out one per game. Before they cracked down in April, they were giving out two match play coupons for the $25 tournaments, and with three tournaments a day, players were either using six coupons a day, or were following the restrictions on the coupons and giving away their extra four. Now, they can use all three coupons each day.

* My calculated guess is that there's a 15% chance of running this poorly after 14 hands, based on the Excel function =NORMDIST(5,7,1.87,TRUE), which the Wizard of Odds' June 27, 2003 column implied was the right calculation to use here.

/Oh, and that's my actual chip in the photo, not random clip art like I usually grab. I've never actually held on to a $100 chip for more than a trip from the roulette table to the cashier's cage before. I feel special.