Wednesday, February 28, 2007


After two tries Robin and I finally made it for a trip together to Foxwoods for poker. The bus was pretty full, but Robin met it early in Albany and saved us good seats. There was no movie on the way down; it was great to have a long talk with Robin about all sorts of topics, especially things in the news. Robin always has read something of interest so the time went very quickly. For example, he told me all about an ancient tomb that had been found with crypt spots for an entire family with the same names as Jesus and his family. Then I told him about the turtle who had virgin birth, but he had already read that article. And so it went. We bet on our bus tickets as poker hands. Robin caught trip sevens and won my dollar.

We split an American Casino Guide $25 matchplay and lost it all on the craps table. First roll 4, then 7 and we were off to play poker.

In the poker room we were very crafty. It looked like they would start a new $4 - $8 game soon. A dealer looked like he was just waiting for a new game to start. So we bought chips, choose the best seats, sat down and talked to dealers.

One of the dealers was Shirley. She told us a great story about getting a Foxwoods award for “most spirited” and of the prizes she had won and the newspaper article coming soon. She also felt great because it meant she was doing a good job.

Soon they announced the new game. We had picked the right table. We were able to play right alongside one another all day.

We planned to have the free dinner buffet just before leaving. If we had left in the middle of the day, we might not get seated again, so we put the poker first and our hunger second. A few amarettos served me well. Shirley told us that some afternoons people wait a couple hours for a seat. In the morning it is open and easy.

To make it even better I found a bathroom that is very close to that section of tables, so usually I could make the run and miss just one hand.

I also think the morning players were easier. As the day progressed, the players seemed to get better and harder to beat. We had only one loose player at the table. He was wearing a red sweatshirt and he bet or called everything. But he was lucky, stealing many pots and winning others, often on the river. He did not make money, but he played a lot longer than we thought he would. I took a couple of pots from him, but I did not have very good cards most of the day. I played poorly too at the beginning, and I had bet all out the last of my $200 buy-in by the time a flopped wheel paid me a good bit back. By the time I left I was $21 up. My best hand was a flopped full house, jacks full of aces. Old Red bet into me so I did very well on that hand.

Add that to $10 in Keno minus $12 on the craps and a dollar on the bus ticket bet, and I ended up $18 for the day.

Robin was up a little too. He made nothing on the keno. He was well paid on his 4 eight's and again when he caught an ace on the river for aces full of jacks. But I guess he had some tough folds too. He had fun. He wants to go again.

Every time I go the trips get better. Thanks to Izzy I paid only $14 for this trip. Next time it will be free. I bought a voucher with my points from years ago and the voucher will pay for my bus next time. Also I found out that we earn points each time we book a trip at Yankee Trails. I did not know that. It just keeps getting better.

And now I know those things I like best on the Foxwoods buffet. The barbecue area was open this time. Good chili.

Anyone interested?
Click here Yankee trails
I’ll go anytime, but it sure is nice to have a friend to sit with on the bus. My neighbor is going sometime in late March. I’m ready to go again next week.

The movie on our way back was a cheesy football movie called Invincible.

Invincible Movie Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of Vince Papale, a down-on-his-luck teacher and part-time bartender lives every fan's fantasy of moving from the stands to the field when he makes it onto his hometown's professional football team during an open tryout.

Well, you know what “inspired” means. Barely close to the truth.

The sound was too low and we missed a lot of the dialogue. I don’t think I have ever heard anything on any film about football that was this quiet. It seemed every actor was a low talker.
These guys were from South Philly, but most of them talked like they were in the library. There were many night shots, many times when Vince gets some inspirational talk from his Dad (black lunch box on the steps kind of guy) or the hot blond who is hot for him. I guess south Philly is not like most inner cities. No one was on these streets. No gangs. No drugs. No kids hanging out. No boom boxes. Deserted streets. The noise came when all the locals met at the tavern ( sort of like Cheers on steroids) or at a place where they played rough football in the mud.

Of course the football game and bar scenes were noisy.

Well, it did pass the time, and this guy Vince Papale seems like a nice kid. But he’s no Dean Martin.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nick the Greek, Einstein and me

When Nicholas Andreaa Dandolos (Nick the Greek) started off to play his day of poker he would often toss a roulette bet on red or black and interpret his roulette win or loss as a predictor of how much luck he could expect in his day.

There is no way I would do that. I can’t seem to get my teeth around that 5.6% vigorish on an American roulette wheel.

But I was thinking about Nick when I took my Foxwoods $25 matchplay to the craps tables soon after arriving at Foxwoods yesterday.
Robin and I had split a matchplay on our last trip and lost in just two rolls: 10 - 7 out and we had gone on to lose at poker too.
Losing on just two craps rolls is a real downer. It hardly gives you time to anticipate outcomes, to experience that breath taking moment when the dice arc gracefully through the quiet air to clatter and roll into that randomness that will determine your wealth or poverty.
I love craps, but since I discovered how to get an edge at low limit poker, my frugal nature makes it harder to risk real money at a craps table when I could be playing Hold Em. In craps there is always a mathematical advantage for the house. Whenever I am in Vegas, I play a little on really low limit tables, $3 or under, with 10 X the odds.

However, I always play matchplays.

Matchplays are the hot fudge sundaes of frugality. For one bet the gambler has one huge edge over the casino and the revenge is sweet.

So there I was with my quarter chip and my little piece of paper which if the randomness flowed my way would also be worth a quarter.

The old guy rolling to the right of me was on a fine roll. He had worked his way to making his point of 8 after hitting number after number even before I placed my bet. Now I wondered how it could go. In craps a guy like that is called a “hot roller” and often will attract a crowd. The belief is that he has luck and everyone wants to get a part of it. In Vegas there already would have been a crowd yelling and hooting and clapping and supplications for numbers:

“Come on........”

But this was Connecticut at ten in the morning. No hooting. Just a little tension as the shooter set and aimed.

“Point 8” I can begin to sweat.

$25 on one roll is a big bet for me, and now I had Nick the Greek telling me this would also be my luck prediction bet for the day. In the realm of subjective superstition many things were hanging on this roll.

In one sense I had already been lucky with this matchplay. My gambling buddy Louisiana Mudgriff Dan heard I was going to Foxwoods and immediately mailed me some Casino Player coupons. Dan is like that. You tell him anything and when you check the mail, there will be a present. I asked him once about a CAT bus route and got a thick Transit guide, asked again about Tunica and in came a Mississippi guide. Lately we have been talking about alligators, so I approach my mailbox very gingerly each day.

Dan and our Florida buddy, Lucky Pete, are coupon lovers who collect Silverstrikes but don’t use matchplays. Gamblers dream of such friends. If any of us have to pay full price for anything in Vegas, we feel as if we have failed. But to Pete and Dan matchplays are just junkmail that take up buffet 2-4-1 coupon space the wallet.


This fellow liked the six. He wasn’t making the famous V- six dice set and his throws were no where near controlled, but six easy came often. When you are hoping for eight, six is frustrating. Six and eight are sister numbers; when the wrong one falls you use another of those “Come on” supplications and think that her sister must not be too far behind.

The shooter also loved throwing two sixes together. When they come, you just sigh. What a useless waste of suspenseful anticipation! They are unless you bet them. And if you bet them often, your gameplan is useless. Now here they were over and over again to frustrate my expectations.

“So where the hell is the damn eight?” I asked myself, trying not to think about seven.

And then the old guy hit it.
$50 in winnings in my pocket. What a fine way to start the day!
If Nick was right, this was to be a very good one.

The truth was that this entire trip had already been very lucky. When I had gone with my free voucher to book this bus trip, they told me it was sold out and that the waiting list for cancellations was long. In fact, all the seats for the week were sold and it was next Tuesday before I could get a reservation and then I got the last seat. This Yankee Trails sale was at a tipping point and very popular. $16 bus fare that includes a Bonus of $20 of free keno, and a free $16 buffet is a frugal player’s delight.

And this was the week I really wanted to go. Elizabeth is away nursing a sick friend, so I have been trying to play poker like I was in Vegas rather than in this place where even in March 2 feet of snow can come like a seven after the spring point is established.

On Monday, Greg bought me lunch (we play on line for lunch) Afterwards we played some head to head nickel no limit and he fleeced me $60 before I gained the edge and came back with $7 profit. After his wife Annie fed me supper, Greg urged just 10 more minutes of play and in those few hands got a $9 edge on me. Greg has learned well from casinos how to feed people and then take their money.

Wednesday, Bill, Slink and I planned Turning Stone. Friday the union sponsors a free buffet get together at Saratoga Harness. Saturday Slink holds his first spring Hold Em tournament. I could not let Yankee Trails spoil a perfectly good week of wagering.

I got up and met the bus at 7 AM with no ticket. Sure enough, there was one empty seat. And it was a fine, comfortable seat, too, right next to a tiny, very old Chinese woman with the most delightfully well aged face whose smiling face spoke a pleasant song of Chinese to her with her nearby friends. Greg has to travel hours on a plane to get to Kunming to have this other culture experience. I was having it for free.

When we arrived at Foxwoods, my luck was still with me because, as Jean Scott always says, “the smarter I get, the luckier I am.”

Every senior citizen in the greater Northeast had descended on Foxwoods at the same time and each one had free keno vouchers and some business with the Player’s Club. People in walkers are slow in lines.

Remembering that old Disneyland open gate strategy, I skipped ahead a couple casino areas and found another Rewards counter, validated Mudgriff’s matchplay, and won my craps luck prediction money before many had shuffled their walked a yard. On the way back the old folks were still waiting in an even longer Wampum Rewards line, but the Keno line had thinned to nothing.

Ahhhh.....I felt like such a winner. Money and a short line. This had to mean something.

I could not get a seat at 4-8 poker table and played a while at 2-4. Holding two spades I lost a king high space flush to the ace high. Then I caught a couple small pots. The young folks around me were talkative, very happy, funny, and friendly. I liked their banter. But the one to my left was a lover of the blind straddle. His buddies warned me that my big blinds would suffer a threat almost every time to this idiocy. I took him once when his blind straddle encouraged him to play an 8-3 offsuit and to rebet after the flop. And then I got really lucky; they called me for my 4-8 seat.

I shouted to the floor person to lock it up , but by the time I got my chips to the table, some line cutter had already tried to take my seat. He had not been called. He had just jumped in and put his card down to go buy chips. A Mohegan Sun card at that. It is so frantic in the poker room that the floor people cannot manage very well and don’t have time to listen, but this time one did and so once again by being assertive I lucked into the last seat, and my favorite, right across from the dealer, and on a brand new table. Starting a new table means starting with people who are new to the game that day and starting even. No one knows how anyone plays.

My luck was running very good indeed.

It got better. There was one young fellow who overbet constantly. He did not overbet by raising or reraising. No one reraised much at all. He bet out on nothing, stayed in with nothing much and called easily. If I had cards, I just let him bet in to me. Once in the lead he would not relent, even on the river, even after many of my check raises should have taught him better. Once I my pocket nines develop into the second biggest full house. I lead each betting round from the button on this one. and I was getting calls until after the turn. He stayed for the river and bet into me. I raised and he folded in disgust.

The table was very frustrated with me. I kept winning. They were sure that I was bluffing, but they did not have the goods to call me often and when they did, since I was not ever bluffing, I beat them. It was a good thing to happen at the beginning of the play because it gave me a loose table image. Had it happened after I had played like a rock for two hours, I would never have gotten so many callers. It was a fine long streak of good flops followed by win after win, and they were tired of it.

Once I acted after the big blind and raised pocket jacks. The woman to the left of me called as did a couple others, and then a fellow just two players to the right reraised. There are so few reraises in this game that it was notable. I called. And the woman to the left of me now capped the bet!!!

I was totally confused. A called. Then a third raise? These were good players. What was happening?

A jack made me trips on the flop. But it came with a king. If the raisers and reraisers had pocket kings, I was beat. I bet. They called. On the turn the board developed so that a straight and a flush were possible. I was confused. I checked my trips figuring anyone who called with that board would have me beat. I checked. They checked and each of them turned over pocket aces. What a fine hand to win! And what an oddity. The strangest thing was that not more than 6 hands before two players similarly each held pocket aces.

But my win did not make me more popular at the table. I had been beat when I raised preflop, and by the end there were so many ways for me to be beat that my trips holding up seemed to be a miracle against odds.

Soon after I had 8-2 in the big blind and 2-2-5 flopped. I checked and that maniac guy bet holding two jacks. A couple others called and I slow played by checking. An 8 came on the turn. I now had a full house. I checked, maniac bet and I still slow played and called. On the river came another 8. I now had the nut fullhouse 8’s full of 5’s. Of course I checked. Maniac bet his jacks, one older tight player after him called.

I raised. Well, you never heard such groaning. How lucky I was to keep “catching” these cards. And a “check raise” no less. Maniac and the old guy folded and I collected, but I did not show my 8-2. More grumbling. Speculation on my hand. Some suspicion that I might have bluffed.

Later I had a pair of kings and a straight draw after the turn. I bet. The lovely young black woman to my left called me, and as she did she softly said to me, “Don’t hurt me!” That was the most sensual moment of the day. But of course, I caught the straight, bet and beat her two pair, and the table hated me even more.

And then as fast as it started it ended. I hardly played a hand for the next hour or so. I was very quiet. I sat back and ordered a strawberry milkshake wishing that I could still sip Johnny Walker Black and that I wasn’t old with arthritic fingers and alcohol-precluding meds, but young enough to ask the Black girl with the tender voice to come with me to supper.

My mind drifted.

I had to be reminded to fold.

New players trickled in. It probably was time to go, but I just let the cards shuffle, fall, enjoyed the randomness, the downside of excitement. Nick had been right. The luck had held. When I left to collect my $5 in keno winnings from the free tickets and to eat the free buffet, I counted $429 in profit. Not a bad day of poker.

I still had time after the buffet. I walked in some new section and there was another reminder of Nick the Greek, a Sic Bo table. They called the game Chuck-a-Luck in his day and the three dice were then in a cage. Now they rested in a little plastic globe which vibrated after a player hit a button to start the game. The game was crowded with Asians and felt very friendly and fun. People smiled when it was their turn to hit the button, rejoiced when they won, and even smiled ironically when they lost. How could it happen to lose so often? How could they change their bets only to see the old numbers pay? What was this all about? The table is very colorful with fine green dragons and lots of red. The dice rattle, the board lights up the winners. It is a delightful diversion with a house edge on Small and Big bets that is lower than the slots and half the edge of roulette, 2.78%; however, the rest of the bets are killers, many much higher than keno. At Turning Stone my old college buddy Mike and I used to play it with $5 matchplays when the craps and BJ tables were full. If I did not think about the house edge (in the teens on most bets) I could enjoy the game.

And this made me think of Nick the Greek again. And of Einstein. Nick used to introduce Einstein around Vegas as "Little Al from Princeton - controls a lot of the action around Jersey." One day Nick noticed the famous thinker fascinated with a Chuck-a-Luck game and watching the three dice. intently. Nick got nervous. He did not want his famous friend to get caught in this sucker game. So he went up to Einstein and said something.

But it turned out that Einstein’s quick mind had easily done the mathematics and was simply fascinated that people who actually wager on a game with such impossible odds. I wonder what he would think today when people will wait in line to play 6/5 Double Bonus poker.
Nick estimated that he won and then lost 500,000,000. He died broke. I have my $429 in my pocket, but I also just got lucky again and against the odds, with fifteen on the waiting list ahead of me on Monday, I just booked another $16 bus ride to Foxwoods on Thursday. And I have a $10 matchplay for this trip.
So we’ll see.

Friday, February 9, 2007

conversations with Mike

Fantastic starters, Mike. Too bad on the aces. It is so much fun to read your reports. No one else in my group writes much of anything. It is interesting how much our interests have evolved in the same direction starting with craps and continuing into Hold em.

I have never had a similar casino experience of putting someone all in in a no capped situation. That must have been a thrill. And you must have been worried because you could be beaten. The guy should not have seen even one reraise with just trips.

This pattern of how the starting hands fall, is always fascinating to me. I laugh more in this game than my fellow players. To know that randomness is always a factor in life and to face that with good humor is the best thing I have learned from this game. Too many people playing outside of Vegas let that randomness get them grumpy. When other people win against the odds, the predictable players get surly. They act personally offended. Sometimes they even walk away from the table.

It gets so bad that some continue to whine even when they are winning. I am a bit of a kidder, so I am apt to tell them that "Winners can't be whiners." I might even to confidently say in a serious tone that the rule is in the official Hold Em rules book.

I forgot to put one good story in the blog. I can't remember the exact details, but there was a fellow playing with a World Poker Tour cap who raised on a heart flush draw because he had the ace of hearts and was in position to get a free card if he raised. He did not catch the heart he needed for the nut flush, but he won the pot with a small pair. It was so clear that he had raised with a poor hand that he felt he needed to explain it. "I misread my cards," he explained. I laughed. No one else did.
So I said, "Hey, that was a good bet. You can't really wear that WSOP hat and tell us you misread."
"Well, I guess you are right," he admitted.
I know I should have kept that information to myself, but I so loved seeing him make the perfect play, completely fool us, and then attempt to convince us that it was all a mistake so we would not put see him as a skilled player. He was saying to the table that he was a klutz while really being in charge.

Well, I'll be going up again next week and we will see how it goes. As for $4-$8 choice. There is no $3 -$6 at Foxwoods. The $2 -$4 is always no foldem holdem and no one pays any attention to how tight I am, so I can't make the occasional bluff or semibluff because there is always someone to call to the river.

This kind of play would be impossible at 2-4 but it happened at 4-8. After playing tight for a long while at Foxwoods I got a pair of tens, but acting first after the BB.. When I raised, all but one person folded. This is at a table where most people pay $4 to see the flop, so the pot was close to $40. Head to head I had a much better chance with a pair of tens. The turn and river both were bigger than tens, so I checked to the end as did my opponent. I won. And I got to show the pair of tens, so that the next time I raised with aces, I might get callers.

On a $2 -$4 table this would never happen. They would not track my play. They would not remember my tens on my next raise in early position. And I could not raise for free cards ever.

I don't really know if I should be moving up another notch to $5 - $10. I suspect that there will be better players there and not so many calling stations, so the pots will be about the same size, but it will cost more to see cards. I also know that in higher levels of play would be more trickier players. There was virtually no reraising at our level. I like that. I want the only reraises to be mine.

At the Majestic Star in Gary Indianna the $3 -$6 was the only offering except no limit. I watched my son play no- limit and it was at a table where players talked openly about cards and expectations so I got a real sense of how hard this game was and also how fast it went. My son told me that much of the talk was meant to disquise what they really had or how they really thought so the levels just keep coming.

But the limit game was just like a $2 - $4 game with a few good players who were frustrated. One maniac loose player will either amass great wealth or get drained over an afternoon, but five of them will tend to move the chips between themselves and drain the rest of us unless we just get the best cards everytime, the best being cards that can hold up against runner runner straights or flushes.

In contrast, at Foxwoods they select hands and they fold hands. We had one maniac at the $4 - $8 table who actually won a pot when two sevens came on the turn and river. He had played and come out betting to the river with 2-7 offsuit. And it was no fluke. He played almost every hand, bet often and called almost everything, paying us nicely if we had cards. For a time he collected chips, but then he started to get drained. He groaned often as if fate was against him. Strange!

Michael Everson wrote:

Hi, Dewey. Nice report. Below is a synopsis of my time at Riverside Casino
last Saturday night. I esp. found your report interesting for the lack of
starting hands you got. I've had those nights, but Saturday, here's what I
got for starting hands:

During a five-hour session, I was dealt a pair of tens once, a pair of nines
once, a pair of jacks once, a pair of queens once, and a pair of aces FIVE
TIMES. Of these, I eventually won with every hand EXCEPT the aces, where out
of five hands, I won two of them. Interestingly enough, with the non-ace
pairs I won either unimproved or by picking up another pair. With the aces,
I won one hand unimproved, one hand picking up a pair of eights on the flop,
and the other three I lost when other people had either pocket jacks or
pocket queens to my aces and they were able to trip up; the other hand, in
spite of my heavy betting, one guy made a straight on the river that I would
have beat him unimproved with if he hadn't caught the last card. Stuff

Other notable hands: I get dealt eight-deuce suited; a crap hand, but I'm
the big blind so I decide to see the flop. The flop comes eight-eight-deuce.
The kid next to me who pays to see ALL flops, has the fourth eight in his
hand, so he starts betting and raising like mad--he bets and raises until
it's only the two of us left in the pot, and the rule is that if it's
heads-up, there is no capping on the bet, so he raises and I re-raise until
all his chips are in the middle. I show him my full house and he just about
dies. He can't pair the other card in his hand so I win.

I get dealt a reasonable hand, have a four of hearts in my hand, and there
are three hearts on the board at the turn. The river card is a heart as
well, so now I have a flush, with only a four of hearts as my high heart.
It's my turn to bet first and I notice that everyone is starting to count
out chips, so I fold a flush. Three guys stay in and bet their asses off.
Two have flushes and the third guy has quad three's to take the pot.
Sometimes it's just better to observe...

I am dealt a pair of eights and am the first to play--I bet and the table
calls--no raises. As the game progresses, the board pairs jacks and the
action is still light with people being fairly tentative. The third jack
falls on the river and a kid who has been tentative starts the bet, everyone
folds to me, and I raise. I figure the kid for a pair and since I have a
pair of eights, I feel the odds are in my favor that my pair is higher given
the fact that he hasn't been betting. He re-raises me, so I call, and he
turns over a pair of sevens. He just about when into shock when I turned
over my eights.

Like you, I was actually was quite a bit down at the beginning--about $130
in the first hour and a half. Some old guy next to me in three consequtive
hands got a pair of tens, a pair of tens, and a pair of queens. After about
five more hands, I got a pair of aces and he got a pair of queens and
managed to get a third, beating me. It was just really wild. At about 9:30
pm when I thought it would be a good time to leave, my cards started to
improve dramatically.

Lessons learned:

It's true. These guys who see every flop will win an occasional flush or
straight on the river, but in the long run, they end up hemmoraging to
death. It happened with every guy at the table who never saw a flop he
didn't want to play;

Hands like ace-six are just awful hands to play. Even guys who would catch
two pair were ALWAYS outkicked. You simply can't underestimate the value of
better kickers.

I have to learn when to fold hands that have started with monster pairs.
Maybe learn to read players better. When is it that you realize it's time to
fold pocket aces?

I liked your comments about $4-$8. I was wondering if it's a substantially
different game, but you seem to indicate that it has its share of cash
machines. Maybe I'll consider playing that after some more time at the
$3-$6 table.