Well I made it to Hong Kong Airport. But not without incident. Just once I'd like to have a pleasant experience with Turbojet.
Upon arriving at the Macau Ferry Terminal this morning I felt nothing could go wrong. I was there 35 minutes before my ferry. I just needed to clear immigration and get on the boat. As I approached the immigration checkpoint, a security officer asked for my ticket. He took a look at it and said I needed to get a stamp from the window. Fine. I assumed it was some sort of travel document check.
Over to the window I went. Begin shenanigans.
TJ: "Can we see your itinerary please?"
Me: "What do you need my itinerary for? You already sold me the ticket."
TJ: "It's our company policy. We have to see the confirmation number of the ticket."
Me: "It's an e-ticket."
TJ: "Do you have a printout?"
Me: "No, it's an e-ticket. The whole point of an e-ticket is that you don't need any printouts. Anyway last week when you sold me the ticket you said you just needed the flight number."
TJ: "Do you have some internet or something? We have to see your confirmation number."
Commence banging of the head.
I finally convinced the woman to take me into a back office, where I used an office computer to pull up the United website and show them my confirmed ticket. And the absolute utter stupidity of this is that the women just looked at the screen, said ok, stamped my ferry ticket and sent me on my way.
God forbid I ever have any dealings with this company ever again.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Well I made it to Hong Kong Airport. But not without incident. Just once I'd like to have a pleasant experience with Turbojet.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
There are three days to go here in Macau before I board a ferry and two planes to head back home. It's been the tamest trip I can remember. No gambling. No saunas. Not much drinking. Lots of time in the hotel room (although geez, if I'm going to spend lots of time at the hotel the Sofitel is the place to do it).
I just haven't been into this trip, for whatever reason. It's not like we haven't had time to get out and about. The APT final table was finished by 5:30pm. There was a day off. Each of the APPT Day 1 fields played seven one-hour levels without a dinner break, finishing by 8pm. It's been as light a working week as anyone could ask for.
Maybe I miss the things about home that are worth missing. Because really I can't wait to get back to Vegas.
Until then, I'll blame Doc Chako's failure to attend as the reason for my less-than-enthused state.
Monday, August 24, 2009
(alt title: Things I Didn't Learn in Macau Last Year)
Last year I had a huge problem leaving Macau that wound up costing me $450. The long and short of it is that Turbojet, the company which operates the ferry service between Macau and Hong Kong International Airport, takes pertinent flight information from all passengers before selling them an airport ferry ticket. They also require airport passengers to board a ferry that arrives at the airport a minimum of two hours before the scheduled flight. Since it's a one-hour ferry ride, that means that you have to take a ferry no later than three hours before your flight.
I never arrive at the airport two hours before a flight. I always am traveling with a roll-aboard suitcase that fits overhead and a laptop bag that goes under my seat. Not checking a bag cuts down on lots of aggravation that I might otherwise encounter by traveling so much. During my San Remo / Monte Carlo trip last spring, Delta lost the suitcase of one of my colleagues for more than a week. And not needing to check baggage also cuts down on my airport time. I typically arrive at the airport one hour before a flight.
Not knowing about Turbojet's policy last year (why would the ferry company care what time I arrive at the airport?), I turned up to take the 9am ferry for my 11:45am flight, figuring if the 9am was full I could take the 930am ferry no problem. Because I was inside the three-hour window, they refused to sell me a ticket. If I had known why they were asking me which flight I was on, I would have said the flight to Chicago that leaves HKIA at 12:15! I wound up having to take the 9:30am ferry to downtown Hong Kong and then cab to the airport, arriving at 11:15, too late to check in. Because I was so desperate to go home and see my girlfriend (and also because I had work to do for PokerStars) I re-booked on the flight to Chicago at the added cost of $450. United also tried to charge me a $275 change fee but I told them to shove it. To their credit, they did.
This year I resolved to buy my return ferry ticket as my first order of business upon arriving in Macau. I would need to be on the first ferry (8:15am) on my day of departure and figured that the first ferry would be quite full. Better to buy the ticket in advance.
The clerk asked me for my passport and my itinerary.
"It's an e-ticket," I said. "I don't have an itinerary."
"Print-out?" he asked.
"No. But I know the flight." So he had me write down the flight information. Monday, August 31, 11:45am United to SFO.
"I can't book your ticket without the flight number," he told me. "And I only know the United flight number to Chicago." We went back and forth a bit until he had the idea to check his advance bookings for anyone else between then and my departure date who was flying to SFO. There were none.
I started banging my head against the glass partition between the clerk and me. How was it that I was getting screwed over by Turbojet for the second year in a row? I was prepared this time! This is also where having lost my phone in CK's car on the way to the airport in Vegas really came back to bite me. If my phone had been with me I would have been able to look up the necessary information easily.
The clerk finally directed me to another counter where he thought someone else might be able to look up the flight number for me. That guy said that he didn't have any ability to look up United flight numbers. Disgusted, I admitted defeat and headed off to the taxi queue.
All was not lost, of course. Yesterday, on the day off in between the APT Main Event and the APPT Main Event, I had to go back down to the ferry terminal armed with the necessary information to buy my ticket. The clerk still wasn't happy that I didn't have a print-out of the itinerary but he sold me a ticket for the 8:15am ferry to the airport anyway (with instructions to arrive no later than 7:15am.) Third time's the charm, I guess.
One silver lining to losing my phone: it was delivered to me by Garry Gates a few days later when he arrived in Macau. Yesterday we moved hotels to the Sofitel and, getting out of the cab, I checked to make sure I had my phone. It had again slipped out of my pocket and was lying on the front seat of the cab.
I think the lesson here is to stop letting people drive me places if I want to keep my phone.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Finally some time to write. The problem? I don't have much to say.
I had a few navel-gazing paragraphs typed up but they've been filed under F for Forget It. There's too much going on in my life that I either can't discuss or don't want to discuss. Without that context my post just reads like a whine. Who wants to read that?
Instead I give you this nugget: I saw Bill Rini last night! The actual, living, breathing Bill Rini. It's always fun to run into old friends in unexpected places (and Macau is pretty damn unexpected). We'll have some more time to catch up tonight at the APT Players Party. Let the good times roll.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Vacation is over. As is typical, I didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped. C'est la vie. At least I was re-acquainted with the joys of the race track this weekend, a place I had not been since a very cold late December night in 1995. I had forgotten the thrill of watching your horse come charging down the home stretch from the back of the pack to win at the wire by half a length. Even without that thrill, betting on the ponies at Del Mar was an excellent way to spend a drunken afternoon with JoeSpeaker and his lady-friend.
Tomorrow morning I hit the road (sky, whatever) for Macau, the first stop in a busy stretch over the next six weeks. Next time I have something to say I'll be firmly ensconced in the Galaxy StarWorld in Macau, awaiting the start of the 2009 APT Macau Main Event. Pray that they don't send me home in a box from sensory overload...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I had a doctor's appointment this morning. As a healthy, early-30s person with no dependents and a generally clean family medical history, doctor appointments are a rarity for me. The last time I went to a doctor other than for a routine eye exam was more than two years ago for what turned out to be an allergic reaction to the super-comfortable new mattress I bought. When I go to the doctor, it is because something is not right, and because it's such a red-letter day I pick out my best suit to wear. Or at least a clean shirt.
As this was to be my first doctor visit in Las Vegas, the first order of business was to find a doctor. I tried two different offices but neither was able to schedule me for an appointment prior to next Wednesday -- a problem since I am leaving for Macau on Tuesday. Office #3, with ten doctors on the roster, seemed more promising. After taking some basic information over the phone and asking about the nature of my visit (not an emergency but also not routine), I was offered "Wednesday the 16th" for my appointment.
The 16th should work, I thought to myself. That's before I leave for Macau. But wait... Wednesday? I asked the receptionist what month that was.
"Oh, you want August," she said. Yes, I know it may be hard for you to believe, Receptionist Lady, but for my non-routine doctor visit I would like an appointment sooner than five weeks from now. I believe Dawn Summers would use a #facepalm hash tag here (and that satisfies my monthly quota of linking to Dawn Summers). The receptionist did her thing with her scheduling software and came back with August 19th. No good.
"Wait," she said. "I do have one appointment tomorrow. But it's at 7:30am."
I'm no big fan of getting up early in the morning if I don't have to. One of the draws of my current occupation and lifestyle is that I never have to be anywhere prior to 11:30am. But if it's the difference between losing an hour of sleep and waiting five weeks for a necessary doctor's visit, I'll chuck the hour of sleep faster than I plan to chuck Dawn Summers overboard to the sharks in Key West next month. Give me the appointment tomorrow and, by the way, why wasn't that the first option offered? Would the doctor prefer to have that block of time go unfilled?
Regardless, the appointment was booked. I set my alarm for the ungodly hour of 6:30am, was out of bed by a respectable 6:35am (much to the bemusement of the cat), and made it to the office by 7:20am. As a new patient I was prepared for the reams of paperwork I would have to complete. It was all completed before 7:30am. Surely, I would soon see a doctor. After all, the office had only been open since 7am.
Instead I watched Justice Sotomayor's speech after her appointment as a new Supreme Court justice. Glancing around the waiting area I couldn't help but notice that all of the other patients in a similar spot as mine were 70+ years old. Who the hell gets up at 630am for a doctor's appointment? Old people. And me.
I waited. And waited. At 7:45am a nurse called me into an exam room. Progress! She did her basic pre-exam routine, asked me some questions about my medical background and why I was there and made some notes for the doctor. Then she told me to go back to the waiting area and take a seat.
Say what now?
Yes, after ten minutes with the nurse I was sent back to the waiting area where I was unable to escape those early morning pseudo-news television programs. Justice Sotomayor's speech was long over. I was subjected to "news" segments about zucchini and which Broadway shows 65-year-old Morris from Texas was planning to see while in New York City. (9 to 5 and Hair. Really Morris?)
I was beginning to remember why I don't go see doctors.
At 8:25am, I was called into an exam room and told that the doctor would be with me "shortly". Mind you, my appointment was scheduled for 7:30am. And I know the pre-exam inspection by the nurse takes some time but I was beginning to get a little peeved. After another ten minutes the doctor walked in, all bubbly and cheery because clearly she just arrived at the office fifteen minutes prior. Or maybe she had popped across the strip mall (yes, even doctor's offices are in strip malls in Vegas) to the Starbucks for a double espresso or five. Whatever it was, there was no excuse for any sane person to be that upbeat at that time of day.
Four minutes with the doctor. She gave her diagnosis to me and some notes to the attending nurse, then swept out of the exam room like Zeus in his chariot. I was left with the nurse, scratching my head and trying to figure out why it took 65 minutes for a four-minute doctor visit. The nurse handed me a prescription and lead me back to the waiting area so that I could schedule my next visit, pay and leave.
After being forced to wait (again!) for five more minutes, I found myself at my last stop in this dreadful place, the check-out window. We scheduled my next appointment and the cashier, without taking any money from me, told me that I was all set.
Now, I'm no dummy. I know damn well that my insurance deductible for this year has not been met because -- as you may recall -- I haven't been to a doctor in more than two years. I mention this fact to the cashier and tell her I am prepared to pay the charges then and there.
She responds that I'm better off to allow the doctor's office to submit the charges to my insurance company before I pay because, and this is more or less a direct quote, "We are one of their providers and they may write down some of the charges." I wish I even knew what this meant. Does it mean that if I were uninsured, they would be charging me more than what they may potentially charge me under my current insurance? That's sure what it sounds like.
I walked out of the office without paying a dime, more confused about our health care system than ever. I'm fully expecting a bill in the mail for the amount that I was quoted by the cashier -- in two months, when my insurance company gets around to rejecting the claim.
This is why I don't go to doctors.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Over the last few years, a number of people have questioned why I stubbornly continue to stick to playing limit hold'em. Here's why:
1. The limit hold'em games that I play -- 10-20, 15-30 and sometimes 20-40 -- all play bigger than 1-2 NLHE. In fact I'd say that 20-40 plays bigger than 2-5 NLHE. Those beliefs are based on my own playing experiences in addition to a comparison of my LHE hourly rate at each level with the hourly rates of players who consistently beat 1-2 NLHE. Thus there is a potential to win more money (over the long haul) playing these mid-stakes LHE games than there is playing 1-2 NLHE.
2. 10-20 LHE and 15-30 LHE players are just as bad as typical 1-2 NLHE players and in many cases worse (all of the attention that NLHE has received in the last five years has marginally increased the ability of some players). Once you reach 20-40 the proportion of bad players decreases but there are still plenty of soft spots. It is more akin to what you would expect to find at 2-5 NLHE but with a higher potential return. The lower caliber of play allows me to make more mistakes playing LHE than I would be able to get away with playing NLHE.
3. LHE is a friendlier, more social game than NLHE despite the fact that suckouts can be brutally common in LHE. This friendly demeanor seems to derive from the fact that nobody's whole stack is at risk on any particular hand -- instead LHE has a comfortable rhythm of bets, raises and calls. The social aspect is important to me even if I don't spend any time away from the tables with any of my opponents. It makes the overall playing experience much more enjoyable.
4. I am a better LHE cash game player than I am a NLHE cash game player. I do ok in NLHE tournaments but NLHE cash was never my strength. By sticking with LHE cash games I am playing to my own forte.
The biggest complaints that I usually hear about LHE are that it's too easy to call down and that there's no way to protect your hand. There's some validity to both statements but they also both miss the point of limit hold'em. It's a drawing game where the objective is to squeeze an extra bet out of your opponent when you're ahead and save an extra bet when you're behind. That's where the real skill comes into play. No, you won't get someone's whole stack in one hand but keep squeezing / saving bets and you'll show a profit over the long haul.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Here's one for the "Colossal Fuck-Up" Department:
PokerStars recently introduced a new feature to their heads-up sit-n-go tournaments that allowed players to offer and accept a rematch after a HU SNG ended. This is a great feature for all -- the players (both the winner and the loser, in certain situations) and PokerStars (more rake).
There was, however, one problem with the new feature. Nobody in the PokerStars programming department or QA department noticed that the new feature didn't check to make sure that anyone offering or accepting a rematch had enough money in their account to cover the cost of the rematch.
What happened next was utterly predictable. Some players immediately moved up to $5,000 HU SNGs (the highest level offered) so that they could abuse the new "feature". The abuse is very straightforward. PlayerA and PlayerB are buddies who each start with $5,000 in their accounts. They play heads-up and PlayerA wins after PlayerB chip-dumps. Now PlayerA has $10,000 and PlayerB has $0. They offer and accept a re-match. Voila! A new $5,000 SNG starts even though PlayerB has no money. PlayerB loses again. Now PlayerA has $15,000 and PlayerB has $0. Rinse, repeat, then cash out and split the money afterwards.
But what if you didn't have a buddy? Then the proposition was a bit dicier. You could take $5,000 to a high-level SNG and play one of the regulars, hoping that the regular would accept a re-match if you lost. It's not a freeroll -- the regular might win, take your $5,000 and not accept a re-match -- but if you can stand a $5,000 hit, that's your maximum downside while your potential upside is limit-less.
You can imagine that very quickly not only did the $5,000 HU SNG regulars realize that something fishy was going on but so did the PokerStars Security department. The rematch feature was quickly removed and accounts were suspended while Stars tried to figure out how to rectify the situation. The problem was not so straightforward -- in some instances you had legit "regulars" at those stakes fairly losing fraudulent matches and in some instances you had them fairly winning fraudulent matches. Sorting out which accounts to suspend, and what money should be confiscated and what money shouldn't be confiscated, seemed to be a Gordian Knot of a problem.
This morning PokerStars released a statement on the matter:
Pokerstars became aware of a system glitch which allowed users to accept a rematch in heads-up SNGs despite having insufficient funds in their account. Once we became aware of this we suspended the rematch feature.I have to imagine that a few people over at PokerStars added a few more gray hairs to their heads this week. But in the end it looks like this is going to be resolved as fairly as possible for everyone involved.
We have carefully reviewed each account which played in a SNG where the glitch occurred, and have taken action as appropriate in each case. We did not simply take action against everyone who received a financial gain as a result of this glitch. We carefully investigated each instance, and suspended player accounts only in cases where there was a clear violation of PokerStars’ terms and conditions, such as collusion or chip dumping to exploit this glitch.
During the course of our investigation we initially suspended a small number of accounts, however further investigations proved that some of the accounts in question did not breach our terms and conditions. Those accounts have been re-instated, and we regret any inconvenience caused by the temporary suspension.
It should be noted that only a very small number of accounts have been suspended for abusing this glitch for their financial gain. The majority of affected players have aided us in resolving this problem in a timely manner, and we would like to thank them for their continued support and custom.
We will reactivate the rematch feature as soon as possible, but we’re not sure at this point when that will be. We apologise for any inconvenience that this issue may have caused to our valued customers, and thank those who helped to bring the issue to our attention.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Run good ended Tuesday night, as it was destined to do. But I made back all of Tuesday's losses and a little bit extra last night. All is right with the world. The game was surprisingly full for most of the night (Wednesdays in Las Vegas are notoriously slow) even without the appearance of Obi-wan and her friend.
There was, however, a guy I've seen sporadically since moving out here. One of the loud, boisterous, full-of-bravado types, fedora perched slightly askance on his head and seemingly apologetic Latina girlfriend wearing a black "BEBE" tank top sitting directly behind. Every time I glanced at the girlfriend, she offered me a half-smile as if to say, "I know my boyfriend is acting like a tool. Sorry about that!" He certainly was.
Mr. Awesome, as he will henceforth be known, dusted off $600 in an hour while continually berating everyone else ("clown" was his favorite term) and then challenged anyone at the table to play him heads-up 20-40. We all ignored him. He was on tilt when I got to the table and it only got worse. He put 13 bets in on a J-5-6 rainbow flop. No idea what he had, but there was no way that his opponent -- a young kid I've played with several times this past week -- had anything but the nuts, J-J. The 13th bet put Mr. Awesome all in. He never tabled his cards, but I have to guess he was drawing to 2 outs or less. He rebought for $200 one more time, dusted that off, and left. Sadly I got none of his money.
Later on an older guy was surprised that everyone at the table had been so non-plussed by Mr. Awesome's antics. I think I probably summed up most of our rationales by replying, "If he wants to dust off $600 an hour, he can call me an asshat as much as he'd like." It doesn't excuse the behavior, but no sense killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
These days I'm just killing time until my flight to Macau while watching the poker industry game of musical chairs continue. I may head down to LA for some of the Legends of Poker at the Bike next week. Why not? One way or another I'm planning to get down there for a trip to Del Mar with the legendary JoeSpeaker. It's the stuff that good times are made of.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Another night at the Mirage, another win. That's five in a row. I'm running good. How good? Aces 5 times in 3 hours good (4-0-1). Going on a sick heater that increased my stack by 31 big bets in 30 minutes good. Real good. It is an amazing feeling to run like this. The law of averages dictates that my run will soon end. Stupid law of averages.
Two young Korean girls have taken up residence in the Mirage game within the last month. It's always hard to spot an age to an Asian but I'd guess these girls are in their early 20s. They are donators in the best sense of the word. Their pre-flop raising range is KK+ and they rarely bet or raise after the flop. If they do it's because they have a monster (and even then you can get them to slow down). Otherwise they limp preflop with all kinds of crap and are textbook calling stations post-flop. Delicious.
Last night I would almost say I was the social chair of the table. It's not a roll I normally foist upon myself -- while I'm playing I prefer not to say much and to listen to music -- but there was nobody at the table who was a better player than me. It therefore seemed appropriate to try to ensure everyone else was having a good time. People that are having a good time and just feel "unlucky" are less likely to leave than people having a miserable time who feel that they're getting skull-fucked by players better than them. It's something that CardGrrl recently mentioned as part of her "job" and an aspect of my own table image / table persona / game that I haven't considered much.
It helps to have played with almost everyone at the table and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt where I rank in the pecking order. Last night the only unknown was the player on my left, a pleasant doctor from San Diego. At one point I accurately predicted that one of the Korean girls -- nicknamed Obi-wan because of the way she was dressed the first night I played with her -- had pocket aces. The doc asked me, "How did you know?" after the hands went to showdown and Obi-wan showed pocket aces. I told the doc that I had played with Obi-wan a few times in the past week. The doc then asked what else she was missing at the table. Not wanting to give away all my secrets, I replied, "There's not much to miss."
Truthfully, that's largely the case at live 10/20 LHE.
Monday, August 03, 2009
As first rumored by Pokerati last week, former BLUFF Editor-in-Chief Matthew Parvis took over the reins of PokerNews.com this week. He made the announcement on the site today. (I'm surprised Dan hasn't been on this yet).
I'm curious to see what changes and what stays the same - and whether it means, more, less or the same amount of work for me. Obviously I'm hoping for more so that I can stop relying on trying to find a mid-stakes LHE game in Las Vegas that runs for longer than 4 hours without breaking.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Due to the mathematical and draw-nature of limit hold'em, most decisions can be made quickly. Yet every once in a while - maybe every five sessions - I'm faced with a decision that requires some extra time. Last night I had to decide if top pair, top kicker was good enough to go to a three-way showdown on a board of Ah-7d-8d-4d-Js. The way the action developed confused me enough (and I felt my hand had enough showdown value) that I called. It turned out that my hand was best
The thing is, I didn't auto-call the river. I took forty-five seconds to mentally go over the action on all streets before putting my chips in. After I was awarded the pot a player who was not involved in the hand ridiculed me for taking so long to make my river decision, stopping just short of saying that I slow-rolled.
I've never understood players who begrudge other players that take a little bit of time once in a while. It seems that every time I puzzle out a decision someone on the other side of the table (not involved with the hand, naturally) starts grumbling. These are not NLHE decisions that drag on for multiple minutes. Usually they are at most 45 seconds while I re-play the story of the hand in my head and decide (1) if it makes sense, and (2) if I believe it. These lengthier decisions rarely come up more frequently than once every few sessions.
I don't ever say much about it, of course. I'd rather certain players just auto-call (or auto-fold) based on their perception of their hand's strength without thinking about their decision. But I gave the player last night my standard response when someone starts griping in this situation: "When it's your decision, you can take as much time as you want and you won't hear a word from me."
It's been a good week. Despite playing poorly one night, I ran well all week and booked four wins in a row. I'll try to remember this the next time I'm running bad.