Amarillo Slim Passes

April 30, 2012


Tom Preston was better known as Amarillo Slim among all of the poker world. I did not know Slim well and only had a few very brief conversations with him. He certainly did not know me, but he always had time to give me a smile and a handshake.

Slim won the main event of the 1972 WSOP and I have written on the circumstances surrounding that tournament and the idea that Doyle really did not want to notoriety of winning. Slim did not mind and was actually a fine ambassador for poker over the next year. Slim appeared on every talk show and did every interview and was very entertaining.

Slim was a world class talker and a pretty fair poker player. He wrote several books and they were very entertaining reading. Slim told many stories over the years and most of those stories had at least a little bit of truth in them.

Slim did his best to take poker to the mainstream in the seventies and he came close to getting poker into the mainstream and for that we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

Late in life Slim was accused of child molestation by one of his family members and he was shunned by the poker world. I had heard that Slim was asked not show up at the WSOP the last several years, I have no way to know if that is true. I was pretty sure that Slim would die a lonely man as the poker world was a big portion of his life.

Slim died around midnight late Saturday night or early Sunday morning and i was actually relieved to know that Doyle has spoken to him a couple times in the last week. Thank you Doyle.

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Reno for a Night

April 19, 2012

I venture all the way back to my college days to search my brain for whatever memories remain from that alcohol clouded period of my life.  Keep in mind, my college days really covers a decade spanning from 1983 until about 1992.  I spent too much time having fun and focusing on everything except school.  I have no idea if I passed more classes than I failed.  I do know that I hung around long enough that most instructors were doing their level well best to see that I matriculated.

At some point during the summer of the later college years a large group of my friends decided to make a trip to Reno.  The Reno trip was epic for a number of reasons, the least of which was the motel we crashed in.

I am not sure who was responsible for our room reservations on this trip; I just know that it was not me or my roommate Eric.  I usually try to avoid names to protect my friends, but Eric is probably a good name for a college roommate.  The room was about a dollar per person per night.  Of course we had about 23 people in our group.  We may have neglected to mention the exact number in our group when we checked into the motel.

This particular motel was located a couple blocks off Virginia Street and not too far from the center of the action at Harrah’s and Eldorado.  I would hazard a guess that it was to the West of Virginia Street but fail to recall the exact directions. It was an old style motor lodge with rooms opening directly to the parking lot.  We intentionally got a room as far from the office as possible. I was one of the first people to go into the room, so I saw it in near pristine condition.

It was an old tired motel room with green carpet and orange globe like light fixtures. The room was small and it had an old stale cigarette smell as you entered.  The bathroom had a unique smell of urine that is indicative of age and poor cleaning.  The black mold or mildew in the cracks of the shower tile was easily removed with a wet wash cloth.  The stains on the shower floor proved to be much tougher.  The brown color in the toilet bowl was there to stay and years old.

The single king bed in the room sported a retro (i.e., outdated) bed spread that had a collection of cigarette holes in it.  The hair in the bed was not a good sign.  The pillows were terribly stained and smelled pretty rough even though they were in clean cases.  I was pretty sure somebody had wet the bed and soiled the pillows at one time or another. Who knows, maybe it was two separate people.

As the group went about staking out pieces of floor to layout sleeping bags on, it became apparent that the carpet over near the bathroom door was wet to the touch.  An earlier flood in the bathroom had spread out into the room and the carpet had not fully dried. While the mold had not yet taken hold it would not be long before mold, mushrooms or some such deleterious growth formed on or under that carpet.

It did not end there; the room would produce a few more surprises before the night was over.  A couple of empty beer bottles were found under the bed along with plenty of dust.  No real signs of food left behind by previous occupants.  I am not sure if that speaks to the efficiency of the maids or the mice.

Because we were young and taking advantage of the system we did not complain but rather made due with the room we were given.  We drank in the room and generally made a Spring Break type mess in the room.  We added a couple holes in the walls the size of fists and one or two the size of a shoe.  The best hole was one closely approximating the size of Derrick’s head. The last time I saw the room, there were several messages written in lipstick on the walls.

The room was bad when we arrived and absolutely trashed when we left. I often wondered what happened with that room and who if anyone ever answered for the damage. I was reminded a few months ago about it and all I could say was that it was 25 years ago and we should have known better.

A Night in Tulelake

April 16, 2012

Miserable nights seem to find me in motels in the middle of the winter when the mercury in the thermometer is virtually non-existent.  One goose hunting trip had me holed up in a motel in Tulelake California.  I had called ahead to make reservations for two rooms, and I am pretty sure I was able to reserve the best deal (i.e., cheapest) in town.

The motel had some very unique “qualities”.  I am sure “motel” brings to mind a mental image of Motel 6 or Econo-lodge.  In this case it was a turn of the century two-story home with living quarters on the ground floor and  bedrooms on the second floor.  Six bedrooms to be exact.

The second floor was heated using an old heating oil furnace located in the hallway.  A transom above each door allowed for some heat to trickle into each of the rooms.  I found it far more effective to stand in front of the heater and warm my bones. A little searching and I found an extra blanket that allowed me to survive the night with just an occasional shiver.

There was also a single shared bathroom, for the entire second floor.  This place was more “boarding house” and less “motel”.  The bathroom was very pedestrian and no towels were provided.  With six rooms all sharing a single bathroom, the shower had to be pretty hit or miss depending on where you fell in the batting order.  That comment applies to both the amount of cleanliness and hot water.

It was, in general,  a very old building that smelled a bit musty.  The rooms had wardrobes rather than closets .  The beds were old and tired with outdated mattresses.  The sheets seemed clean or at least I wanted them to be.  The room had a bed and a wardrobe, no chair, nightstand or lamp.  No phones or televisions either.

However, it did provide some entertainment. Under the bed I found a stash of adult magazines.  I am not sure what that says about the clientele of the motel or the effectiveness of the cleaning staff, but I found it interesting that the requisite Gideon bible was missing and Playboy had stepped up to fill the gap. 

The carpet was very old and there was an excess of dust under the bed.  Plenty of dust bunnies but no leftover food were found under the bed. No art hung on the walls and the paint was dreary. This place seemed to find a niche in housing hunters during hunting season. I have no idea what anyone else would think if they were to check in.

The room had just what we needed, a place to lie down and close our eyes for a few hours.  Wet muddy boots and shot guns were more than welcome and most of the hunters had an old wet dog with them. There was more than one pair of boots drying out next to the heater. 

Yes we stayed the night there and we woke up early to go hunting.  I remember waking up at 11 PM and thinking it was the earliest I had ever gotten up to do anything in my life.  The old motel served a purpose and I learned to appreciate the difference between basic Spartan accommodations and modern high brow luxury.  When I think of a cheap no frills motel just to lay head down and catch a nap, everything else just pales in comparison to that place in Tulelake.

Staying

April 16, 2012

Over the years I have spent my share of time on the road and the vast majority of the time I have been on the road it has been spent in the cheapest place possible to crash. Crashing means staying with friends or even friends of friends. When there is no place to crash for free I am forced to actually pay for a room. When paying for a room I am usually looking for cheap or free.  If I have to pay I would like to pay for half of the room, so I am always looking for a travel partner.

In 1998, I spent 207 days on the road in motels.  That was the year where I kept the best records and probably the most time I have ever spent on the road.  In 2007 I spent 40 nights at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas and they were all complimentary. I spent other nights on the road in 2007 including some in Reno and a few in Crescent City.  I even spent a few nights in a bed and breakfast with my wife. As I share my 2007 stories, I get many questions about staying at the Riviera.  Mostly, because the Riviera is rough and old; the hotel has certainly seen better days. I always respond that I have certainly stayed in worse. My friend Double G asked me to share about the worst spots I have ever stayed.

In no particular order, here are the places that really stand out in my mind. A motel in the outskirts of Los Angeles, a motel in Pasadena, an old motel in Tulelake and a motel in Reno. I have to give an honorable mention to motels in Burney and Bend for nearly costing me my life.

The first of the honorable mentions is a little motel in Burney California that boasts a AAA two diamond rating.  This place is on the main drag, state highway, right in the middle of town.  I travel over to Burney for work during the time I was working on the Pit River Casino.  I had put tire chains on and driven for about 60 or 70 miles through a snow storm to arrive in Burney.  I pulled into the hotel with about six inches of fresh snow on the ground and the temperature rapidly dropping through the teens as nightfall arrived.  I went into the motel office and tried to rent a room.  Unfortunately, the power was out in the entire town and they would not rent me a room.  Faced with freezing to death in my car, I was able to convince the manager that it was perfectly fine to rent me a room with no power or heat.  I climbed under the blankets and nearly froze, but I made it through the night.

The second honorable mention goes to a motel in Bend Oregon that I had reservations at and yet once again after driving through a miserable snow storm and arriving around midnight I found out the rooms were all rented.  In the middle of a fierce snow storm with temperatures around zero, my reservation was already rented and every motel in town was sold out.  The little girl behind the counter wanted to cry.  I have to admit that she tried everything possible to find a room for us.  I was willing to sleep in a closet or laundry room as it was bite ass cold outside.  Finally, the girl called her boyfriend and he took us to his house and let us sleep there.  Twice I nearly froze to death because I stay in the cheapest available accommodations.

The motel on the outskirts of Los Angeles was on a vacation with my wife and another couple. I am not sure who chose this brand name motel, but I assure you it was a budget friendly choice.  This motel was probably the worst maintained motel I have ever stayed in.  The place was not very old but it had never been taken care of.  Because we had two rooms, I had more than one sample to draw upon for bad experience. The smell was consistent in all of the rooms I stuck my head inside and it was putrid.  The ants seemed to be very hit or miss.  The mice seemed to be plentiful in rooms that had mice.  The rats seemed to be in rooms where there were no mice.  I am not sure why rats and mice are unable to co-exist.  The one rat that I was able to chase outside on the walkway made an escape to the confines of the garbage dumpster enclosure.  All bathrooms seemed to have plenty of mold.  The water damage at window sills led to peeling paint and mold.  The stains on everything really told me that nobody cared what this place looked like. We did manage to stay the night and everybody complained about all the bug bites. Small things like the television remote not working were the least of the issues. We went to the free breakfast buffet and there were ants crawling on the food.  The women went to the office and raised Hell. While they were gone and Rick and I had promised to stay away, Rick told me about getting up in the middle of the night and eating his left over pizza only to find out that it was covered with ants after eating almost an entire piece, ants and all.  The motel gave us the rooms free and paid for our pizza, but it is still one of the worst nights ever.

This story is already getting too long.  I promise to write part two and get it posted soon.

Performance Enhancement

April 9, 2012

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I have written about this subject a few times and it is always a difficult subject to cover.  I know about the subject and I have been around it enough to write about it intelligently.  What I have not been is at the very highest level of sports.  I have never earned a seven figure living for my athletic performances.  Simply put I have never had the resources or motivation to participate in performance enhancement at the very elite level.

I can honestly say the world is full of hypocrites and liars.  I should probably even use the word cheaters.  As I age and my forties turn into my fifties the subject of performance enhancement among my peer group has gone from hitting the juice to taking the little blue pills.  One day last week I called in sick to work and took a day off.  My friends asked me why I was out for the day and I responded, “Erection lasting longer than four hours”.   We all laughed and went about our business.  In the back of my mind I was thinking that was a legitimate reason to call in.  In the same way that nobody ever admitted to being on the juice nobody is admitting to taking the blue pills either.  Yet both are multi-billion dollar industries with a much larger black market than legitimate distribution network. Everybody does it and yet nobody admits it.  The masturbation of my generation.  Who knows a few decades from now it may just be accepted that we juice through our twenties, thirties and early forties and jump on the blue pills at the first sign of getting soft.

Somehow we as a society have deemed it to be cheating to improve our lives and physical performance through the use of pharmaceuticals.  As a young kid that carried an Albuterol inhaler around to improve the quality of my life, I find pharmaceuticals to be part of my everyday life.  For god sakes there is a drug store on every corner and almost every person I know is taking something.  Maybe, just maybe, it is time that we back off and leave people alone and allow them to take whatever they want to take to live their life the way they want to live it.

I totally understand that these freedoms come at a price.  In the same way we allow people to drink alcohol and be responsible for their actions, we could do exactly the same with every other drug we are mass producing for profit. Why should society care what a person does to their body? Oh wait, I have almost forgotten that some of you are still fighting the abortion fight.  Leave it alone people.  A person should do to themselves whatever they want and it should be up to them.  Cigarettes anyone?

In sports at the elite level most everyone that competes is well aware of performance enhancing drugs.  I would guess that every boxer, wrestler or MMA fighter knows there is a strong possibility that their opponent has dabbled in performance enhancers.  When you realize the short stocky fat guy across the ring is the same guy that bought dozens of cycles of juice from you and he still looks like the pizza guy it becomes fairly likely that the Charles Atlas look alike may have better chemistry and discipline. Every cyclist in the Tour De France has to know that performance enhancement is more the rule than the exception.

Yes a famous MMA fighter has tested positive and has a TE ratio of 14:1 which is significantly above the allowable 6:1.  For the less educated, 1:1 is normal and anyone above that has probably been involved in some form of supplementation.  A good friend of mine popped positive many years ago at 84:1 and he had been off the juice for several weeks and was using a masking agent.  He took the test under near identical circumstances as he had on many other occasions when he passed the test.  My guess is that the MMA fighter is off the juice and his body is cleaning up and he will be under 6:1 prior to his scheduled fight.  Except for popping on a random test he would be totally legal to compete in his fight.  This has probably been the case for many of his fights and most other fighters as well.  The reason he did not pass is because they tested him too soon.  He was trying to abide by the established rules.

At the end of the day, I just want everybody to responsible for their own actions and for society to have a tad bit more reality in our morality.

Lucky Charms

April 8, 2012

I was recently asked for my opinion on good luck charms. As I was about to say I did not have an opinion because I do not really believe in luck, I caught myself and decided to spend a little more time on the subject of good luck charms. If you like Lucky Charms, then by all means eat them for breakfast every day.
When I say, “I do not believe in luck,” I think I am most definitely misspeaking. I mean that I do not like to rely on luck. There are many events that are random and in gambling many times these random events are part of the gamble. Specifically in poker, when we have a hand and there are additional “unknown cards” yet to come, such as the turn and river in Texas Hold’em, there is an element of luck involved. When a card that comes that helps you, we say that you were lucky.
What I truly believe is that luck balances out over the long run. The more times you repeat a process the more likely it is to trend toward the statistically correct outcome. In the short term a person can be very unlucky or very lucky. These short term results are purely a matter of variance.
I play some video poker and I know that I should make a royal flush every 43,000 hands approximately. I know that it is possible to make a royal flush on back to back hands and it has happened before and we classify that person as very lucky due to the extreme variance of this small sample size. I also know that people have gone over 200,000 hands without hitting a royal flush and we say these people are unlucky. I assure you that players who play millions of hands of video poker every month tend to have results that closely approximate the predicted one royal flush every 43,000 hands.
Things become slightly more complex when we discuss poker and Texas Hold’em, because the game is not clearly reduced to simple probabilities. Player actions have a significant effect on the outcome of the game. In video poker, there is an exact way to play every single hand. The same is true of blackjack. Those two games are reduced to a simple statistical probability. Poker however is not able to be broken down to such a simple strategy. In poker, your opponent can choose to act in a manner that is less than optimal and your results are affected by your opponent’s actions. While the hard and fast statistics of blackjack and video poker dictate exactly the correct strategy, poker has many nuances and variations that lead to many reads and interpretations of other players actions based on incomplete or imperfect information. The optimum strategy is based upon both your actions and your opponents’ actions.
Sitting at a poker table you will see all kinds of good luck charms, trinkets and card covers. Do all these players believe that the presence of such an item will make them have good luck? The answer is probably not. If the players are not superstitious then why do they have all these amulets? The simple answer is that is what they want to have on the table.
Can a good luck charm help a player? I believe the answer is absolutely. If that charm influences the player to play better, say with more confidence, then it will absolutely improve the player’s results. If the charm somehow makes opponents fear them it could have a very positive effect on the players’ results. The good luck charm provides something that closely approximates a placebo effect. The player believes it is lucky and that leads them to win. When they forget the lucky charm they fret about it and determine in their own mind that they cannot win without the lucky charm and they play accordingly. They make sure that the lucky charm is lucky and the absence of the charm is unlucky.
Without going into a great deal of psychological analysis, which I am woefully under qualified to provide, I will not be able to show you how these lucky charms can actually produce results in a game like poker and yet be entirely worthless in games like the lottery, video poker, or blackjack. The simple answer is that some games are purely statistics and probability while others take on elements of psychological warfare. The psychology based strategy games lend themselves to lucky charms and the placebo effect. If you choose to read more on this, I would suggest you start with The Thomas Theorem, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”.
If Lucky Charms work for you then by all means eat them every day.

Passable Effort

April 8, 2012

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I made a trip south to San Bernardino and ended up out in Palm Springs for a tournament on Saturday.  I had a very inconsistent effort in the tournament and only about three or four hands really mattered.  I will recap the critical hands in painstaking detail.

The first significant hand of the tournament happened after the break where all players had taken the $10 add-on for 20K in chips.  This is a near mandatory add-on when you consider the $50 buy-in for 16K starting stacks.  Sadly I limped into break with about 9K of my 16K starting stack.  I had about 29K after the add-on and with blinds 1K-2K, I was looking for a hand.  I picked up KK and made it 8K to go.  A new player to my table moved all-in a couple seats behind me.  I took a few seconds and decided I had no choice but to put my chips into the pot.  The pot had 36K and I needed to add my 21K getting a little better than 1.5:1 against the range of a similar stack.  I pushed it in and turned over my kings to hear, “Nice hand”.  My opponent had tens and did not improve.

A couple hands later in my small blind, it was folded around to me and I looked at KJ and raised it to 8K and the big blind flat called.  A flop of K97 hit me pretty solid for a heads up hand against the big blind.  I bet 15K and the big blind called pretty quickly.  A 4 on the turn looked like a brick to me and I moved all-in.  The big blind had me covered by exactly 3k.  He took quite a bit of time to make the decision and I goaded him a little bit.  I figured anything that beats me he would call with instantly.  He made the call with KT and I was glad to have him crushed and I doubled up again.

My table broke before the blinds got to me again.  I moved to table one and would be with these players the rest of the way, as table one was the final table.  I took quite a long look at the table and they seemed to have more chips and be playing looser than the table I just left.  I really never gained any traction at this table and folded away several rounds of blinds and watched my stack go from above average to below average.

I finally ran into the hand of the tournament for me when I was in the big blind with blinds 5K-10K.  The pot was an eight-way limper and I looked down at pocket sevens and decided to let it go.  I felt there was no way I could clear the field with a big raise.  The flop came J73 rainbow giving me the number two set.  The small blind and I both checked and the UTG checked along.  The 85 year old lady sitting two places to my left could not wait to bet 12K into the 80K pot.  Players immediately started throwing cards into the muck.  I could see from all the head shaking that this lady rarely bets and when she does it is to be feared.  Everyone folded around to me and I made the call.  We were heads up going to the turn.  The wolf in sheep’s clothing and me playing the sacrificial lamb. A deuce on the turn seemed innocent enough and I checked.  The old lady decided to bet 15K into the 100K+ pot.  I seriously considered folding my hand.  I put the 15K out like the weak ass caller I never ever wanted to be.  The ten on the river made a possible gut shot straight, but I checked it over to my opponent.  When she checked, I had many bad thoughts about how weakly I played the hand and how I was supposed to double up on this hand.  I tabled my set of sevens and the old lady looked at them for a long time and said, “Sorry honey, I beat you”.  She eventually tabled her pocket jacks and my hand was killed.

I was crippled by losing my chips and I was reliving the nightmare of the set over set hand and wondering why I was playing so weakly. Did I play great? I do not think so.  Could I have gotten away from that hand? I get away only when I am playing at my absolute best. Should I have gone broke? Yes, I was supposed to get my chips in action on that hand. I swore that win or lose I would play stronger.

I was eventually dealt pocket queens when the blinds were 5k-10K and I opened for 46K leaving me only 20K behind.  A player at the other end of the table that knows me very well instantly went all-in over the top of me.  I knew he had aces but I had to put my last chips into the pot getting about 8:1 on my money and having no other way to win the tournament other than to suck out just one time.  You know I did not suck out and I was able to make the long drive home.  Now I just lament the way I played and wonder how I could have played differently.

My play was solid and a little bit tight.  I did a passable job of playing this tournament.  If I plan to win some more of these smaller tournaments I am going to need to turn up the aggression and exploit the weaker players.  I will be back out there again this week and playing harder than ever.  See you soon.

Café Corazon

March 20, 2012


I swing by to see an old friend and he is very busy. He makes coffee. He knows what he is doing and he does it the right way. I have never told him, but I really wonder if I am qualified to drink his coffee. I was raised on rot gut coffee and most any cup of mud that is warm seems spectacular to me. A coffee snob I am not.
But let me be perfectly clear on this coffee. I have never tasted better coffee. Leo knows what he is doing and if you give him honest feedback, he will guide you to a wonderful cup of coffee. There are few places in the world where you can walk in and kick back and chat up a custom coffee roaster for the cost of a couple dollars. If you have a chance to attend one of the coffee tastings he holds from time to time, I would highly recommend it. But sign up early because these tastings fill up fast.
I grab a chair and relax and wait for Leo to finish roasting a batch of coffee beans. I decide to have a cup and let him know when he catches up to give me a cup that I will like. He remembers me and my taste and custom brews me a cup from his existing inventory. I know it takes time to do it right and I patiently wait for my cup. A steady stream of customers comes in and Leo takes care of each of them with care and expertise that your local coffee house just can’t match. Three people appearing to be in their sixties enter and look around. They seem a bit lost and taken back by the entire scene. Leo greets them and discusses coffee with them and finally makes a recommendation. Two of them follow the guidance and the third goes slightly off menu. They are all pleasantly surprised with the quality.
I spend several hours enjoying my coffee and I grab a cookie to eat with my coffee. The cookie is better than expected and is a Café Corazon special from Liz’s kitchen. Most of the people entering are regulars and there is plenty of discussion throughout the afternoon. I like this place and I enjoy the people.
Leo finally gets caught up and we talk for a few minutes and he is back to his feet and custom roasting another batch of coffee. I liked what he gave me, but he is perfecting it just for my tastes. I buy my freshly roasted custom coffee and head home. I still have a hard time believing that this place exists right here in Fresno.
The coffee is better than I deserve. I do not always use the exact weight or even the exact temperature and I do not set my timer to the exact length that I am told. I do many things wrong when I make my morning coffee. Still the coffee is so much better than what I can buy anywhere else, it makes me smile. I just love this coffee.

The Answer

March 8, 2012

I always encourage all of my friends to shoot me questions about poker. I like for questions to drive my blog posts and it almost guarantees that at least one person will read my post. Did I mention that it keeps me from having to generate a topic? My brain hurts and I am getting old. This all brings a lack of creativity.
A local casino is running a promotion and it is a very strong promotion. Many of my co-workers are considering taking time off of work to play at the promotion. The first day the promotion ran the world of poker rained down free chips upon everyone in the area. If half of the people on Facebook who have claimed to have made hundreds that day were actually at the poker room the room would have burst at the seams. I asked around and the casino pulled in blackjack dealers and was able to spread seven tables of nine handed poker. I also heard the list was obscene and most players stayed put for the entire eight hours that the promotion ran. The promotion runs two days a week and from 8 AM to 4 PM. Rumor has it you need to be there at 5 AM to get a seat. That is strong marketing. I would say it is almost too strong for the size of the room.
The question comes to me in many forms from several people and it all revolves around, “How much is the promotion worth?”
The promotion is called Aces and Faces Cracked. If you lose with a pocket pair jacks or better you win $100. If eight players hold large pairs and lose to the ninth player they all get $100. I doubt that would ever happen, but it answers the question about two players losing holding jacks or better.
I was told one player had 13 large pairs cracked in eight hours that first day. That story is hard to believe but certainly possible. I was also told the least anyone received was three pairs cracked. After that story, I had to start asking questions. Apparently the table was colluding as expected in this type of promotion, anytime a player had a pair jacks or bigger they would declare family pot and everyone would oblige. If all live hands went to the river in an effort to crack the big pair it would be possible to lose the maximum number of times.
I started with basic statistics to tackle the problem. There are 1326 possible starting hands and 24 of those qualify for the promotion. Six each of aces, kings, queens and jacks. This means you will be dealt the big pair once every 55.25 hands. The casino uses shuffle machines and my understanding is that players are folding most hands and playing for the promotion. I was told by a couple dealers that they are getting out around 40 hands per hour which seems high. If the 40 hands per hour is correct, you can expect to have about 5.8 qualifying hands in the eight hour session. With a nine handed table somebody will declare “family pot” every six or seven hands. Pure statistics says every 6.13 hands but there will be some hands where there are two qualifiers in the same hand meaning that family pots will be less frequent. I figure that the nine handed table will have about 52 shots at the bonus over the eight hour session.
The prevailing sentiment appears to be everyone collude and chop up all the money. This basically means that all profit is split up at the end of the session with everyone getting back their buy-in. The only tax becomes the drop that the house is taking. The drop on this particular game is $6 per hand and for sanity sake I will add another dollar for a dealer toke. In the eight hour session we will play 320 hands and pay $2240 for that privilege.
I have now reduced the problem down to the point of 52 chances to get a big hand cracked and make $100 for the cost of $2240. Will half of the big pairs be cracked if we play in the absolute best possible manner? Absolutely. Pocket aces are the hardest hand to crack and they hold up about 50% of the time against four opponents. Eight random opponents must bring that percentage up to about 66%. Pocket jacks are the easiest of the four hands to crack and against eight random opponents going to the river the jacks will go down approximately 80% of the time. On average we are going to be able to crack the big pair 75% of the time. While this is slightly conservative the math involved is so cumbersome as to make simulations the only practical way to solve the problem. I will say that an expectation of cracking 39 hands in an eight hour session is fairly reasonable.
The $3900 made from the promotion is offset by the $2240 cost of playing to yield a net expected value of $1660. The $1660 profit would be split among the nine players giving each about $185. An expected hourly rate of $23 is pretty strong for a promotion.
Now for the down side of things, I mentioned earlier that players have to arrive three hours early to get a seat. If the confederates manage to get situated at the table they will have to fade an additional $840 of rake and tokes until the promotion actually begins. This brings the total taxes to $3080 and reduces the profit $820 or just above $90 per person. With the day now being an eleven hour shift the hourly rate is reduced to less than $8.25. The casino is a short drive of about 20 miles away and gas is outrageous these days. The drive time cuts my hourly rate to $7.50 and when I deduct my gas costs I am down to about $6.66 an hour.
I am not sure I want to get up at 3:30 AM to leave my house by 4:00 AM so I can get a seat at a table where we are going to grind out a meager six or seven dollars an hour. Mind you this entire scenario does not involve playing poker. The team is purely grinding to maximize the bonus. This is a great promotion, but it is simply not attractive to me. I have a good day job that requires me to work during the hours of the day that this promotion is being run. I could take a vacation day to play this promotion and I was actually considering it until I took the time to grind out the numbers.
On a more positive note, if I were to play this promotion, I would advise playing the poker straight up and doing your best to win as much money as possible. Adjustments in strategy to collect the bonus would be required and would require paying off with your big losing pairs. While I can beat most $2-4 limit hold’em games, fading a $6 rake is very tough and requires a fairly wild game with weak opponents that are giving ridiculous action. I am not sure the texture of the promotion games is that good. The biggest point of contention strategy wise between myself and the players who are up there grinding for the eight or ten dollars an hour is whether to raise pre-flop with these big pairs. In a normal straight up $2-4 limit game I would raise and re-raise every time I held a big pair. The reason everyone is telling me to limp is that they want everyone in the pot and my thought is that most $2-4 players are seeing the flop with the exact same hand range for two, four, six or eight dollars. This level of player is playing their hand and rarely considers the strength of the pre-flop raiser. When my big pair holds up I want to win a big pot. When my hand gets cracked I will take the $100.
I wrote this for my co-workers and somehow I convinced myself that it is a good idea to come to work and miss this great promotion.

Winning Player

February 27, 2012

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I write about poker too much and I specifically write about my own poker play far too often.  The biggest question I face is one of credibility.  People always want to know if I am a winning player.  Funny how that is the yard stick by which we are measured.

I am a winning player.  I do not win as much money as many of the top players and I do not play as much poker as I would like.  I once played poker almost every waking hour and I played for over 400 days straight without a break.  I was winning and I was winning regularly.  I was able to support myself and travel all up and down the west coast playing poker.

Most people have a hard time buying into the poker lifestyle and the simple fact that a few of the players out there are winning players.  I guess all poker players by their very nature are liars and when they state that they are winning players it has to be taken with a grain of salt.  The only way to really know how well you are doing financially is to keep detailed records of your poker and probably just as detailed records of your finances.  I kept detailed records of my poker and was a bit sloppy with my finances so it is rather depressing to g0o back over the records and see how much money ran through my hands and how little of it actually made it into my bank.

When I got married I had actually stopped playing while I was dating my wife.  I had started working a regular job and that was what made my wife happy.  I guess there is something to be said for being home for dinner every night.  I did not play for about a year and when I did start playing again it was mostly social at home games.  Trust me home games barely feel like poker. I have a very good day job that provides a great living for my family.  I really do not need to play poker to grind out a living.

A few years into my regular working life, one of my co-workers asked me to enter into a staking arrangement with him.  I talked it over with my wife and decided to play one or two nights a week after work while she was teaching a night class.  I would go play about five hours and head home to be there when she got home.  I had no risk in the arrangement we made.  I still played primarily to be social and was not playing as serious and focused as I once had.  Of course I played a fairly small game that looked pretty soft and I was able to beat it consistently. We each made thousands of dollars and were pretty happy with the arrangement.  At the end of the semester, my wife did not teach another night class and my availability to play went away.

When asked what it takes to be a winning player, I have a simple answer,  I believe the key thing that is required is to play against people that you can easily beat.  Rather than jump into the  biggest game, I often just get into a smaller game against very weak players.

If you want to be a winning player keep good records and play against weak players.