Tag Archives: gambling

Checking It Up Until the Pot Hits the Sky

I used to like playing poker.  Really like it.  I used to play with my friends over the summer while we were in college.  We’d play a five-dollar buy-in, re-buy all you like, from around 9:00 until 2, 3, 4:00 in the morning.  Then two days later we’d do it again.  We had nothing better to do for a few months, and if you think about it, even if we lost, bought in again, and lost again, it was still cheaper than going to a bar or to the movies.

We used to organize tournaments where 10-12 people would play at two tables for six to eight hours, and in the end, I always finished second.  Always.  Yes, that was frustrating, but hey, it was a sign of something good, right?

Soon some of us graduated to playing in casinos.  I played some $2-$4 limit hold ’em (if you don’t know what any of these terms mean, I’m not going to explain them here.  Sorry), which was kind of a culture shock; we had been playing no-limit hold ’em with nickel and dime blinds back at home, so the structure of the game, and the stakes, were significantly different.  But I soon got my bearings and figured that the best way to avoid the pitfalls that came from terrible/drunk/terribly drunk players playing too many hands was to play with (slightly) smarter players.  Instead of buying in at a $2-$4 table for $200 and leaving with $60, I was buying in at a $5-$10 table for $300 and leaving with $305.

That’s right; on multiple occasions I spent in excess of six to eight hours playing poker and ended up making between one and eight dollars profit.  But it was cool, because I liked playing.  I liked the game more than the money.

Despite playing for higher stakes at the casino, we still played at home.  We settled into a routine (Sunday nights, so as not to hamper any Friday or Saturday night weekend plans), and the buy-ins escalated.  Most recently, most people were buying for $40 at the start of the night.

A funny thing happened, though.  About a year ago, I just flat-out stopped liking poker.  It may have been a result of some horrible beats I took at the casino and in the home game.  It may have been partly due to the fact that it was the same four or five people that continued showing up, so there was no growth to the game, and people were sick of everyone else’s crap.

You see, gambling in most forms, and poker in particular, brings out the worst in people.  I had always been pretty good at keeping my mouth shut and letting other people’s battles affect their game, but when some of the worst players at the table started talking about odds and using poker jargon (often incorrectly, I might add) all the time, that bugged me.  Like, get over yourself.  You are not Phil Hellmuth.  Stop talking about what so-and-so did wrong when you called a bet pre-flop with jack-seven.  Oh, wait, it was suited?  Shut up.

Given enough time, any poker game will turn into a proverbial spitting match (not the phrase I actually wanted to use there, but let’s keep it clean).  Eventually, as others started bickering all the time, I started bickering.  The poker wasn’t interesting, and I didn’t have very good cell phone reception, so there was nothing else to do.

Eventually there came an instance where I had a long day at work, and that night decided not to play.  It turned out there weren’t enough people, so there was no game.  I realized I didn’t miss it, and had no need for it, and stopped playing altogether.  The game dried up and since the Christmas holiday, we haven’t played.

Until now.  Tonight, we ride again, I guess.  I have not played poker in any form, at home or in a casino, in close to half a year.

Apparently there will be six people there tonight.  We’ll have some drinks, probably some snacks, and hopefully some fun.  But if my history with the game, and this game in particular, is of any relevance…well, two out of three ain’t bad.

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The Odds Will Betray You

I went with my friend, my dad, and my grandfather to a casino tonight.  Pop likes to play the slots and gets a lot of comp dollars, so it’s pretty much his favorite hobby.  He’s 83, so screw it, he does what he wants.

Personally, I can’t stand slots.  I am partial to table games.  I play poker, but at the casino, I gravitate towards the craps tables.  I played a little tonight (ended up a few bucks short of even; I chalked it up to paying the casino rent for standing at the table), but it reminded me of the last time I played, back around Christmastime.

I don’t how to describe it, but I’m not big on all these luck-based things that people do when they’re at the tables.  I don’t grab the dice a certain way, I don’t stack my chips a certain way (okay, that’s not true, but I only keep them in order because I’m OCD, not because I’m superstitious), and I don’t get made when someone says the word “seven.”  That being said, sometimes, weird stuff happens and you can’t explain it.

Craps is a community game; you’re not just playing by yourself, there is a table of people around you.  Generally, when one person wins, so do many others.  When one person rolls for a long time (a “hot shooter”) there is a sense of fun and camaraderie at the table that you don’t get in other games.

Now, like I said, I’m not big on ancillary things, but for some reason, the atmosphere at a table is important to me.  If a table is quiet or feels dead, I don’t want to play.  But when the table is lively, people are yelling, and chips are flying, then slide over and make some room.

Back in December, I found a lively table.  I put my money down and began playing.  I have a certain “system,” for lack of a better word.  I will explain it some other time when I’m looking for a quick idea on something to write about, but for now it will suffice to say that it’s a more long-term strategy; if I’m only playing for a half hour, then the swings can be drastic, but if I’ve got time, then I tend to do better.

Well, I’m at this table and eeeeeverybody is winning.  It’s funny, but when people are winning, they smile, they laugh, and they have fun.

You know who hates fun?  Casinos.  At a craps table, there are two “dealers,” a “stickman,” and a “boxman.”  The boxman is generally a pit boss-type who wears a suit and sits in a chair in the middle of the table, essentially serving as a supervisor.

I swear I saw this guy watching our table with a look of concern for about five minutes before he finally came over and subbed in for the boxman at the table.  Almost immediately, things changed.  One of the more boisterous fellows at the table was the shooter, and he had a habit of bouncing the dice around off the glass in front of his spot.  The new boxman – let’s call him The Cooler (a gambling term used to describe someone or something that leads to a sudden downturn in one’s fortunes) – told him he needed to stop.

This guy wasn’t having it.  “Show me the rulebook!” he said.  “It’s against the rules,” replied The Cooler.  The guy did it again.  “Sir, if you do it again, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the table.”  The friendly vibe was gone; it was like the teacher was home sick, so the principal was covering class.  The shooter rolled; two, craps.  Next roll: six.  Next roll: seven out.

If you don’t play craps, that means nothing to you, but if you do play craps, I will tell you that this guy had been rolling for 15 minutes.  He was hitting all of his numbers, hitting hardways bets for people, hitting seven and 11 on come-out rolls…I mean, he was buying everyone at that table some nice Christmas gifts that night with the way he was shooting.  One conversation with The Cooler and it was all over.

I remained at the table for about 10 more minutes.  We went through five or six shooters; every single one of them established a point and sevened out within two rolls.  It was incredible.  It was like they keep this guy in the back until they need to let him loose on a hot table.  I walked away having lost all of my profit, and a nice chunk of what I started with.  Twenty minutes earlier, dinner was on me.  Now, I was thinking the value menu sounded pretty enticing.

I’ve played a decent amount of craps.  I have never seen anything like that.  And hopefully I never will again.

Gambling Only Pays When You’re Winning

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, an unofficial holiday here in the United States.  Tonight, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will meet in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans to decide who calls themselves “world champions” of a league that is contained in one country and a sport that is really only played on one continent.  American exceptionalism, indeed.

I like sports, as I’ve mentioned, and I will almost always enter just about any contest that asks me to predict what’s going to happen at a sporting event.  What I don’t do, however, is place bets with bookies.  For two reasons: 1) I am a terrible gambler, and 2) those people are so good at what they do.  Their lines are incredible.

Anyway, despite that, here are three of my favorite prop bets that are certain to be sure-fire winners tonight (unless they aren’t):

Will the first kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII be a touchback? Yes (-170) – Two strong-legged kickers kicking indoors?  Yes please.

Who will have the most penalty yards? Ravens (-125) – Both teams are among the five most-penalized teams in the league (discipline wins games!) but I am making this selection based entirely on the fact that I expect the Ravens to draw a massive pass interference penalty at some point that totally skews the number of penalty yards.

Which total will be higher: Lionel Messi goals vs. Valencia or Frank Gore touchdowns? Frank Gore +0.5 (+140) – I did a little research into Barcelona’s matches against Valencia the last couple seasons.  I saw a couple one-goal games for Messi, a four-goal game, and a surprising number of zero-goal games.  I think Messi gets one today, and Gore takes one into the end zone, meaning that half-point will make Frank the winner.

As for the game, I think San Francisco has the better offense, the better defense, the most dangerous player in Colin Kaepernick, and the advantage of deploying that weapon on the artificial surface at the Superdome.  They’ve been the better team all season.

That is what I think, so my prediction is Baltimore 27, San Francisco 21.  I told you, I suck at this.