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.