Monday, April 29, 2013

On taking Hollywood / Charles Town to task

I read a post about the M Resort the other day from a fellow blogger and it kindled a little fire inside of me to get out my thoughts and feelings about my home casino, which happens to be part of the same chain of Penn National casinos, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

As a semi-astute investor (I actually have the reverse Midas touch, who am I kidding?), I always look at the various places I visit / frequent from the eyes of "would I invest in this place," or "would I hire this employee?"  It is rare that I come away from a place with such a strong negative emotion / disdain that not only would I not invest, but I would sell short on the particular place.  Unfortunately, the HC@CTRS poker room is one such place.

The best way I've figured to list my complaints - and this is all poker room focused, FWIW, is in a bulletized list.  Here goes:
  • The rules.  Perhaps I'm way off base, but shouldn't a poker room have a rule book?  Shouldn't players be allowed to see the rule book?  If I play blackjack, I can see exactly what and how I'm playing the house.  I have been refused numerous times to see the rule book.  Either through being blown off but persisting, or told outright that I cannot see the book, I am told to refer to Robert's Rules of Poker as the basis for the casino's rulebook.  That's great, but when I want to see why or how they're going to rule a certain way, I want consistency.  An example is awhile ago when I saw a limp / raise / re-raise all-in which did not cover the full raise.  The limper called the re-raise and the original raiser was able to re-open his betting to re-raise all-in himself.  To my understanding, this should not have been allowed, yet it was at the time by the floor personnel running the games.  Had a rulebook been available for floor personnel, I'd imagine this issue would have been resolved pretty quickly.  Had a rulebook been allowed for me to read, I could have pointed to page and verse.
  • The no-flop, HELL YES THERE'S A DROP policy...  Oh yeah, and no-flop, there's a bad beat drop too!  Seriously?  I have to pay for a bad beat drop even though there is not chance of winning a bad beat?  95% of all poker rooms do not charge rake when we don't see a flop (86% of all statistics are made up on the spot), yet CTRS does?  Why is that?  It seems that management loves to stick their finger in the customer's eye continually, nickel and diming every chance they get.  Which leads me to the next issue...
  • 10% service charge on take out orders for food.  What?  Yes.  If you want to take food to-go after a night of playing, you are charged a 10% fee on top of the normal exorbitant food prices for the privilege of taking it to-go.  So if I buy a few rolls of sushi for $20, I pay $2 take out fee for the singular tray, the same as if I order $10 lomein and pay $1 for the singular box.  More importantly, why am I paying 10%?!?!?!  for take out?  I've just paid you a TON of money in rake, and my fellow slot player has paid you a TON of money in losses.  Stick it to the customer!  Let him lose - and then him lose a bit more!
  • Lack of a comp system.  The good majority of casinos, INCLUDING other Hollywood Casinos, offer a point system redeemable for food, drinks, etc.  Does the CTRS poker room?  No.  Nothing to speak of.  Every other gambler at the establishment gets comps - blackjack, slots, roulette, etc..  Nothing to be seen for poker players.  Why not?  Is it not a sustainable business model at Charles Town, yet it is sustainable at the other Penn National properties?  Give me comps, damn you!
  • Lack of promotions.  I will say they are getting better in this department, giving back some of the bad beat jackpot drop to the regulars.  Although I rarely if ever personally qualify, CTRS does semi-regularly offer players clocking more than ~60 hours chances at freerolls, drawings, etc.  In addition, they offer a full time royal flush promotion (I believe they start at $100 per suit and add $100 for every day that the suit's royal flush has not hit).  In fact, I personally won $800 from the royal flush promotion.  On certain days at certain times, they offer a high hand jackpot as well.
    If this bullet sounds complimentary, I really should come back with the following: THIS IS NOT GIVE-BACK FROM THE CASINO.  In other words, the promotion dollars come from the bad beat jackpot, that is the PLAYER CONTRIBUTED bad beat jackpot.
    The point is, though, the casino does have a few promotions going - whether you like the promotions or not (personally, I despise the bad beat jackpot; I'd rather keep my $1 per pot won contribution and exclude myself from future jackpots).  In the past, they had no promotions whatsoever with the exception of the BBJ.
    One further comment here: get rid of the hours for freeroll promotions.  If management is intent on "giving back," run a drawing or offer rakeback, but don't force regs to play freerolls for the chance to win additional $$$.  Personally, it's good for a player like me when the regs are away fighting it out with each other (cat's away, the mouse'll play), but theoretically:
    • It takes away seat time from the regs
    • It pulls dealers away for a free event
    • Not that I really care, but it reduces house rake for the duration of the freeroll
    • I'm theorizing that the structure probably stinks and is a crap shoot
  • Lack of communication.  Does it hurt to send out an email once in awhile promoting the casino, poker room, etc.?  I rarely go to Delaware Park, yet every birthday, without fail, they send me a complimentary $20 dinner.  They want and love my business.  Unfortunately, they're double the driving time, so I only go up when I have a full day to devote to playing (few and far between).
  • The rake.  10% up to $6 + $1 BBJ.  I'm under the impression that the prevalent rake in AC is 10% up to $4 + $1 BBJ.  I guess they can charge whatever they want if they can get away with it - which they can and will.  In fact, I'm surprised that in their waning moments of casino monopoly, they haven't bumped the rake to $7 or higher.  Why not?  It's not like the customers have somewhere else to go...
  • The BBJ payout.  The way the BBJ is paid out is 50% losing hand (pocket 7's + 77 board beaten by 2 hole cards + 3 board cards, quad 8's or better), 25% winning hand, 25% table share.  I'd like to see them go the route of Vegas; a room share or perhaps even a Penn National share.  Why not have everyone contribute to a singular jackpot to be distributed to all players playing throughout all the rooms under Penn National control?  I would think that would be a bigger incentive to bring action - having the "biggest BBJ in the world."  Look, I realize that the odds are I'll never even get a whiff of a BBJ, much less be seated at the same table where a BBJ was hit.  At least give me a 20x (figure 20 tables are running at the given time) chance when I have seat time.
I'm going to commend the dealers of the poker room.  99% of them are awesome.  Certainly, there are the occasional dealers who think they know best and don't check with the floor to verify the rules, but for the large large majority, the dealers at CTRS are among the best I've had the pleasure to work with.   The dealers are professional and curtious, efficient and fast.  For the most part, the floor personnel is good at their job.  They are efficient at finding seats, covering the room effectively and quick to respond to problems.

It's most unfortunate for the workers at CTRS; Maryland recently approved gaming within their borders, so CTRS is looking at competition from Baltimore (Harrah's), Anne Arundel (Maryland Live!) and National Harbor (MGM).  I anticipate CTRS will be experiencing a slow death over the next 3-5 years as the competitors come online to offer closer alternates to the long West Virginia drive.  It's too bad they didn't formulate a loyalty plan years ago to ensure continued success.  It's too bad they've never made an attempt to connect with the players, or establish a relationship.  They were the fat cats for years and knew it, but their business will soon be eroding.  Good luck in the future, CTRS!  I can't wait to switch to MGM / Harrah's.

I'm going to start a petition, "F*ck the Chuck."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Got an iPhone [finally] - Any apps for live poker tracking?

I'm coming from a Blackberry Torch where I used to write notes into the notes application within the phone.  The most complex notes I'd take would be hand histories and [rarely] details, but I mostly just noted the place played, blind levels, date & time started, date & time ended, and [of course] net gain (loss).  Is there a need to pay for something like the app Poker Cruncher?  Is there some simplistic app that you cutting edge people use to track your sessions?

For a little further definition of my goals, I keep a spreadsheet with my lifetime results that parses & dissects each session, categorizes it by day of the week / month / difficulty of the table / etc.  I copy the results and notes from the phone to the spreadsheet and delete the notes.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to click a button on the phone for each hand I play.  I want to have some realistic baseline for hands / hour average.  I doubt it's feasible to track every single hand and the history / result of each play, but it would be nice to have more data points, if nothing else - perhaps hand results based on my hole cards?

Any thoughts or ideas?  Maybe I'm just being too nerdy...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Would You Do #245 - Dummy end of a straight

1/2 game; I've been there 25 minutes.  A "new" player (2 hands into his session) comes in and raises 5 limpers to $7 from the CO.  I'm on the BTN and opt to call my 74ss with $260, as do the blinds and 5 limpers.  We see an 8(!!!!) way flop of K 5 8 (one spade) rainbow.

It checks around to me and I opt to take the free card after considering for a fleeting moment betting out.  I have a gutter and a backdoor with $56 in the pot.  Nothing I'm betting is going to get folds when they have a piece here - why not see a card on the turn for free with my 16% equity?

The turn is the LOVELY and BEAUTIFUL 6, completing my straight and completing a rainbow board.  Bingo!  Or not?  MP leads out for $15 and it gets instantly raised to $75 from a fairly reasonable, affable ABC player (at least my belief at the time).  This was an insta-raise, FWIW.  I consider my options, know that he's VERY strong here, but  contemplate a raise or call.  I think about 79 as a remote possibility, which trumps my 2nd nut straight.  I opt to call (this is another topic for a WWYD), and the original bettor pushes all-in for his remaining $60 even (which closes out the betting round).

The river is a 7, putting a 4 straight on the board.  The aggro raiser instantly chucks out a $100 black chip.

What would you do?

Click to see results

He had AK for the TPTK.  I made a crying call on the river - not seeing him raising K9 in this spot like that on the turn.  97 is still in his range.  Perhaps I'm making more out the hand than it's worth; he either had 97 on the turn for the better straight, or is overplaying his hand non-straight.  I think I can safely make this 4 straight call and be good a very high percentage of the time.  I was kicking myself later, because I should have pushed out my last $~75, but snapped it off pretty quickly.  I didn't see what the MP guy had, though he was pissed that I made the call; he claimed to have made two pair by the river.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A day of thin value betting - Friday at the Chuck

There were two opportunities during Friday's session were I was faced with a bet /check through moment that raised quite a few eyebrows at the table.  Normally, I don't think too much of what my opponents think of my play but at least one spot is perhaps controversial.

The first was the easy of the two: I am in the BB with As9s in a limped 5-way board of A 3 5.  It had been checked through and the turn was a 4.  I led pot for $10 and got a singe caller who did not seem very happy...  the scowl on his face pretty much told me he had a naked Ace.  With A9, I'm not sure I'm ahead here, so I bet $30 when the river is a 9 and I river top two.  Snap call by villain and he shows A 7 for a way behind pair regardless...  I caught myself wondering, though, whether I would be getting value on the river if I hadn't turned aces up.  I still think about that.

Here's the more interesting hand, though: I limp QdTd from the button against a two loose players, one tilted and one more in tune but loose nevertheless.  Tilted player fancies himself a knowledgeable player - and I wasn't going to discourage him otherwise.  So we see a 5 way flop (BB and SB called) of QJ5 rainbow and tilted loose player leads for $10 into $10.  Tilted guy and in tune guy call as do I with my top pair plus backdoors (one diamond on the flop and the backdoor straight).  We see a turn of a King and in tune guy leads now for $15 into the burgeoning pot.  Tilt guy calls and I call.  The river: ten, completing the 4 straight.  It checks to me and I think for a bit.  I think I'm most concerned about qj but I almost totally discount any of them holding Aces save for A5.  They're the types who raise these A/Broadway hands so them limping any of those is highly improbable.  On that same thought, I can discount kq because they'd raise those hands as well.  What I don't think about are q9 and x9 hands that came along with the flop and turn...  it just doesn't seem reasonable.  The other thought is how much can I bet to get what now seems like weak hands to call?  And if they raise I can get out without too much hurt?

I opt to keep inline with the established pattern and bet out $20.  I get called by both spots and "in tune" guys shows Kx while tilt guy shows J5 for a flopped two pair.  Lol wut?  I expected one call not both...  is this thin or is this just plain crazy and I got lucky that they had the perfect hands for my hand?  Comments?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tilt day...

It's been a long time since I've had a bad playing day online.  Typically, I'll drop a buy in or two, but always come back with force once I hit my stride.  1 buy in, 2 buy ins profit later, I'm out and done.

Yesterday, I did something I hadn't done in a long time: I tilted and shutdown almost immediately.  It was a weird tilt; it was stress, suckout, anger, etc.  It was distraction.  I opened up a few tables and tried playing before my son came in to ask for help with his homework.  Without realizing it, I found myself down a buy in and a half (sets over my top pairs were the typical hand), and I quickly just stopped playing altogether.

A huge improvement in my online game from when I was playing pre- Black Friday is the fact that I can recognize tilt.  I have no problem just shutting down, as opposed to playing through tilt just to continue my Iron Man status.  Yesterday, I mentally asked myself, "Why am I playing," came up with an empty answer, and closed it up.

As an aside, I'm going to try to make it up to the Chuck today.  Hopefully I can rid myself of any mental distraction and focus on getting my fellow table mates' stacks in my pocket.  I'm just debating whether to hit up 2/5 or 1/2.  First world problems...

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Would You Do #244 - A contest for 50 SWC chips

Go me!  I was able to get some seat time in last week after about a month off.  I opted to "play down" at 1/2 to work off the rust.  I quickly found myself in a $400 hole and tilting, something I rarely do.  I ran my QQ into KK, AKs into KK, and a host of other mishaps.  As readers of the blog know, I'm not prone to tilting nor do I usually let things get to me, but this table was an unusually difficult table for a 1/2 game.  After running my AK into the KK, I RAN to a new table.  Who needs this kinda aggravation?

My new table was FAR softer than the prior.  I was able to work my way out of the 2 buy in hole and was actually up about 2 buy ins when the following happened (I was seated for around 4 hours a the new table):

I am dealt 9h3h in the SB and it limps around to me.  I complete and the BB checks his option.

7-8 see a flop of Ah Kh 7c

It checks through to the turn Td.

I decide to get "frisky" on my flush draw.  I seriously doubt anyone has ANYTHING here - they would certainly bet out the flop on a draw heavy board such as it is.  I lead for $10 into the $~15 and immediately get min raised to $20 by the tight tight tight retiree to my left on the BB.  We've been talking for the duration, so I know his type fairly well; he sits and waits to get paid off, and the fish, inevitably as fish do, pay him off continually.  He's chipped up to $~500; as described above, I'm sitting on $800, so we're deep.  I call on account of our being so deep.  I have a crack at winning a lot because this guy seems to really love his hand.

River is 6h

I fire out $50

He raises to $150 and says "I'm gonna make it easy on you 'cause I like you.  You should fold."
We've been talking quite a bit; he is a very nice guy - retired - "doesn't need the money..." yada yada yada.

What would you do?

Click to see results

The speech really confused me. Is this guy ever min raise semi-bluffing? Is he ever min raising without really good goods? Min raising can mean a set, or more likely (he'd raise AA,KK, probably not TT,77 though) TT,77 is a possibility. He'd min raise QJ. Those are the hands that I'm beating.

Is he min raising Qxhh? I can't see it. I started talking aloud and going through the hand possibilities.  I'm doubtful he'd raise the limp pot turn with a naked Jh Xh or Qh Xh.  He was in the BB, so his range is open. However, he clearly loves his hand.  What does he have?

Not gonna say what he had because I'm curious about your speculation.  What would you do and what did he have?  First guy to get it wins 50 Seals with Clubs chips.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

WHAT? Bitcoin is up to $~142?!?!??!

Just 1-2 weeks ago, I was selling bitcoins I earned at the virtual felt for $75!  Don't I feel like an idiot when I check out the latest going rate for BTC was $142 - nearly double what I sold it for 2 weeks ago!?!??!

I continue to keep grinding away at Seals With Clubs, but I'm beginning to wonder what will happen as the price of BTC continues to rise - or stays at its current levels.  The lowest current offering is a 1/1 NLHE game.  Each chip is worth 1/1000 of a BTC.  I'm no math genius, but my spidey skills say that each chip is worth $0.14 meaning that a full buy in at 1/1 is playing bigger stakes than 10NL - $14.00.  I'd imagine that for a lot of people, the buy in has become too big and they're becoming dissuaded from playing on the site.

I fear that the prior "easy money" games at the lower stakes will dry up with the rise in the price.  I'm worried that a lot of the players have "BTC inventory" if you will, having bought the BTC prior to its recent run-up.  I have to become used to getting paid off on most every hand - flopping sets on an A high board and stacking a mouthbreather thinking his A2o is good - not only stacking off, but calling off an all in shove raise. 

On the other hand, I'm seriously wondering whether I should be cashing in or holding my extra BTC.  As I continue to grind, I'm adding an increasing amount of coins, selling as I get them.  Should I be holding my "investment" for greater returns later?  I've heard reports talking about how bitcoin is expected to rise to $1,000 - wouldn't that be a huge coup?  Over the past month or so, the going rate for the coin has risen around 6% PER DAY!  WTF?!?!?!?

As with real life investing, I've always taken the approach of dollar cost averaging - to date, I've tried to take the same approach with bitcoin; as I get the BTC, I've sold them periodically at the different price points.  I'm thinking I'm going to stray from that prior course of action and see how many coins I can accumulate and hold.

Finally, I'm rarely posting hand histories, so I wanted to share a hand where I didn't get paid [a rarity].  I was hoping the villian hit a straight on the turn, or had any hand - he called my flop bet.  I wasn't able to extract much of anything for the royal flush, and the high hand promotion has gone away.  I checked the Cardschat odds for hitting a royal flush and it seems to be 649,739:1.  According to Wikipedia, those are pretty crazy odds.  It's highly unlikely.  The weirdest part is I've played around 1.2 million hands, yet hit 3-4 royals lifetime.  I guess I run good at my royal flush per hand played ratio...

Perhaps you have alternate opinions as to how I could have played this hand a bit better.  It obviously plays pretty easy once I hit the royal - my second or third [online] lifetime royal.  Certainly, this counts as my first royal since I won the $800 for hitting the live royal flush at Charles Town a few months back.  Check it out:

Game: NL Hold'em (40 - 200) - Blinds 1/2
Site: Seals With Clubs
Table: NLHE 9max 1/2 #6
Seat 1: WXXXXe (177)
Seat 2: mXXXXc (201)
Seat 3: lXXXXXe (94)
Seat 4: fXXXXXr (312)
Seat 6: mXXXXa (259)
Seat 7: DXXXXw (172)
Seat 8: kXXXXXe (182)
Seat 9: KXXpFloppin (772)
mXXXa has the dealer button
DXXXXw posts small blind 1
kXXXXe posts big blind 2
** Hole Cards **
Dealt to KXXpFloppin [Tc Kc]
KXXpFloppin calls 2
WXXXXXe folds
mXXXXc calls 2
lXXXXe folds
fXXXXr folds
mXXXXa folds
DXXXXw calls 1
kXXXXe checks
** Flop ** [Qc Th Ac]
DXXXXw checks
kXXXXe checks
KXXpFloppin bets 8
mXXXXc calls 8
DXXXXw folds
kXXXXe folds
** Turn ** [Jc]
KXXpFloppin checks
mXXXXc checks
** River ** [4d]
KXXpFloppin bets 100
mXXXXc folds
KXXpFloppin refunded 100
KXXpFloppin wins Pot (24)
Rake (0)
KXXpFloppin shows [Tc Kc]

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