Saturday, May 25, 2013

This and That, and a “Brief Hiatus”

Posting has been sporadic of late, and unless something unforeseen happens, this might be the last post until September.  It’s always difficult to explain our situation here, as we work in a seasonal tourism environment that means we are 24/7 (little exaggeration) until Labor Day, and we STILL have to fit in our regular life cycle patterns around the adventures at the ice cream parlor (like eating, laundry, etc.).  Playing poker and writing about it are far down the list…so with that, let me clear my system of a few things I’ve been wanting to discuss…
I posted information previously about the attack on Oregon Card Rooms.  Word is that the bill has been tabled and will not come up for a vote this year, after a raucus hearing where the only “pro” (read: anti card room) speakers were folks who ran card rooms…in Washington.  Nothing subtle here.  Many players spoke out against this nonsense at the hearing and in the press, and for now, the card rooms survive (though some of the rules may be re-written, which many believe is OK).  Me too, even though I’ve yet to set foot in any of these rooms.  Yet.  Someday, when I live closer to Portland.  And have more time.  Soon.

In what limited play I’ve been involved in, I see more and more trapping where players refuse to make even the smallest bet while holding the nuts, waiting for others to bet and then re-raising them.  In small stakes affairs, only the super aggressive (and foolish) are going to toss money out there, and if you haven’t identified them yet, you’re losing money.  Sure, if you have two of these guys at the table who will overbet the pot on a small pair or ace-high, check.  But if you have Meekrats who only bet with the goods, you can’t trap in this fashion.  You think:  If I bet now, they’ll fold and I can’t win a big pot.  I say:  But if you don’t BUILD the pot now, you won’t win a big pot either, AND you give everyone a chance to catch up to your hand (few hands are always the nuts from flop to river).  Yes, you’ll get outdrawn sometimes, but you’ll know when to fold if that happens. But having a great hand and not betting is costing you money.  Stop that.

If you’re in a hand where it seems as if no one has anything, and the only way you could win the small pot is to act as if you caught the last card…why aren’t you betting?  Unless you’re last to act, that is.  This is when such a play nets nothing – either you have the best hand or you don’t, and you’ll know which when everyone either (a) folds or (b) you get raised.  But if you’re in any other position, and no one shows interest in the pot, toss some money out there – sometimes.  If nothing else, you’ll learn who likes to trap by not betting anything (see above), and you know how to deal with those monkeys.

Sales seem to be in an upturn in two areas – foreign purchases of the poker book (because it’s legal there), and purchases from all over of the blackjack book.  I will make an effort to include more blackjack posts in the future, but for now…I found a great new place to practice – “The Blackjack Casino” on Facebook.  Fairly realistic, different casinos with different rules, and if you’re my friend I can send you chips (and visa versa).  Link here:

That’s all for now – have a great (and profitable) summer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fear the Re-Raise – Not Always

Usually, when someone at the table comes over you with a raise on top of your bet, it sends off warning signals.  A raise (or a re-raise) usually means that the bettor has quality holdings, and you should proceed with caution, if you proceed at all.

In the small-stakes affairs I find myself in, a raise or re-raise is also a great bluffing tool, used by the unscrupulous when scary cards find their way on the board. “I’ve got it” their chips seem to be saying…but how can you tell when they have the goods, and how can you tell when they’re holding J-squat?

Well, you never can be sure, but you can get a feel for walking a mile in their moccasins by remembering the old adage: Monkey See, Monkey Do.

What I mean by this is simple…I tend to give a player credit for “having it” the first time he raises me (if we don’t have a prior history).  I then watch how he plays – no so much how he raises, but how he REACTS to OTHERS’ raises.  You see, if he thinks you’ve got the goods, chances are that’s how he makes his raises.  If he constantly calls you (or fires back at you), he thinks you’re bluffing because HE is regularly bluffing.  See how this works?

It’s not foolproof (nothing is), but it’s another way to gain information about a player’s tendencies.  The old way was to call his raise (or re-raise) and see if he has it…that can get expensive if you’re wrong.  This way, you let others do your dirty work.

I have to admit, it is a load of fun to pick off the bluffers in this regard.  You either get them going all-in the next hand (because they’re pissy little people) or you get Phil Hellmuth-like comments like, “How could you call me like that?”

Either way, you come out ahead and can (a) know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, and (b) use the info to create your own timely bluffs.  Just don’t get pissy when you get caught.  I hate that.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Found ONE Good Thing About Zynga Poker

Faithful readers of this blog (both of you) know that I have little good to say about the folks at Zynga.  Their ideas of being a “real money site” are laughable, as they are first and foremost (and only) a social gaming site, albeit the largest one.  Still, as a USA poker player not living in Nevada, my online playing options are limited, and since I must play for free for now, Zynga is always an option.

Since I have a weird schedule, with business and other issues, my playing time is limited.  I can’t always go into Portland or down the coast to the Indian casinos to play live poker, and that same schedule keeps me from forming a regular “poker night” with friends and/or work colleagues. So I hop online to PokerStars, Attack Poker,, or, if I’m in a social mood, Zynga.

Zynga has helped replace the social aspect of gaming for me, in that I can actually play at the same table as other people I know.  That’s damn near impossible at the casinos or card rooms, and as I mentioned above, the friendly poker night with the boys (and the girls when I lived in Idaho) isn’t a reality.  Just today I played with an old high school buddy, a former student, and one other FB buddy that I’ve never met in person (and most likely never will, since the Atlantic Ocean separates us).  I LIKE playing with people I know, partly for fun, and partly for the challenge (my old high school friend has been of a tear lately, and I wanted to watch his action – fun stuff, even when I was losing).  And it’s so easy on Zynga to find friends and play.  Yes, I know PokerStars has their “Home Games” setup, and I’ve used it with some chip-collecting friends, but their weekly tournament doesn’t fit my schedule, so Zynga it is.

And here’s the plus in playing online there – no cheating.  Sad to say, while my Idaho and Louisiana home games were friendly, spirited, and fair-played games, my original home poker game experiences in Michigan were anything but.  It was a regular weekly event-filled day of golf and poker for about six of us (college guys and one actually employed adult who had a very flexible schedule).  I was new to poker, so while I won on the course the best I could do was break even at the table, but it was fun.  For about a year or so, and then some new players were introduced into our game.

Now I’m not saying that I think the new guys were cheating – I KNOW they were.  I caught them at it, more than once (and that makes a great story in itself – I’ll save it for later).  It ruined my taste for home games for a long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing poker again in Louisiana that I felt comfortable with a guy I knew being the dealer, if you get my drift.

Poker for dough has its place in my life, but so does a more relaxed social poker game.  Zynga seems to fit the bill for now.  So, if you’ve read this and haven’t friended me there yet, do so, and let’s play.

And no cheating!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Tale of Poker in Two States

Oregon and Nevada share a border, and in both, you can play poker, but there the similarity ends.  Two events last week prove this in spades.

First, if you haven’t heard, you can play poker online LEGALLY in America again.  In Nevada, exclusively (for now). went live last Tuesday.  This site should not to be confused with the old Ultimate Bet site, as this is from Palace Stations Casinos in Vegas, owned by the same folks that bring you Ultimate Fighting. According to Poker News, the site has 243 players in action on Friday.  That’s not too bad for a 4-day old site…in one state.  Compare that to the old PokerStars site where there might be 33,000 players at one time – that’s tiny.  Compare that to, say, Wednesday night at Spirit Mountain Casino’s poker room in Grand Ronde, OR where 8 players sat on one table (I was there – net loss for the whole trip was $6, thank you) – that’s huge.

Now you begin to understand why online poker is seen as the Holy Grail by so many – the potential is tremendous.

And as for Oregon…as in the last week there were legislative rumblings about poker, but not for expansion (and certainly not for anything online – perish the thought).  A new bill – LC3928 – would amend the laws in Oregon regarding “social gaming” in cards rooms across the state.  There are about a dozen in all, mostly in the Portland metro area, and they serve maybe 50-300 poker players depending on the time and day.  Social gaming players pay a fee to play, and the house takes no rake.

Why the bill?  Good question.  In an article in The Oregonian, the two legislators pushing the bill cite the rooms’ proliferation.  Apparently, when they pass the original laws they didn’t think anyone would do this?  Really?

But look at these quotes:

"These things have exploded," says Rep. Julie Parrish. "It's kind of like hookah lounges."  

"Apparently, if you go into them, you would think you were in Las Vegas," says House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland.

Here’s the bill’s ONE change to the law (in BOLD):

(21b)  If authorized pursuant to ORS 167.121, a game, other than a lottery, between players in [a private business, private club or place of public accommodation] premises operated and controlled by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization where no house player, house bank or house odds exist and there is no house income from the operation of the social game.

I don’t mean to cast aspersions, but I’ll bet a dollar neither rep has set foot inside one of these places.  Why on earth would you have a law, watch people follow the law, and then say, “Oh, wait, we decided we don’t like the law we thought was OK because people are actually following the law, so, we’re gonna change the law”? 

It’s hard to believe that in 2013, we still have that “icky” reaction to gambling.  I think THAT is what this is all about.  I could be wrong, but PEOPLE ARE GOING TO PLAY POKER NO MATTER WHAT.  Been doing it for 150 years.  Not gonna stop – might go underground (that’ll make things safe for America), but don’t waste time creating laws to stop people from doing things that are harmless (as well as fun). 

For now, it’s one giant leap for forward for Nevada, and as for Oregon…well, I’m not planning on moving, but this isn’t a trend that makes me want to stay put.