Donating chips is bad!

“I have nothing, but I will call anyway!” This is how my week started… As a poker player there is nothing that chaps my hide more than people putting chips where they don’t belong. First and foremost, when some one makes a statement like this, my thought process goes into overdrive. “What do you think I have? If you have nothing and you call, are you looking for information? Is there a lack of respect for my betting patterns? If you have nothing and can only beat a bluff it’s pretty obvious that you think I’m bluffing…” This only begins the long series of things that go through my head as I take down the pot, and stack my chips.

Paying off a player for information is a waste of chips… You should never put chips into a pot with out the expectation to win. This is one of many mistakes I watch players make both dealing and playing poker.

Last week I overheard a player complaining, “I just can’t win! My cards aren’t hitting. All my draws are coming up empty.” Wow, just wow. This same player I deal cards to on a regular basis, and I’ve noticed that they are almost always short stacked and forced to make 1 of 2 decisions: fold or go all in. Now let me start this by saying I understand the desire to get lucky and complete your drawing hands but the odd are stacked against you. Starting with a sub par hand that only marginally improves does nothing but cost you chips.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: at the start of the hand I have 2500 in chips. I’m dealt 7d-8c in middle position. This is not the worst starting hand and the blinds are decently low at 200-400, so I call the 400. So I’ve now invested 400 chips into this pot. 2 more people decide to call as well then the player on the button raises it to 800. The small blind folds. The big blind just calls. Now the action is back to me. Where I’ve already invested 400 into this pot with a sub par hand, I’m now faced with reinvesting an additional 400 just to see the flop. If I choose to fold here I can get out of this pot with a very minimal loss, but if I choose to call and get lucky I could be stacking a lot of chips. Doing the math there is already 3000 chip in the pot, adding my 400 puts it at 3400, and that’s not counting the other 2 players left to act. It’s still early in the game so I figure this is as good of a chance as any to test my luck so I call. The other 2 players in the hand fold. On to the flop the dealer reveals 7h-10c-Qc. I’ve flopped bottom pair and 2 possible back door draws. The big blind checks, I check because I have possibly the worst draws and the worst hand at the moment. Over to the player on the button who bets out 400. Big blind calls the 400. Now the pots up to 4200. I’m left with another decision to make. I can make this call with bottom pair and hope my hand improves on the turn, or I can fold and get out with a decent but not terrible chip loss. Ah what the heck, I call the 400. With 4600 chips in the pot the dealer reveals the turn card: 9d. Well, I lost the flush draw but I did improve on the straight draw! The big blind checks it to me. I still only have bottom pair so I check as well. Over to the button and he once again bets out 400. This time the big blind folds his hand. Once again I’m faced with a decision. In some respects the turn was a lucky card for me, it improved my outs in the hand, but this card could have also completed the better’s hand. Where it’s only 400, I can still see the river card decently cheep. So I call the 400. Now the pots up to 5400 in chips! If I get lucky on this card I could be stacking a lot of chips! The dealer reveals the Ac. Out of habit, I check to the better, and this time he bets out 800. Finally I realize that there is no possible way for me to win this hand unless he has been bluffing the whole way. I have bottom pair, a busted straight draw, and a terrible kicker. He has basically bet enough chips to force me all in. If I call this I’m most assuredly going home. So I finally make the right choice and fold.

After the hand is over I look down and see that my chip stack has gone from 2500 at the beginning of the hand down to just 900. If you replay the series of events in the hand there were 4 different times that I could have folded. Pre-flop with zero investment; after the raise with minimal investment; after the flop with a decent investment; and after the turn with a sizable investment. All of these spots would have been correct folds. Instead I chose to try my luck, and essentially donated most of my chip stack to the person doing the betting. In poker this is called being a call station. You never want to be known as the call station at the table. Yes, once in a while your luck will prevail, but the majority of the time you are the person going home early…

My suggestion here is get familiar with this:

As a rule of thumb, there are roughly 5 reasons you should ever put chips into a pot.

  • Being in the blinds.
  • Betting pre-flop to get inferior hands out.
  • Betting after the flop to get drawing hands out.
  • Being in last position with the nuts. (Not betting here can and will be considered collusion and may incur a penalty)
  • Bluffing to win a pot.

Chip management is a huge part of tournament poker. This rule of thumb will go along way to helping you keep chips in front of you longer and possibly pull more pots your way. Put yourself in position to win more hands by starting with better cards and in better position.

As always, I never claim to know what I’m talking about in my little world, but if I can get you thinking in a different was about poker then we’ve all won! Have a good week and may more pots come be pushed your way!

Life lessons learned through poker?

This past weekend I was blessed with a break. I was allowed to take off the poker dealer shoes and put on the ever so cherished shoes of the poker player. A good friend of mine is due to be married, so it would only be right if a few of us took him to Las Vegas for the once in life time bachelor party! Now I know what you’re all thinking and stop it! My idea of Las Vegas is different than yours, but then again, I’m a poker player. I could be bluffing here. There is a reason I never show my cards…

A mutual friend and I decided that our gift to him would be the gift of poker. Two days of poker can offer an amazing opportunity to learn about life.  Considering the fact that there are long stretches where the best hand you see is 9-7 off suite, there’s generally plenty of time to ponder on your past experiences and possible future outcomes. So take advantage of that time and learn a few things!

Our first stop was the Aria. They offer a daily $125 No Limit tournament there, which seemed to the perfect tournament to break the ice for the weekend. While we were playing, I noticed something. Take note that there are a lot of common courtesies in poker, some well known and some that go unnoticed. Your everyday player should be well versed in the majority of them, but the weekend warriors are the ones who never learn these, and as it appears, really don’t care in the first place. After watching a number people get busted, and go on with whatever the rest of their day had to offer them, I was amazed to see that one of these courtesies was being respectfully practiced. I noticed that no one apologized for anything at the poker table. Were all these players being rude?  No, not really. As a human being, we’re all blessed with compassion. It’s in our nature to be apologetic when we see loss, we feel sorry for people when we see them experiencing sorrow. In the poker world it’s 100% the opposite. Saying your sorry when you knock a player out will spark hatred from some of nicest people in the world. Watching as all these players were graciously thanked for playing was so unheard of I almost slapped myself to wake up from this dream. I’m mean, not everyone went out with a smile on their face, but I don’t remember seeing one person upset at the other person for knocking them out. Lots of hand shakes were exchanged and there was plenty of encouragement for the next game. I was absolutely amazed… I had finally found the poker room that exemplified, in my opinion, what poker should be.

Years ago while playing in an afternoon tournament over at The Orleans Casino I watched one of the most hilarious, yet horrifying situations unfold. We were nearing the end of the tournament with roughly 2 tables left. We were 2 or 3 players from the bubble (the bubble is the last player out before people start getting paid) and the tension was building in the room. From the far corner of the room I remember hearing Skip, the floor guy, yell “Alright dealers, we will now play hand for hand. Once you’ve completed the hand you are on, stand up. If a player goes out please notify us at once!”
Sitting across the table from me was Paulette. One of the sweetest little old ladies I’ve ever met. Watching her face light up as she stacked chips is one of my fondest poker memories. It was unfortunate to notice she was the short stack at this table and would be all in on the next hand as it was her big blind. Silently wishing her good luck as I tapped the table, the dealer dealt the cards. Not wanting to be the one, I didn’t even look at my cards and I folded. Joe, the tables chip leader was to my left, went all in over the top. This was a little excessive since there were only 2 people left to act, and neither of them had chip stacks to worry about. The other players in the hand folded. When the dealer asked them to turn their cards over. I was excited to see that Paulette had bean dealt A-A! Then Joe showed 2-3 of clubs… First and foremost, this is like slapping your grandmother in the face. Why on Earth would you make that move with those cards… As luck would have it, the Aces went down as the flop gave 3 more clubs and no additional help on the turn and river. Joe was excited, he’d gotten us all to the money! Through his excitement he yelled across the room, “Congratulations everyone, and you’re welcome! I got you all to the money!” Not paying any attention to the kind little Paulette as she boards her scooter to leave, he comments to the table, “Sorry ’bout her luck, but it was my time to shine!” Now no one likes a braggart at the table, especially one who plays horrible poker, but this guy had just made a target out of himself. As he stacked his chip I heard a sound. It sounded like someone had broken a walnut with a nut cracker. I wasn’t the only one to hear this sound, everyone at our table heard it too. As if in sync we all looked over Joe’s should to see little Paulette driving her scooter off. Right behind her on the ground was Joe’s glasses. Crunched up and run over… I grinned a bit at first as he reacted in anger. Then the most amazing thing happened. Little Paulette exclaimed “Sorry ’bout your luck” and flipped the bird as she drove off into the sunset. At this point in my life I’d never seen anything quit like this… I was floored. Then a thought occurred to me. I stood up and started clapping. The rest of the room, excluding Joe, followed suit and applauded her monumental exit.

There are two lessons to learn here… First, respect your elders. They’ve been there thousands of times before you, and did it better than you. Second, being the braggart at the table gains you nothing. You will get no where bragging. The respect you’re seeking will eventually lead to your poker demise. 

In the end, had he just kept his head down and moved on to the next hand, this spectical would have been a moot point. His actions set him up for the eventual kick to the junk. After the re-draw he was seated next to Alfred, Paulette’s husband. Two hands later Alfred took all of Joes chips and respectfully said “Thanks for playing”. 

Respect is earned. Both in life and in poker. If you want people to respect your raises, your chip stack, your name. Present a respectful product that people will want to respect and you’ll earn it in due course. 

This past weekend at the Aria has renewed my hope for poker. Where there were 140 people knocked out of the tournament there always seemed to be voices for future encouragement. Now I know I might be out on a cliff here, but if we all stepped out of the box to encourage others, karma might rear her huge head and help us out a bit… Being respected in the poker world is a lot harder then being respected anywhere else. Your face will be remembered long before your name is. Leave people with a great memory of your face, and the long road to gaining the respect of your peers will follow.

Thanks for reading! And may you pull many pots in your direction!

What is a bad beat?

What is a bad beat? By definition, who knows the real answer to that? We really don’t have a whole lot to compare a good beat vs. a bad beat. Is there really such a thing as a good beat? Truth be told, our only real source would be based on bad beat jackpots offered by some casino poker rooms. Those poker rooms start their definition at quads beat by higher quads or better… I’ve done a bit of research to try finding a definitive answer and there really isn’t a whole lot of “defining” information out there, but I will offer the Wiki on it:

In poker, bad beat is a subjective term for a hand in which a player with what appear to be strong cards nevertheless loses. It most often occurs where one player bets the clearly stronger hand and their opponent makes a poor call that eventually “hits” and wins. There is no consensus among poker players as to what exactly constitutes a bad beat and often players will disagree about whether a particular hand was a bad beat. A few examples are: quads over full house, quads over quads, straight flush over quads, small full house vs. bigger full house or better. (Here is the link to read further:

The truth of the matter is there really isn’t a clear and defined definition of what a bad beat is… 99% of the time when players are complaining that they “received a bad beat” they were really only experiencing poor luck. It has been my experience that when someone hits the cards they needed to win on the river, the cries escalate. I personally feel like “bad beat” is one of those terms developed to help people cope with losing with big hands… Recently players have been asking me to define bad beat, and the only answer I can personally give them, is to make the decision for themselves.

At this point I find that it’s a perfect opportunity so I’d like to share a story with you. A story that may have an outcome that’s not expected, but it’s truly relevant to this situation. I will leave specific parties and actual location name out for obvious reasons.

During the summer of 2004 I spent a lot of time playing cards. I unfortunately had to travel to do this because in Utah there are no legal places to play poker for money. It was generally 200 miles round trip for me so I liked to plan ahead and spend the night. To make this easier I would always go down of Friday afternoon and return on Saturday. On this specific occasion I’d gotten there a little earlier than normal. The itch to play was a bit overwhelming, so I went strait to the poker room. When I got there it was pretty barren. There might have been 12 players in the room. There were only 2 tables at the time and they both had seats. One was a $2-$4 limit table and the other was $1-$3 no limit table. I personally gravitate to the no limit side of the game so I grabbed a seat. My favorite position at the table was open so I sat down in the 3 seat.

After calling over the floor and changing $200 into chips, I was dealt my first hand. It was pretty unconventional so I folded and moved on. For the next hour or so a few more people came into the room and we were nearly at a full table. At this time we had a total of 8 players. Once again the cards come out. This hand I’m sitting “under the gun” and I look down at Qc-Qs. In my mind, I’m a bit excited! This is the first powerful starting hand I’ve seen since I’ve sat down (I’ve been forced to be a bit creative over the last hour to try and manufacture wins and I had build my stack up to around $290). Being the first to act before the flop I raise it to $10. The person to my left folds his cards. Then next person just calls, followed by 2 folds, and a call. Once were back to the small blind, he thinks about it for a bit and folds. The big blind calls. So we’re up to $41 in the pot, before the dealer takes the rake. Finally the flop comes out. Qh-Kd-Qd. WOW! I flopped quads! This is one of the hardest situations to be in. The big blind checks it to me. I ponder on it a bit, and check as well. My thought process here is that I currently have the best possible hand! Why don’t I let someone else do the betting for me so I can make a little bit of money here… The person to my left bets $15. BINGO! My first deposit into the bank! The Other person in the hand raises it to $30. Instantly the big blind folds his cards. I’m so excited I start to sweat a bit… So I turn on the theatrics and think about it. I play with my chip stack a bit. Count them showing that I’m worried about what I’ll have left if I lose. Then I call. The person who initially bet thinks about it for a second and calls. Now the pot is up to $131 before the dealer takes the rake. We’re starting to build a pretty big pot here…

So on to the turn. Kc is revealed. In my mind this card is a bit inconsequential, and if anything it’s one of the best cards I can hope for. Maybe one of them was sitting on A-K, or K-J? Where I’m sitting now in first position to act again, I figure it’s time to put the theatrics into over drive. I looked up and at that moment I remember that this room supports a bad beat jack pot, and it’s up over 25k! So in my absolute worst case scenario, if one of them are sitting on Kh-Ks we all win! I play with my chips a bit more, knocking one of my stacks over to emulate that I’m a bit nervous… after picking them up I check. The guy next to me checks as well. Over to the other side of the table, the last player left in the hand puts a strong bet out of $50. Thinking to myself, maybe this is a good time to stop the theatrics and get serious so I snap call the $50. Now the person to my left stares me down wondering what’s going on… He looks down at his chips, and then verbalizes that he’s all in. The dealer counts his chips and he’s got $140. Wow… Here I’m sitting with quad Q’s and the guy next to me had pushed all in. What could he possibly have? My gut starts to churn a bit… Then the other player calls! I’m ecstatic! If I call this, it puts the pot up over $500! I look down at my stack and realize that calling takes me down to $60. In this case $60 is not all that powerful of a raise. With the other guys’ money already in the pot, I just call. My plan is to get it all in on the river.

We’re faced with just the river to go. My gut is churning like crazy. This last card could complete a straight, could complete a flush, even the royal has a chance… The dealer turns over Ah. The river may have completed the straight for someone, but the flush blanks and the royal blanks. Now there is only 1 possible hand left that can beat me. Kh-Ks… Does one of these players have it? With one player all in I doubt that my betting is going to push him off… So I just check. The guy across the table looks over at me and asks “how much do you have left…?” I push my chips forward; the dealer counts them for me and says “$60.” He stacks his chips up and pushes $60 forward… All the sudden I realize what’s happened in this hand… He does have the Kings and we have just sprung the bad beat, which at this time were looking at around 25k split between the people involved. I ask him “Did we just do this?” He responds with “I hope so!” I laugh and push my remaining chips forward… The dealer calls for the cards, and he turns his Kings over as I turn my Queens over! We all shout for joy! The dealer calls the floor over to confirm the situation. As he’s walking over, the forgotten player still in his hand gets pissed off. I looked over and he had completed the straight on the river. He was holding Jc-10h… My first thought was “Why on earth was he in this had? There are so many different hands that could have beaten him…” I chalk it up to bad decisions and moved on. As I watch him stew a bit, he grabs his cards and turns them down and throws them into the muck…

Not realizing what has just happen I walk over to the other player, and shake his hand, congratulating him, when the person running the floor chimes in and says, “I’m sorry guys there may be an issue…” (This is a good point for me to explain how a bad beat jackpot works. Most rooms who host a bad beat jackpot have a set of rule. These rules must be followed 100% or the jackpot will be void. To save you from being bored by them I will just give you the important ones that pertain to this situation. When the dealer realizes that the potential for a bad beat has triggered, they immediately stop all progress in the hand. They then call the floor over so that the bad beat can be confirmed. All cards involved in the hand are revealed if they haven’t been already. The floor confirms that the pot has enough money in it, most rooms need to have at least $11 in the pot to trigger it. He then asks the players to step away from the table. Then they go to the security office to check the video surveillance to make sure the tapes show that no one cheated to make this happen. Once all these things have been confirmed they award the parties the jackpot.)

Surprised by this comment, our attention is drawn to him and he then explains, pointing to the player who had mucked his cards, “This player may have voided the jackpot with his action of folding his cards.” Showing no remorse, he’s over away from us fuming about his loss in the hand. The floor person continues with “I will make a phone call, and then view the video to confirm this, but unfortunately, I no longer have control…”

Now I’m thinking if this guy has just cost me nearly $10k because he was pissed off losing that hand… I’m going to flip my lid… The other player in the hand is now over by the poker machines pacing and trying not to blow up on him as well… About an hour goes by and the floor man confirms the bad news. So now I’m out the $290 I put into the pot and I’m out the $10k. That guy that cost us the jackpot has some explaining to do, but as I look around, he’s nowhere to be found… He’s disappeared… Fuming with anger, I leave the poker room. I had to leave… I had never experienced anything like this before. I wanted to give that guy a piece of my mind.

As I was walking away someone yelled to me, and got my attention. That person scurried over to me and said, “I’m sorry to hear about the bad beat being voided, but there is something I think you should know.” What on earth could this person say to me that I needed to know at this point? A bit confused I ask them to explain. The guy looked at me and said, “Earlier in the day, before you’d gotten here, the guy to your left was dealing cards here in this room.” I responded with, “Please explain what this had to do with anything?” “Well, this room will fill tables with dealers on the clock to try and keep the poker tables looking full and live.” Then it dawned on me what this guy was saying… “So you’re telling me that the guy who caused to jackpot to be voided was an employee, and was clocked in sitting at the table playing?” Thinking about the implications here, I realize that this poker room was padding the tables with its own people to protect itself from paying out big bucks… I looked over to this person, whom I didn’t know, and waited for a response. He just looked at me and nodded…

I have no idea what to do with this information. I did however turn around, and start walking back to the poker room. Once I got there I collected my thoughts, and went to find the floor person. Once I found him I confronted him with this allegation. He was speechless. I waited and I stared at him. I could see the sweat bead up on his forehead, as he rocked back and forth on his heels. I had my answer. With him not commenting on this I knew the allegations were 100% accurate. Normally in a situation where I’ve been cheated I would have flipped my lid. In this case nothing I said was going to change the fact that I was cheated. Everyone in the room was cheated, and my guess was that this had been going on for a long time. I looked at him and explained that this would be the last time I’d step into this casino. I would make sure that anyone I knew would hear about this, and I would be calling the Gaming Commission. He looked dumbfounded and had no response. I walked over to the casinos cashier and asked them for the number to the Gaming Commission. He ran to me while I was there and tried to offer me casino comps and a number of other things to try to get me to change my mind. I chose to not give him the time of day and kept my back to him. The lady at the cage looked extremely confused. Once she retrieved the phone number for me I thanked her politely and ventured to my room. While in the room I took a few minutes and wrote down my thought on a piece of not paper so I remembered all the information. I picked up the phone and made my call. A very kind man answers and connected me with the correct party, with whom I told my story too.

I can’t tell you the end of this story is great, but I can tell you that the poker room in that casino was shut down 3 days later for in house collusion, and to this day they still don’t have a poker room…

Which part of this story is the true bad beat? I will leave that for you to determine. I will say that it never pays to cheat. I don’t complain about the past, I learn from it. Take a big loss for what it is: a chance to learn. Bad beats happen. How bad they are based on how you react to the situation. The worst beats I’ve been a part of were when player were poor sports, and talked down to other players in the hand. I understand that this game has its ups and downs. Please go into the game remembering that it’s designed to be fun. If you have a good attitude going into the game, you’ll have a good attitude going out. Getting mad only makes you look like the ass.