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.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hot dog!

Nice. I've driven past the Lucky Dog casino near Hoodsport several times, stopping in briefly twice in the last few years -- and leaving just as fast. Blackjack, PaiGow, a couple other non-indian table games, and lots and lost of slots. No poker... until now?

Their one-page web site says they've got a new poker room. I wonder if they have any poker players in that room?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bonus hunting, fish in the Palace, and a B&M SNG

On Tuesday, I blogged about Happy Days' match play coupons. I only had one to use on Tuesday night, but then used two each on Wednesday, Thursday, and at lunch today. The results so far are as expected:

Seven games. Four losses (-$40). Three wins (+$60). Net +$20.

That's the beauty of the match play bonus. More losses than wins, and I'm still ahead. The only somewhat-tough part is tracking down the coupons. Palace has plenty, but I don't think I'll get away with taking 40 copies of the Western Gambling Journal at once. I grabbed five from there on my way home Wednesday, and six more last night. I also took all five that Bowlero had next to their pull tab machines yesterday.

Yes, Bowlero has a poker room. It's a ratty, cramped room, with nobody playing in it. There was one Omaha game on when I showed up last night for the 8:00 tournament ($25 buy-in, $100 added to the prize pool by the casino). Eleven players total, top two positions pay ($210 and $100, I think). Online, that's called a "Sit-n-go" (SNG) tournament, because it starts any time a table full of people is available. In brick-and-mortar casinos, SNG's almost never happen except in Vegas, because you'll never get 10 people spontaneously wanting to start a tourney. But that's essentially what it was last night. The blinds jumped up incredibly fast: blinds double every 12 minutes, starting at 25/50, so 48 minutes in, the blinds are at $400/$800. That's insane if you're a tight player (like me) who still has somewhere around the starting stack of $2500. I blinded out and placed 4th; the top three players chopped the prize pool equally three ways.

I was unimpressed; I don't think I'll be back there. The best feature that the place has going for it is an Addams Family pinball machine in the bowling alley arcade, and even that has a busted "Thing Flips" flipper. Yes, Don: I was devastated. Thing will flip ("Well played, Thing" You suck, Thing), but you can't flip it yourself, which is key to keeping the ball from falling down the left outhole most of the time. The table was also off level, tilted to the right, but I didn't figure that out until my third game.

I left and went to Palace and played $3/$6 for a few hours. The symbolism was unintentional, but I ordered fish and chips with my meal comp. I feasted on the fish, and ended up with plenty of chips left over.

I now love playing at tables with guys who play any two cards. Sure, they'll suck out (e.g., his two pair against my AK, with a board of QA3/K/7), but more often then not, they'll go to the river with bottom pair -- or worse.

Last night, one of the worst players I've ever had the pleasure of encountering sat down two seats to my right. In his two hours, he was never sure how much he could bet ($3? $6? Can I raise to $8?), and I think he folded after the flop twice; otherwise he saw the river every time. The other players at the table did their part, too, telling him what a good play it was when he runner-runnered two pair with his 74o against another player's top-pair-top-kicker, and sympathizing with him when, on the button, he lost to 98s with his 54o, with a board of something like 9K6/T/6.

Read that closely again. He called a $6 bet on the button with two cards lower than the board. Heck, he called a $6 bet on the turn with no draws and four overcards on the board. "Money doesn't matter to me," he said. That's great news for us, because we're certainly happy to take yours. Munch munch munch. That's good fish. He won enough bizarre hands (like the aforementioned runner-runner 74o) that he had chips for about 75 minutes before he ran dry.

The guy directly to my right (who called me his "nemesis" for my propensity to raise his calls) had great difficulty containing his squeals of glee when the fish bought in for another $100 after his smoke break. Really. It was like sitting next to a little kid on Christmas morning. Fortunately, money flows clockwise: +$128 for the night ($+103 if you take out the $25 Bowlero buy-in; I do.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bonus hunting in meatspace: HD's match play is back

I was thumbing through the June Western Gambling Journal today, and guess what I discovered: a full page ad for Happy Days, aside an article trumpeting their new management and daily tournaments at noon, 7:00 p.m., and midnight. Most significantly, though, is a coupon in the ad for $10 match play. Yep. Match play is back (for at least the next 25 days).

"Limit 2 match play coupons per day per customer. Expires June 30, 2007." A $10 match play coupon is worth just a little under $5 (that's the odds of winning (47% or so) times $10), so with two per day, for the next 25 days... that's $250. We'll see how long it takes before they change their policy or make me persona non grata.

I need to start stockpiling Gambling Journals.

SciFi museum misses the obvious

Exterminated by Sci Fi museum? I went to the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle on Sunday (after a disappointing visit to the Experience Music Project), and was surprised by what they had, but even moreso by what they didn't have.

For example, Neal Stephenson's handwritten manuscript for The Baroque Cycle is a four-foot-tall stack of fountain pens and paper (I still haven't gotten into book three yet). That was surprising. There were several replicas of Star Wars and Star Trek props and characters, with a few real props mixed in. This was a bit disappointing, because what's the point of having a resin replica of Yoda? It's kind of neat on its own, but replicating the late 90's experience of going to a WOTC store wasn't what I was expecting.

The biggest oversight, IMHO: There's the Jetsons. There's Galaxy Quest. There's X-Files. But there's no Doctor Who.*

Granted, I know that most of their collection is based on loans from private collections, and perhaps there's only one collector of Doctor Who stuff out there, and he won't be around for another five years.

* OK, there's one 3"x4" black and white photo of four daleks and Tom Baker, buried in a timeline on a 30-foot-long wall.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Author of MS Word banned from WSOP

Update 6/12/07: They let him back in, calling it a mistake. Rich, but not smooth.

Wikipedia says:

Richard "Quiet Lion" Brodie is the original author of Microsoft Word, was employee #77 at Microsoft and is now a professional poker player. During the World Series of Poker of 2006, he mentioned the red squiggly underline marking misspelled words in Microsoft Word was his idea.
On Brodie's blog he writes:

On May 10, Harrah’s sent certified letters to several high rollers informing them that their business was no longer wanted at Caesars Palace or any of the other Harrah’s properties in Nevada, California, and Arizona. I was one of them. ... I was being 86ed because they couldn't figure out how to make a profit off me.

Now understand, the only games I play are poker and video poker. In poker, the house makes a 100% guaranteed profit straight off the top. One reason I like video poker is because you can get lucky and win. You hit a royal flush every 40,000 hands or so. If you’re lucky enough to hit two, you’re ahead! If you hit three, you’re ahead for a long time!

Boy, have I been lucky at Harrah’s.

I hit four huge royal flushes in the last year at three of the Las Vegas Harrah’s properties. Not surprisingly, I’m ahead, although I’ve put 80% of it back.

Dumb move, Harrah's. I expect to hear a lot more about this dumb move the next few weeks.

(Nod to Patrissimo)

The eggman, the walrus, and the lizard king

Saturday night was the best night I've had in a brick-and-mortar casino, almost making up for the $237 loss I had a few weeks ago. First, let's back up to Friday night.

I arrive at Palace around 10:15 p.m., and get on the long list for $3/$6. I play PaiGow for about 30 minutes, breaking even, until a seat becomes available. The table is quiet, slow, and tight. Three of the people at the table are buddies, ribbing each other a bit, but from their talk, they know a bit about pot odds and basic poker strategy. I could tell this would be a tough night.

In spite of that, after almost three hours of play, I ended up down only $15. At a looser table, I'm sure I'd have been ahead. I had the chance to prove this on Saturday.

I arrived at about 10:30, and got a seat immediately. The 60ish woman to my left immediately introduced herself and several others at the table, including Eric, who talked a mile a minute, frequently making sure we all knew, "I am the walrus, I am the eggman," and that whoever had just scooped a big pot was "the Lizard King. You can do anything (koo koo ka choo)." He frequently raised UTG without looking at his cards, and nicknamed me "Talky McTalk Talk" for my relative silence at the table.

An hour later, with my stack $120 larger, he went into his wallet for another $100. He ordered a drink, but when the waitress came back, with the poker room manager, they'd cut him off. Too bad, but he still lost his next hundred over the next hour.

The lady to my left didn't do badly at all -- she seemed to be getting all the money I wasn't. Although she saw almost every flop, she folded quickly if she hadn't hit it, and if she did hit it, the table was always willing to call her raise.

I was up about $190 when the normal murmur of the poker room was interrupted by a loud clattering of falling chips, then very loud and angry female screams. At the $8/$16 table, a petite young far-eastern looking lady was being put in a half nelson by security, while she tightly gripped the collar of a 40ish short stout Filipino guy, cutting off his breathing, hauling him over the dealer, and not letting him go, screaming at him in Korean or Vietnamese or some other Asian language. Security finally broke her hold on him, and carried her out.

Later in the night, after Eric the Walrus shared urinal talk with someone at the table, and the dealer from that table rotated to ours, we got the story. It was a domestic squabble. She'd called him five times on his cell, and he didn't answer. When she came to the casino and saw that he was gambling, again, she went batty. The sound of falling chips was her reaching onto the table and mixing players' stacks. What a mess for security to sort out. I'm really surprised that they didn't call the police -- maybe they want to keep things like this off the public record.

Unfortunately, PsychoWoman's tirade and The Walrus' trip to the ATM really slowed down the table's talk and speed, and my final hour was full of hands won on the flop instead of three players showing down on the river.

Over the night, few hands stick out as memorable, just a general impression that mediocre cards raised on the button to build the pot paid off several times. For example, Q 8 rivered a flush. J 3 hit top pair on the flop and held up through the river, forcing the other player to fold.

The most unusual hand was my busted flush draw on a board of something like 2 5 4 8 6 when I held K 8. I'm on the button, and the guy two seats to my right, who has been a pretty tight player all night, and who's been checking and calling me on this hand, bets $6. I go for a semi-bluff -- he might be trying to buy it for cheap, and my top pair may be good enough. I say "raise" and make it $6 more. He tosses his a pair of threes face up into the middle of the table (a 6-hi straight), and says "Do you have the seven?" (for the 8-hi straight). I hold my cards, face down, just above the table, over the line. The dealer takes his threes, mucks them, and pushes me the pot. I then drop my (losing!) cards face down on the table and start stacking up the chips. "What?" questions the tight player, "I had a straight!"

"He raised you," pointed out the dealer. "I should have asked if you were folding. Sorry."

I toss the dealer a slightly larger than usual tip.