May 28, 2012
Yesterday I played a late afternoon holiday poker session at the Meadows ATM. Games were rather sparse when I arrived mid-afternoon, with a couple of tables from the noon tourney still running, along with two tables of $1/$2 NLHE. As additional tourney players busted, some rotated into cash games, allowing some of the regulars to launch a $1/$2 Pot Limit HOE cash game. [FN1] Despite the siren song of the Gamboool game, I stayed at the NLHE game because there were a few fishy tourist types, and I was waiting for the arrival of a vacationing blogosphere-Twitterverse friend, Jason, a degen geneticist from New Jersey (say that three times fast). I managed a $300 profit before we got five-handed with small stacks in play, so I gave in to temptation and moved to the HOE game just as Jason arrived to also join the degeneracy.
The game played rather nitty, with lots of limped or one-raise pots getting six to nine players to the flop. Preflop 3-bets were as rare as WSOP players who get knocked out without a bad beat. Still, there were numerous hands in the Omaha and Omaha8 rounds with multi-way all-ins, often with marginal draws. I wish I could say I cleaned up in the game, but some #runbad and some #playbad left me down for the session. Still, it was entertaining, since most of the table were friendly and talkative. I spent the session sitting next to a nice young gal (and solid player) @chelmc23, who is a regular in many of the Omaha games at the Meadows. We have played together often, so we gossiped a bit. At one point after witnessing a weird runner-runner suckout in a big Omaha pot, this exchange occurred:
Me: "Wow, that's brutal."
Chelmc23: "I had a worse beat in the Friday Omaha game."
Me: "The 6/12 high-low?" [Note: A group of older folks have had a long-running regular Omaha8 game every Friday morning at the Meadows, often getting two tables. They play it $6/$12 limit, with a half-kill to $10/$20 following scoop pots of $60 or more.]
Chelmc23: "Yeah. But I don't want to bore you with a bad beat story."
Me: "Why don't you save it for the Hold 'Em round?"
Chelmc23: "Good idea."
So, new rule: Bad beat stories can be told to liven up the boring rounds of a mixed game. The rule should also apply to Triple Draw and Stud games—except for Razz, of course, where merely playing is a bad beat.
I did win one entertaining hand of note. In a Gamboool8 round, I had some trashy hand in the big blind, something like K-J-9-7. It limped around, so I got to see a flop of 9-9-9. Donkey Kong! I checked the flop, got a loose player to bet it, a nitty lady to call, then I raised to $30, and they both called. Turn was ... oh who cares. I led out for $40, loose guy thought then folded, but the lady called. River was another card of no consequence. I bet $50, the lady sighed, pushed out the call, and said "Show me your 9". Instead, I rolled over my hand to claim the nice pot.
Anyway, the point of this post was to discuss the problems dealers can encounter when tracking pot size for betting purposes. The concept of pot limit betting can be tough for poker players used to the rigid structure of limit games and the anything-goes approach to no-limit games. Instead of simply pulling in bets each round, dealers have to track the pot size as players routinely simply bet by saying "Pot!" and then looking to the dealer to state the bet size for them. Now, as long as the dealer knows the pot size, and players bet, call, and raise in pot-sized increments, keeping track of the pot is simple arithmetic. For example, on one flop, a player bet pot. The dealer stated "$63". One player called, then the next player raised pot. The dealer froze for a moment, then started saying, "$280 ... $280 ..." which was clearly too high. I was in the 10 Seat, and quietly told the dealer, "It's $252 plus his $63 call, so ... $315 total", which another player also echoed. This case was easy because the raiser first had to call the $63 bet, then match the total in the pot for a raise of $252 ($63 x 4—preflop pot amount, pot bet, call, and call by reraiser). A more effective technique for thinking about this kind of pure pot betting and pot raising is to take four times the original pot bet size, then add another pot bet for each caller between original bettor and the pot reraiser to arrive at the total bet size for the pot reraiser (here, 4 x $63, plus 1 x $63, or 5 x $63 = $315; had there been a second caller, then simply make it 4 x $63, plus 2 x $63, or 6 x $63 = $378). Since the original bet amount was under $70, I knew the raise couldn't possibly be another $280 or more like the dealer thought. [FN2]
Later in the session, another weird pot-counting situation came up when a young lady dealer I had never seen before rotated into our game. There was a preflop raise to $10 with seven callers. I was out of the hand and not paying that close of attention. The dealer put out the flop, and the lady in Seat 1 put out a $15 bet that I couldn't see. Loose guy in Seat 5 raised pot, and the dealer said, "$115". Guy in Seat 8 then raised pot. Dealer said, "$300 more." Thinking that the $115 bet by Seat 5 was the first action on the round, I said to the dealer, "Shouldn't it be $345 more?" Dealer pointed to the Seat 1 bet of $15, and said, "It's $300". Seat 1 folded as I said, "Well, it can't be $300." Seat 5 called, and the dealer put out the turn card, then turned to me and quite tersely said, "It was $70 preflop, her $15, then his $115, so it's $300 more." I hadn't worked out the math by that moment, but I knew that $300 couldn't possibly be the correct raise amount (for one thing, with three players making bets ending in $5 before the pot raise, math says the raise amount had to end in a five, not a zero). But, I wasn't in the hand, the two remaining players had no trouble shipping the remaining $350 or so in Seat 8's stack (Seat 5 had him well-covered), so I simply shut the heck up. But I did take out my iPhone to write a note with the correct math to use as the basis for this post:
Let's start on the flop. A bet of $15, then a pot raise to $115 total means that the $15 bet plus a $15 call totals $30 on top of the pot. Since the raise was $100 more (for a total bet of $115), the preflop pot had to have been $70: $100-$15-$15=$70. The $70 original pot size checks with preflop action of seven players calling $10 each. So far so good.
Now, the next pot raiser must first call the $115 pending bet before his pot raise is calculated. So, $115 (pending bet by Seat 5) + $115 (call by Seat 8) + $15 (Seat 1 bet) + $70 (preflop bet) = $315 total pot which is theadditional raise amount for Seat 8.
So, the dealer was wrong as I knew, but I was also wrong as she knew. Math failure all around (though my error was based on not seeing the original $15 bet). Using The Price Is Right rules—closest to the correct amount without going over—I would normally give the dealer the win here. But, the dealer is being paid to keep track of the correct pot size. Being off $15 might not seem like a big deal, but in a multi-way pot where small amounts get magnified quickly, it can mean the difference between a player being able to call or reraise, or determine whether a player is able to get his stack in the middle on the turn. At a minimum, if a player questions the pot size in a pot limit game, a dealer should take a moment to confirm his or her math.
[FN1] For my less experienced readers, HOE is a mixed game with alternating rounds of Hold 'Em, Omaha (high only), and Omaha Eight or Better (high/low split pot game with the low hand must be 8-high or lower to qualify).
[FN2] As I noted in a prior post on PLG in Vegas, some casinos elect to track the pot in $5 increments, with odd dollars rounded up to the next $5. Using only $5 increments, particularly postflop, makes the pot-tracking and pot-raising calculations much easier for dealers and players alike. There is some variation in how the $5 increment policy is implemented:
The Venetian PLG game has $1/$2 blinds, which are counted as $5 for pot-calculation purposes, with a $5 bring-in (if you call preflop, it's $5; first raise without a limp is to $15). The Aria PLG game has $1/$3 blinds, which are counted as $3 for preflop action, with post-flop action in $5 increments (first raise without a limp is to $12).