Thanks for blocking me, dude!

Thanking my conservative friend for blocking me from his Facebook page

On of my conservative friends blocked me, for a second time, on Facebook a few months ago and I’m just writing about it now. This time he says it is “permanent” because of the Michael Moore quote I posted in response to the “fake news” item he had posted.

In a way I’m relieved this has happened and had kind of expected it. My conservative friend is a nice guy in person and is a “family man” who posts good rock videos and some other content that is often amusing. He also likes Nickelback, and that could be forgiven as harmless though in poor taste. We used to work at the same company and he has solid technical skills and understands hardware and software issues very well. There is a lot to like about the guy.

But with the 2016 election in the States things began to get a bit tense all over and especially on Facebook. I am a fairly left-leaning person and most of my friends have similar ideologies. We disagree over issues like Israel and government spending but rarely do huge disagreements erupt. (In fact, to some of them I probably seem to be more right wing: I often vote Liberal rather than NDP…..Oh well).

I realized in 2016 I had two or three right wing American Facebook friends and one of them I wound up un-friending after he called Hillary a “bitch” for the second or third time. He was offensive and stupid. My #2 conservative friend would never use such language; he sounds reasonable as he posts links to anti-climate change articles and others that called Clinton a criminal. He was originally a supporter of Cruz and then fell behind Trump when he won the nomination.

My friend and I had disagreed over many things but I believe the idiot/narcissist Trump is on another level. In one post he said both Clinton and Trump were “despicable” but he wanted a conservative supreme court judge so he was going with Trump. Throughout the campaign he refused to criticize anything Trump said regarding beating up protesters, grabbing women by the pussy, pretending not to know who David Duke was or anything really. I do believe that Trump cannot read past a grade 5 level.

We fell into a rhythm: he would post ridiculous and reductive posts from the internet: like the “fact” that Clinton had defended a rapist and laughed about it. Not true. She did not want to defend a rapist but didn’t have a choice and it was a big moral deal. It is ridiculous how easily many of these stupid statements (with offensive pictures) could be disproven. He would post more and cite conservative websites to back him up. I started to complain about many of his posts and prove them wrong but then he would say that the “fact checkers” like Snopes and Politico were biased. I would respond that they may have a bias, but they actually checked statements and described their research whereas Trump just lied about everything, every day. Things got heated towards the end he blocked me. Oh well, life went on and at the time I felt safe because Nate Silver told me Trump could never win.

Oops, I guess Nate just said the likelihood of Trump’s winning was less that the likelihood of his losing. OK.

After the election he unblocked me again and I thought the USA had committed a huge mistake but I kept hoping there would be some evidence of Trump’s earlier, and more liberal, self come to light. When he said he was not going to pursue criminal charges against Hillary I thought that was a good sign.

Pretty soon Trump began reverting back to his previous form and even got worse (probably as he realized on some level how unprepared he was for the job of President). My friend unblocked me and I could not help responding again to the lies and misrepresentations. Here are a couple of examples: he posted a link demonstrating how the MSM create “fake news”. It was to an ABC print article about the Russian ship off the US coast (about which Trump had joked that if he shot at it he would be very popular). The article showed a stock photo of a ship and the shore and seemed well researched and straightforward. It discussed the potential threat from the ship and quoted experts from the navy and the lawyers. I could not understand how this constituted “fake news” so I had to ask, why? My friend’s answer was that the picture and caption were misleading. They implied the ship was -much- closer than the 20+ miles the article discussed. I was really astounded this was the “fake” part because the article itself contained only researched facts. He was complaining about the use of a stock photo which happens all the time. I explained that “fake news” was when the president tweeted about three million people committing voter fraud with absolutely no evidence. His response: “how do you know there is not that amount of fraud”? Really? That position is either stupidity or willful ignorance.

My friend’s main claim was that Trump “is doing exactly what he said he would do” and that was admirable. In fact, mostly what is was doing was issuing unconstitutional executive orders and staffing some positions with people unfit to serve and leaving may other positions open. My “friend” barely acknowledged the steady stream of lies, the berating of friends like Australia, the increasing violence caused by right wing nut jobs, the rumours of ties to Russia that won’t go away, the undying support of white supremacists, the truly stupid and tragic banning of immigration and travel from countries that have produced virtually no terror on American soil (while it is business as usual for Saudi Arabia). And so much more. It is one thing to sell your soul for a supreme court vote. It is another to turn your back on so many acts of petty despotism and genuine white rage.

And as time progresses it is more obvious how woefully unprepared Trump was for the job and he is making the USA simply fodder for cartoons and ridicule.

But what really hurts is the sustained insults to common sense and logic. The refusal to understand that CNN, the “failing” New York Times, Washington Post and others employ full time journalists who have won awards, studied ethics and usually try to do a good job of research while so many of the other sites post articles that are based on supposition and often have -no- byline to identify the vacuous source.

He finally banned me because, in response to some post about Ryan Owen’s widow, who Trump turned into a photo opportunity, I posted a couple of paragraphs of Michael Moore’s response which was apparently “too much”.

Ultimately, the blocking is a good thing because that whole exercise of trying to battle blinded ideology and stupidity with logic and reason and facts just goes nowhere. You really cannot change some people’s opinions about certain things (this fact is discussed right at the beginning of How to Win Friends and Influence People). And having a “friend” like that on Facebook is really like a kind of crack addiction: the fact I can click on his name and be instantly submerged in an alternate universe. It is like visiting Mars without needing a spaceship or spacesuit.

The one thing I miss is that my friend’s bizarre postings were strangely reassuring because, in so many ways, he is a “solid citizen” and a sane, hard working guy. It helps me believe that things might eventually be ok if many of Trump’s supporters are decent folks who like good rock music (aside from Nickelback) and take their families on vacations and can talk intelligently about many topics.

Oh well, life goes on and my time is better spent playing guitar/piano etc., hanging out with my family and participating in various community activities. I am trying to engage in positive activities, like music and volunteering with our Neighbourhood Association, and be happy in my life because that is all we can really do! 

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WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 5

This was my final day in Las Vegas and had a rather slow start. I did not get to sleep until after 4 am from the previous night of intense excitement but still wanted to play the $150 tournament at the Golden Nugget at 1 pm. So I dragged myself out of bed by noon, got in my car and drove downtown again. Grabbed a coffee and some food at the Starbucks and went into the hotel and registered.

I did not make any money in this tournament but I did gather a few valuable insights. I had virtually no playable cards for the first 2 hours and anything I did play wound up being beaten by better hands. By around 3:30 – 4:00 I was down to under half of my stack.

To my left was a very talkative guy who turned out to be a bartender who worked in Henderson (a suburb of Las Vegas). He had a lot of great stories and entertained us for an hour or two. I like this social aspect of poker. At one point we had a female dealer who was quite pretty and in her mid to late 40s. She told us she had lived in Japan for 25 years and I will leave it to everyone’s imagination as to what she was doing there. Her math was terrible, so if anything complicated happened with the chips (e.g. raise and re-raise, or three people in a pot that needed to be divided at showdown) she just kind of laughed and let the players do all the chip counts. This was pretty unprofessional but, as I said in an earlier post, casinos in Vegas are desperate for dealers during the WSOP. Actually I did not find her that bad because her actual mechanics of shuffling and dealing were O.K. so the hands went fairly quickly. Unfortunately, she had this strange habit of asking people were they were from! After she was replaced by another dealer our friendly bartender said “you know, someone should point out to her that this is not Blackjack and she is not saving us money by stopping her dealing and asking us questions. We really do want to see as many hands as possible and do not want to talk about our home towns!”.

There was a point when I  had A2 in late position and I believe someone had raised the minimum and there were two or three callers. I was a bit distracted by the talkative bartender and frustrated by my lack of hands and folded the A2 despite getting about 5-1 odds for calling! On the flop there was an A and a 2! This was quite frustrating because I would have gone all in and probably been called by someone with an Ace and better kicker and I could have doubled up! But this is a good lesson and it taught me to “never give up”. Instead of listening so closely to our bartender friend, I should have been paying attention to the game a lot more and called since I was in late position and getting great pot odds.

In fact, I played a tournament at the Talking Stick in Phoenix in the fall of 2016 and lost about half my chips (down to 5,000 from 10,000) in the first 6 hands! My first hand was KK which lost to A9 and there were a few other “problem hands”. Anyway, I just dug in and was helped by the fact a lot of people were limping in for the first several rounds and I got to see many cheap flops. At one point I had Q,5. There was a min raise which had two or three callers. So I called as well since I had great pot odds. The flop came Q, 5, 3 (bingo!). I checked, a player on the other side of the table bet , I went all in and he called with Q, 10. A 10 never came so I doubled up! Eventually I made the final table and wound up chopping the prize money with several other people and I made a few hundred dollars. So my motto should always be “never give up and wait for your spots”.

At the Golden Nugget tournament I got knocked out around 5 pm. I had A,J and one person had raised and two others called when the action came to me. I had two options: raise or call. I did think of going “all in” and probably collecting all the money in the pot. But simply calling would disguise the strength of my hand. So I just called and the flop came A, 6, 8. One player bet, 2 folded and I re-raised all in. The initial bettor called and turned over A, 6! He won. If I had played more aggressively and gone all in I probably would have won the pot. Oh well.

I was not terrible disappointed to have gotten busted since I love walking along the strip and had hardly done much of that since landing in Vegas. I was going home the next day so I decided to walk over to New York, New York and take the tram down to Mandalay Bay which used to be my favourite casino.

I drove back to my hotel (Polo Towers, which was in the middle of the strip) and walked over to New York, New York which had a cool outdoor bar. I had a couple of craft beers and then took the tram down to Luxor and walked through the mall they built between it and Mandalay Bay. I wanted to eat at a nice Mexican place there but it was closed for a private party. I would up next door where they had an excellent vegan meatball sandwich and, guess what?, more craft beer! It was an excellent dinner.

As a side note, I realized I had not spent much on food because I’d been playing poker all the time and had very little opportunity to have a decent meal. The only times I’d deliberately set out to eat somewhere nice were this final night meal the the breakfast I’d had at the Claim Jumper.

Then I walked over to Mandalay Bay and got a seat at their cash game. I used to love this poker room because the casino is nice and roomy and they put poker right next to the Sports Betting instead of trying to hide it in the back. Since then many other casinos have created much better rooms and they do not have any decent tournaments but I felt some nostalgia for it. So I bought into the 1/2 no limit game for $200. In one of my first hands I had AA! One player raised it to $15 and I re-raised to $45 and the guy to my right calls, everyone else folds. The flop comes 9, Q, K. He checks, I bet $50 and he calls. Oops, I think he could easily have QQ or KK and flopped a set and is just going to take all my money! The turn is something like a 6 and he checks again and I bet another $50 (as a blocking bet if nothing else). He calls! I think “am I really going to lose my $200 in this one hand?”. I don’t remember the river but he checks and I just turn over my Aces and…..he folds! Whoa! I breathe a sigh of relief and he leaves the table a little later. Perhaps he had A, K? So I play for a couple of hours and am up about $100 at the end of it. Decent! So it was a nice ending to my five days of poker.

I head have to the hotel around 10 or 11 pm and pack up for my trip home tomorrow. It has been a fabulous 5 days!

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 4

 After playing in the $1500 WSOP and $235 deepstacks at the RIO I decided for my 4th day to head to downtown Las Vegas where smaller buy in tournaments were taking place. I had heard about the Golden Nugget tournaments. This is an “old school” casino that has been renovated in recent years (or at least, half of it was renovated with a great swimming area). I had also heard their Claim Jumper restaurant praised so I arrived early for a hearty breakfast. And I can highly recommend this cafe.

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The Golden Nugget was hosting a tournament series in their Grand Ballroom. The 1 pm tournament was $150 and started with 15,000 chips while the 7 pm tournament was $100 and you started with 10,000 chips. Blinds in both were every 30 minutes so you got some good play for your money.

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I entered the 1 pm tournament and played until around 4:30 when I got knocked out. I do not remember any hands from this event. I decided to play in the 7 pm tournament and the two hours free time gave me an opportunity to do something I’d been looking forward to for a few months: have a drink at Atomic Liquors Cafe! This is a very cool place where the hipster Vegas crowd hangs out. I had a couple of excellent pints of craft beer before heading back into the tournament fray.

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I should note that the end of town on Freemont where Atomic Liquors is situated also boasts an excellent bookstore and record store. There is also a cool “container park” and much of this development is sponsored by the Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, “who leads the Downtown Project, an effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas as a vibrant cultural and economic hotspot, has said he wants ‘to be in an area where everyone feels like they can hang out all the time and where there’s not a huge distinction between working and playing.’”

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Anyway, back to poker:

I entered the 7 pm, $100 tournament with $10,000 in chips and there were 140 people registered. My first table was fairly friendly. There were two women to my right, the one furthest away was in her 60s and was a “local”. Apparently she played Omaha with her friends in a weekly game. The woman directly to my right was about 35 and was co-owner/manager of a poker club in Dallas. She had actually cashed in the Collossus tournament but she said it was a “min cash” and she’d bought in 3 or 4 times and had been partially bankrolled.

After about an hour and a half I was hovering around $12,000 chips and I had Ac,8c. I believe the older lady raised and I called with a couple of other people. Two clubs came on the flop so I had a nut flush draw. She bet the flop and I called and I made the flush on the turn! She bet again and I called, and then the river paired the board which brought on the possibility of a full house, but I did not think she had that. The river action went Bet, raise (from me) and call and I won a pretty large pot with my nut flush! I was up over 24,000 chips at that point. The older lady expressed surprise at my flush because she did not realize there were three clubs showing on the board! The younger women to my right made a comment about “well, a pair out there could mean a full house” indicating she may have thought me a bit reckless to be raising on the river. But I was quite sure I was ahead and wanted to get some value from my flush.

After about another 45 minutes I got my dream hand. The blinds were 100/200 and I was in middle position. I looked down at J,J so I raised to 600 and was called by one person to my left and the older woman (again). The flop came with another J giving me a set! However, it was checked to me and I thought “no one is going to bet and they will fold if I bet” so I just checked (the board was “rainbow” meaning all the cards were different suits so there was no immediate danger of a flush). On the turn came another Jack so I now had quads!! Finally the older woman bets 700 so I think “great, at least I’ll make a couple of thousand chips” and I call. A guy to my left calls as well! On the river the older woman goes “all in” for another 2100! Oh happy day! So I just call the 2100 hoping the guy to my right will call as well. He surprises me by raising another 5,000 chips! Oh happy day! I love poker! (At this point the older woman says to the younger one “ok, I know I’m not going to win this pot!”). So I surprise him by raising another 5,000. I could have raised all in, but I wanted to let him have a few thousand chips left because I think this will make it easier for him to call if he is not going totally “all in”. My re-raise really shocks him and he actually says “what could you have? I have a full house!” and he takes a minute or so but reluctantly calls and I turn over my JJ to show quads! So I knock out the older lady and take most of his chips and I’m up to almost 50,000 now. Nice!

I had a few good hands after this including one where a player goes all in, and is called by one other player and me. The flop gives me an open ended straight draw and I check, believing the two of us will “check it down” to have a better chance to eliminate a the all-in player. This is an established practice that not everyone follows. The idea is that it is more important to eliminate a player than it is to gain a few chips. So I check the flop and to my surprise the other player bets. I’m a bit irritated, but I have a good draw so I call and with the turn I make my straight!  The other guy bets again and I call and we both check the river. He turns over the set he flopped and starts to reach for the chips and I show my straight. He looks kind of irritated as the dealer pushes over the chips to me! This guy also looked a little pained throughout the tournament because he was in the process of getting a large tattoo on his arm and had some paper or gauze over it to help with the healing. He pushed me off a couple of other hands with his aggression but by around midnight I think he had gotten knocked out.

So I had several good hands and then there is the inevitable 2 – 3 hours when you get nothing and the blinds are higher and your large stack begins to get smaller. By 1:30 am there were only a couple of tables left and the blinds were very high. I was hanging in with an average chip stack and looking for spots to raise or even jam but mostly I folded. One on the fun things about playing poker is the great “cast of characters” you run into because it is a social game and people talk. There was a guy from New Orleans who, like the woman I had met earlier, managed a poker club back home. He was down to only 2 or 3 big blinds but managed to chip up and make the final table.

By around 2 am (7 hours of playing) I had made the final table! This was pretty thrilling although getting knocked out at that point would still only get you about $330 which is not much profit considering all the time invested. When I made the final table the blinds were around 2000/4000 with a 500 ante. With 10 people at the table, that meant there were 11,000 chips in the pot before any betting had taken place. I had just over 40,000 chips which was 10 big blinds and is not quite short stacked, but not great either.

In one of the first hands I was in early position and looked down to see 5,5 in my hand. I was not crazy about the idea but I felt my only choice was to shove all in. With another 8 players to come it was possible someone else would have a higher pair, but if they called with A,J; A,K; Q,K etc. I was slightly ahead. Understanding how many big blinds you have left is an important factor that dictates how aggressive your play should be. The shorter you are, the lower your range for shoving all in. There is also something called the “M Factor” which Dan Harrington uses in his books. It is a number that shows how many more hands you can last. For example, with the 2000/4000 blinds and 500 ante, it was costing me about 11,000 chips every round so I had an “M factor” of around 4 which is pretty low. There is also a concept called “fold equity” which basically means the more chips I have when I go all in, the greater likelihood others will fold.

At this stage most players had between 40K and 120K in chips so I had a good hand with decent fold equity. So I took the plunge, went all in and…..everyone folded! So I now had over 50K in chips and could be a little patient for a few hands.

There was an older guy to my right and a few times over the next 45 minutes he just called the big blind or “limped in” as we say. So two or three times that he did that I had hands like A,10 and A,J and I was in late position so I jammed all in. He reluctantly folded. At one point I believe the blinds were 2500/5000 he raised to 12,000. I looked down and saw 6,6. I thought about calling but I’d basically be doing that to hope I flopped a set which is going to happen 12% of the time. I had around 60K in chips which is not enough to call in that position. I thought of going all in, but previously he had only limped in and now he was raising so I suspected he had either a high pair or an A,K kind of hand. Against a higher pair my 6,6 is crushed and against the A,K; A,Q range I am still only slightly ahead. So I folded. So did everyone else and he gave me a disappointed look, turned over A,A and said “why did you fold? You went all in every other time I raised”. I shrugged and did not correct his misreading of my play: I’d only gone “all in” when he had called (thus showing weakness) and not when he raised.

I had a few other good hands. I got it all in with A, K against 10,10 and a King came and I doubled up. Another player had had a huge stack and had lost a fair amount raised and I looked down a J,J so I went all in. He thought about it for almost a minute which I took as a good sign. I was thinking he had a smaller pair and eventually he called and turned over 6,6 and I won that hand as well.

There were two German friends who made it to the final table. They both spoke English well but occasionally had to be cautioned about speaking German at the table. I will always remember one player saying “I’m going to raise” and one of the Germans, in a very precise manner, and with his accent, replied “That is always a good idea”. At one point I raised all in with A, 10 and the one German really thought about calling for a while and then folded. I said “I’ve heard Germans are very disciplined and that was a disciplined fold. You should do more of those!”. He smiled.

Eventually we began to discuss a chop because, as one player put it, “I’d be pretty pissed if I played for 8 hours and still only made $300!”. When the final table got down to 8 we did the math and figured we would each make slightly over $1100 so we settled on that!

It was after 3 am when we came to the agreement and it was all very exciting. By the time I got my chips and cashed them in for money and drove back to my hotel it was around 4 am Vegas time and 7 am Eastern. I texted my wife (who was just getting up for work) and expressed my excitement. It was a real thrill to have played for that long and had a decent cash. So that was the poker highlight of my trip!

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WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 3

People often ask “how much luck is involved?” in poker or they call poker “gambling” which is not exactly true. First of all, we don’t call it “luck”, it is “variance” which sounds much cooler. I was in a local tournament a few weeks ago where I was “all in” with pocket 7s and a 7 had come on the flop giving me a “set”. That is a very strong hand. My opponent had QQ so I will win this hand almost 90% of the time. Except in this case, a Queen came on the river! Ouch. 7.8% of the time the pocket Queens will win and that is variance.

So over a lifetime of playing, the better players and professionals will win consistently over amateurs. But for any given tournament skill vs luck is about 50/50. It is possible to play mediocre poker and still win a tournament because you get really lucky–and this is every amateur’s dream. However, the more skillful you are, the better chance you have to win. You can take advantage of certain “spots”, you can detect playing patterns that are “exploitable” and push your edge. And you can keep an even temper when a 7% hand beats you. In Slots the house has only a 1% to 3% advantage but they make a lot of money. If you can be patient and wait for your cards to come in the right situation you can vastly improve your chances to win. But still, when the Queen comes on the river (as above) you have to say “all I can do is get all my money in with the best hand”.

Day Three was the BIG DAY where I played in the $1500 tournament which began at 11 am.

I drove to the Rio and arrived in plenty of time to have breakfast and grab a coffee from Starbucks. I was playing “Event #6” on day 6 of the 6th month! The tournament was in the Brasilia Room which is smaller than the Amazon but (ultimately) there were still around 2000 entries. When I started playing the size was shown as 1700 but some people came later and some re-entered.

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You begin with 7500 chips and the blinds go up every hour, so it is a good structure and not rushed. However, even with blinds starting at 25/50 the 7500 chips is not a lot. If you lose 2 or 3 decent sized pots, where you have put in 1500 – 2000 chips, you are quickly on life support.

The first hand I played was 6,7. A player raised to 150 and I called. A 7 came on the flop so I called his 300 chip bet. We both checked the turn and when a Jack came on the river he bet 1000. I called and he turned over KJ and took the pot. I lost around 1500 in chips! I think my original call was fine, and perhaps even the 300 call because I’m floating to get another 7 or a 6 for two pair. But I should have known there was no way I was ahead on the river. So I should have been down 450 (at most) and not 1500.

I lost a few hands and won a hand but after an hour and a half of playing I had around 5,500 I believe. The blinds were 50/100 and I raised to 300 with A J. One player called. The flop contained good news and bad news: there was an Ace (!) but all three cards were diamonds. Ugh. I felt if I checked, I was giving up on the hand right away and I’ve always believed that if the possible flush scares me, it must scare my opponent as well (most times). So I bet $1200 and he called. Ouch. The turn was a blank. I was in early position which is bad because I know if I check, he will probably bet and take down the pot so I bet 2100 and he called! Another diamond came on the river, I checked, he bet and I folded. Ugh! Again, an initial bet of $1200 is ok, but when he calls I know I’m probably not good. I have no diamonds so no further money should go in the pot.

I am now down to just under 2000 in chips! The blinds are 50/100 so that is 20 big blinds which is not terrible exactly, but is very short stacked for this early in the tournament. In the hand before our first break I had 3,3 in late position. There may have been a couple of calls so I decided to go all in. I’m hoping that someone with an AJ to AK kind of hand calls and I’m 50/50 to double up. Unfortunately the same person who took my chips on the “flush” board calls and he has pocket 10s! A 3 does not come and I am out! Ouch.

It is strange to have built up to this moment and then have it crash down so quickly. On the other hand, I always knew this could happen in so many ways and I told everyone “I’m going to Vegas to play poker for 5 days straight. If I do well in the $1500 event that is awesome, but if not, there are plenty of other tournaments.”

I thought of going to another casino like Wynn’s or Aria but ultimately decided to just stay at the RIO and play in the 2:30 “deepstack”.

So I paid another $235 to enter the tournament and sat down with 15,000 chips and the blind levels were 30 minutes. Ultimately this tournament would have 1700 entries so it was a large field. It was held back in the Amazon room and over the several hours I played I saw a real cast of characters.

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I snapped this photo of the “man in black” (MIB) who sat next to me for the first few hours (that is my water and bag on the chair). He did not talk much but had a southern accent and his outfit was a bit over the top. It was certainly a “uniform” of sorts. He seemed to play ok but at one point, about three hours into the tournament, a couple of “young guns” had joined the table. They were chatting and carrying on like “junior poker pros” and knew each other from other tournaments around the USA. I’d call them a little “rough hewn” in their manners. At one point the man in black was in a hand with one of the young guns. The young gun bet on the flop and turn and the MIB called both times. Ultimately the MIB won the hand when he made a straight with his KJ. The young gun was livid because he had AQ for top pair and was ahead of the MIB until the river when the MIB had made an inside straight. The young gun yelled “why did you call me? I was way ahead and I bet to get you off the draw”. The MIB replied with is draw “I thought you were floating so I called”. And the young gun said “Floating? I bet out with the best hand, how is that floating?” So that was a bit of drama. The young gun was correct in his analysis that the MIB misjudged what “floating” was and should have lost all his chips. However, as we say “that’s poker” and you have to calm down a bit.

I never had great hands and was mostly short stacked all afternoon, but I hung in and jammed when necessary. It was fascinating to see so many players who accumulated a ton of chips (one kid had a couple of full houses) and then to meet them at another table a couple of hours later when they had very few left. Many of the people playing had also been knocked out of the $235 Deepstack so that was somewhat comforting.

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(Above: I thought the Elvis dealer and the guy in his undershirt make an amusing couple)

I played from 2:30 until 9 pm when we had our “dinner break” of half an hour. The other breaks had been 15 minutes and I’d only had time for peanuts. Just before the break there was an interesting hand. We were almost at “the money” and were told the bubble would break after we came back. It was a little confusing because there were several tournaments going on at the same time and our dealer was very slow, and I could not see the tournament information very well, so I thought we had played the last hand. So I actually walked away from the table and then a dealer who was one table over shuffling cards yelled to me. He said “hey, they are calling you back at your table” so I ran back the 12 feet and it turned out they were dealing one final hand! It was very nice of my table to call me back because, technically, if I’m not at the table my hand should be folded. I was in middle position and looked down to see 9,9, so when the action came I shoved “all in”. Eventually everyone folded and I picked up a lot of precious chips. One of the players said “hey, we called you back so you have to show us what you shoved with”. I felt that was fair so I turned over the pocket 9s and everyone nodded since it was a no-brainer move.

I realized at 9 pm that I had not really eaten since breakfast so I went to the “Poker Kitchener” at the RIO where I had a wrap with veggies and grilled salmon for $16. This was amazing food! I ate standing up at a table with two other poker players and we had 15 minutes of shared camaraderie over poker and travel etc. It was a very uplifting break.

When I came back we very quickly played “hand for hand” so it would be clear who was the “bubble boy” and we were into the money very quickly. I played for another hour but had virtually no hands. I went all in with A3 once and was called….with A3! The other player joked “how do you play cards like that”? Eventually I made it to 163rd place (out of 1700) and cashed for $407! This was not a huge amount but it was a moral victory to hang in for so long and gave me a bit of an upswing from my brutal tournament experience. So I played poker for almost 12 hours that day!

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 2

On Sunday I drove to the Rio hotel/casino to register for Monday’s $1500 tournament and play the afternoon “Rio $230 deepstack” to get a flavour for the venue and “feel the vibe” of the WSOP.

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The above photo is from the entrance into the convention center at the Rio so you “know you have arrived” at the WSOP.  Originally the WSOP was held in Binion’s in downtown Vegas. As more events were added it moved to the Rio but they held the final table of the “Main Event” at Binion’s for a few years in a special room. But several years ago that too changed, and they moved the final table to the Penn and Teller Theatre in the Rio (in fact, although the 60+ WSOP events are held from June – July the final table of the main event is in November for additional publicity and suspense).

The first order of business was to take out the $1500 I had won in Orangeville and use it to buy into “Event # 6” the next day. And also bought into the $230 Rio Deepstack that started at 2:30 in the afternoon.

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“Deepstack” means you start with more chips, usually at least 15,000 which is twice the 7,500 you get at many of the official events. The blinds are every 30 minutes so you can afford to wait for better hands. The Rio deepstack is a little deceptive because after 2 hours they ‘skip’ a couple of blind levels which means around hour 3 many people start shoving, or going “all in” quite frequently. A true one-day “Deepstack” should last 10+ hours so hour three is a little early for so many “all in” moves.

A big issue with playing poker in Las Vegas during the WSOP is the chronic lack of good dealers. The Rio Deepstack has about 1700 entries (which is around 170 tables to start, requiring 180 dealers to be ready) and there are many other tournaments running at the same time including satellites to events and cash games. And the $1500 tournaments have close to 2000 players. Here is my photo of the main Pavilion room at the Rio:

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There are a couple of other ballrooms where they play poker but this is the largest. And all the poker I mentioned above is just at the Rio. Many other casinos (like Caesar’s, Wynn’s, The Venetian, The Golden Nugget etc.)  all have their own series to take advantage of people coming in for the WSOP. So many dealers are required for this 2.5 month “bubble”. And they are often not that great. I’ve been sitting at tables where an older dealer is trying to shuffle the cards and I’m thinking “just give the cards to me, I’ll shuffle them more quickly and efficiently and then you can deal”. Sometimes the pots get complicated with the chips and multiple bets and some dealers get overwhelmed. So the players wind up working out how the chips should be split! And some of the players are surprisingly slow to act as well so the advantage of the half hour blinds get eroded by slow dealing and playing. I would not expect that at the WSOP, but it happens!
The poker on Day 2 was not so great. I played in the $230 Deepstack from 2:30 to around 6:30 pm I think and never had very many good hands (meaning, none) and eventually got knocked out. I decided to play a cash game which means the blinds remain the same so there is no pressure to go all in. You can lose as much money as you wish! I chose the 1/2 No Limit game and bought in for $200. It was a fun table and we all joked about stuff, the drinks were free (I think) and you tipped the waitress $1. So it was a relaxing time. Here is a photo of my table.

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I believe I was up over $100 and was preparing to leave soon (it was around 10 pm which would be 1 am Eastern time). Then I got into a hand with the young guy to my left (who had actually re-bought for $200 a couple of times!).

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I was dealt KK and, rather unfortunately, he was dealt AA! I suppose I could have avoided losing all my chips on this hand, but it would have been tricky. I raised initially and he re-raised. Then the same thing happened on the flop, so a better player might have folded KK, but I did not and lost. So instead of leaving up $100 I was down $200. Some people would say, “hey, you sat at the table for a few hours and had a good time and did not lose that much in the bigger scheme of things”. But at the time I was frustrated that I’d played well and made some money and then lost it all on a freaky hand. But as they say, “That’s Poker”.

I drove back to my hotel to prepare myself for my “big day” playing the $1500 tournament.

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 1

My plane landed at 12:15 (Saturday, June 4th, 2016) and the first tournament I wanted to play was at Binion’s. I have a soft spot for that old hotel where the magic of the World Series started back in 1970. They have not held it there for many years, and overall it is a little run down. But the dealers are great and it has a kind of “history aura” around it.

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On Saturday afternoons at 1:00 they have a $160 buy in tournament where you start with 20,000 in chips and have 30 minute blinds. It is a good structure and the dealers are very smooth so you don’t have to wait for cards.

<digression>During the World Series in Vegas it is difficult to supply enough dealers because of all the events at the WSOP at the Rio plus many of the other casinos have their own tournament series. So it can be very frustrating to be at a table where the dealer has trouble shuffling the cards and sorting out the chips with the betting, raising, etc. So I appreciate that Binion’s has their regular folks who do an excellent job, even if the tables have seen better days.</digression>

By the time I got my rental car, drove downtown and parked in Binion’s garage and walked to the poker room, the tournament had been running for over 1/2 hour. There was still plenty of time to get in because they allow entry at least until four rounds (or perhaps even six). You can even re-enter for another $160 if you get knocked out in that time.

So I gave them my money and was seated about half way through the second blind level. I wound up sitting next to a retired guy who was Canadian but lived in some warm place  (Mexico?). He had worked for a couple of hotel chains, I guess in some executive position and I had my Marriott Lifetime Platinum status, so we chatted about hotels, travel, Canada etc. This is another thing I like about poker: it’s a social game. At its most cutthroat you have to stop talking so you do not give away too much “information” but generally there is a good conversation somewhere at the table. It is a lot of fun because you are folding 95% of your hands, and other than observing people, there is not much to do. Throughout the week I wound up meeting him a few more times in other tournaments so that was fun.

In this tournament I never really saw many good cards. I think I played quite well and hung in there, but it is difficult when you are “card dead” for such a long time. I had been reading Kill Everyone, which has several great sections in it on different aspects of tournament poker. It is the “advanced” version of Kill Phil which is kind of a “cheater’s guide” to playing tournaments with professionals. They discuss a “shove” strategy: the general theory being that if you get a decent hand you should often shove (i.e. go “all in”) and pick up a pot rather than playing “post-flop” where the professionals have an advantage. Professionals generally like to play “small ball” where there is less room for variance (other word for “luck”) to mess things up. Kill Phil is ok, but I really preferred Kill Everyone with its more detailed strategy. There is a lot of good discussion in there about equity, bet/fold/shove ranges given your chip stack and general strategy around the “effective stack”. I should read it again because any decent poker book takes several readings before you really “get it”.

Anyway, I hung in with this tournament until around 6 pm and applied a few of the “Kill Everyone” strategies to keep me in. I believe in my last hand I went “all in” with something like pocket 9s, and the fellow who called was new at the table but he had a ton of chips and had been winning everything. I believe “steamrolling his previous table” would be the correct expression. I think I was ahead of him when he called, or perhaps he had pocket Jacks. In any event, by the river he’d made a full house so I was history. Sometimes poker is just like that, you play well, but someone comes along who just dominates.

So I went back to my car and drove to the Polo Towers where I was staying.

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It was on the strip next to the Hard Rock Cafe so quite central. It was a time share place that also rented hotel rooms so it had no casino and it was nice to get back to a quiet place each day. Aside from the guy who tried to sell me a time share right after I checked in (by offering me several 15th generation photo-copied sheets of “deals”) the stay was quite pleasant. Its main problem was driving there because it was a bit tricky to get into the parking, but the rooms had fridges and microwaves and were very comfortable. I’d stay there again, for sure.

OK, that is all the excitement for Saturday. Next up…..Sunday!

The Wayback Machine reveals….

The internet is an amazing repository of everything. I was “googling myself” for some strange reason the other week and found this article I wrote for The Varsity when I was attending the University of Toronto many years ago. I had no memory of writing this review or even watching the movie, although I had to tidy up the page breaks etc. and gradually some memories resurfaced. Anyway, here is my “long lost” movie review.

By TED PARKINSON

The opening sequence of 8 Million Ways to Die is shot from a helicopter traveling over a vast network of freeways. Jeff Bridges mumbles, in a voiceover, “Ya don’t know where it’s comin’ from … strangers are killin’ each other.” This is a fairly good explanation of this movie which often needs explaining. Bridges plays an alcoholic ex-cop who gets involved with drug dealers, prostitutes and. naturally enough, murder. He is contacted by “Sunny” — a call-girl who wants to leave the business — through a cryptic encounter with another A. A. member. So he goes to this mansion where there are a lot of prostitutes and cocaine, and where people are betting on closed- circuit boxing matches: vice seems to prevail.

It takes Jeff Bridges (playing “Scudder”) half the movie to figure out finally “where it’s coming from,” and by this point Sunny has been killed and Scudder has missed a horse riding date with his daughter by going on a binge which lands him in a detox centre. Bridges spends much of the movie looking in rough shape as he battles his alcoholism and Sunny’s killers. He is well cast as the angst-ridden — though amiable — hero pitted against the evil foreign drug dealers.

8 Million Ways to Die is often interesting, particularly when we never know what’s going on. At key moments we feel that there are 8 million ways one could die and this brings out the best existential film-noir elements of the movie. But other moments last too long. The love interest between Scudder and Sarah (another prostitute played with unflagging courage by Rosanna Arquette) is not believable: it consists of a few embarrassingly long scenes where they exchange the smallest of talk and the most furtive of glances. However, there ait many superb episodes: at an A. A. meeting the camera pans through the members nervously smoking cigarettes and folding bits of paper. We feel that one addiction has been replaced by others — man is a creature doomed to his vices. Also, having Angel (the evil cocaine dealer) buy Salvador Dali’s house where he delivers a lecture to Scudder on how everything was built at a 45-degree angle “because that was the perfect way to observe nature — which is truth” is marvellous irony.

Perhaps the movie’s erratic nature can be blamed on the fact that the director, Hal Ashby, was fired just before completion. The final editing -may have been done by someone else, with less skill and craft. 8 Million Ways to Die is a flawed but interesting movie. It could have been better but it’s definitely worth seeing as a diversion with moments of delicious insight.