“Turbo”

One of the reasons people like Pineapple is the speed of play. Regular OFC sometimes plays out very slowly. This is especially true 3 and 4 handed, but even Heads Up sometimes slows to a crawl. Although Pineapple-OFC is popular for many reasons, one of the main reasons is that there are only 4 “Pulls”/”Streets”/”Turns”, as opposed to 8 in Regular OFC (in both games you start with 5, however because you are playing 2 cards at a time in Pineapple, you go from 5 to 7, 9, 11, and finish at 13, whereas in Regular you go from 5 to 6, 7…and finish at 13).

However, Pineapple can only be played 3-handed, because of the discards. Now, some people, myself included, consider that a positive feature of Pineapple-OFC; I feel 4-handed Regular OFC is not as good as 3-handed because I believe having perfect information (all the cards will be accounted for) is too much; I believe there should be some level of uncertainty. 

That said, many people do prefer 4-handed OFC, and also, there are times in a Casino when 4 players will want to play; as a result, Regular OFC is chosen over Pineapple-OFC, even though Regular is much slower and players would prefer a faster game. Essentially, the 4-handed element of Regular-OFC is more important than the added value of having a faster game with Pineapple-OFC.

This post offers a compromise game – one that mimics the speed of Pineapple-OFC but also keeps the 4-handed nature of Regular-OFC. A few of us back during the summer played it from time-to-time, and we called it “Turbo” (I do realize that Turbo can refer to other games as well). If anyone has another name for the game, please let me know.

Turbo plays out quite simple – you are dealt 2 at a time instead of 1 at a time, and you must play both cards. It’s as simple as that. Because you only see 13 cards, FantasyLand remains at QQ, and the bonus remains 13 cards. 

That’s it. I realize that this game is nothing revolutionary, but for the most part, people do not seem to reconigze that Turbo is an entirely reasonable compromise when you have 4 players, but do not want to play something as slow as Regular-OFC.

As always, I welcome any thoughts, comments or suggestions.

Pineapple Throwdown!

So @PuppyMint, the brains behind Open Face Odds (http://openfaceodds.com), and I decided to play a few hands of HU Open Face Pineapple at the Pocket Rockets Casino (https://pocketrocketscasino.com), and to break-down and analyze one of the hands from our game. For more information on Open Face Odds and Pocket Rockets Casino, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Here is a video of the hand we’re going to breakdown:

The analysis can be found by clicking on the following link:

http://www.openfaceodds.com/strategy_pineapple_throwdown_breakdown_I.html 

A few thoughts that did not get into the analysis but are probably worth mentioning:

1) My opponent briefly mentions that one of the weaknesses of the AA-middle-row set is that it often results in having to intentionally not develop the middle from Aces into Aces Up or Trips because you are fearful you can only end up with 2-pair in the back and thus foul because Aces Up in the middle > whatever two pair in the back. He’s entirely right, and I think that point, much more than any back-row equity lost by not setting up 3 to a flush and instead opting for the K/AA set-up would be the downside to my set-up. The back row equity sacrificed is more than made up for with top row equity, but the inability to develop the middle limits the scoop potential and particularly HU that can be brutal.

2) FantasyLand on Pocket Rockets is 15-cards. Regardless of whether that makes for “better” games, the point is that’s the current rule on that site and you just have to make your decisions based on what the current rules are, not what you want them to be. So even though I don’t think it’s the best rule, when I play there, it’s important to remember how much value FL has (a lot), and how it’s even more than what I’m normally used to. It still may not be enough to justify my aggressive set, but any analysis into whether I made optimal choices must consider that the reward is a 15-card FL hand, not a 14-card FL hand.

So definitely check out the “Throwdown Breakdown”; this is only the first of such collaborations, with hopefully many more to come.

About Open Face Odds: Open Face Odds is probably the best source for in-depth OFC information and analysis out there – if you’re looking for things like Odds Charts (http://openfaceodds.com/charts_4H.html) or a place to rebuild OFC hands (http://www.openfaceodds.com/sandbox_4h.html), for example, the stuff over there is excellent. His website is probably the main reasons I don’t spend as much time getting into in-depth analysis and discussion concerning general OFC concepts; he does such a great job (and continues to do so) over there on those topics that I’d be doing a disservice to anyone reading this blog by trying to have my own section instead of referring anyone reading this blog to his site. So if you’re interested in heavier/more in-depth analysis on abstract OFC concepts, definitely make sure to spend some time over there.

Pocket Rockets Casino is currently one of the few places I’ve found where one can play OFC on the Internet (not including Mobile App based play). You can play for play-money chips, or for “Real Money” via BitCoins. I know absolutely nothing about the BitCoin world; PRC has a section on BitCoins to help people get started playing on their site, but if that’s not sufficient, I’m probably one of the worst people to ask for any information as to how BitCoins work. Further, I also have very little knowledge when it comes to evaluating the overall security and integrity of an internet poker host, so I’m a horrible person to ask questions about those sorts of topics as well. I will say that any time I’ve had a question for them, the staff have been on the ball in responding to me, so feel free to contact them at admin@pocketrocketscasino.com with any questions you have, or just check out the casino itself at https://pocketrocketscasino.com/.

OFC Tournaments Reviewed, Part 3 (WSOP, Conclusion)

Aria’s staff deserved credit for their attempts to make an OFC tournament as fair as possible – you can’t really blame them for the downside to some of the new ideas they tried as it was clear the purpose behind such ideas, and they did accomplish exactly the positives that were the motivation for said ideas. It is apropos for me to remind you that Aria’s staff deserve nothing but praise because the WSOP was the polar opposite – as good as Aria was, the WSOP was bad.

I will point out I did not participate in the WSOP’s tournament – but I had numerous friends who did. Virtually every one of them had a negative experience – even the people who did well had plenty of criticisms about the tournament (such criticisms were hidden behind the joy of winning a significant amount of money). The biggest gripe was that the tournament decided, very shortly before the start of the event, to switch from 4-handed to 3-handed without telling anyone. Second, there was no attempt whatsoever to ensure tables were at similar levels. Third, the structure had very little middle room – my friend Jon Turner, for example, had an above average stack with (I believe) 15 players to go, and then had one hand where he fouled, and both other players had full houses in the back. That hand by itself was enough to knock Jon out – he went from above average to gone with just one bad hand. Obviously if one is short stacked, that is entirely fair, but everyone agreed it was beyond ridiculous that an above average stack was still not even 24 effective points.

There were a few other minor gripes, but those were the major concerns with the tournament. For those interested, the Misses did manage to take some pictures from the event:

Looking back at the three events, it becomes clear that Aria had the right idea, but simply enacted rules that were too burdensome and overcompensated for the challenges presented in an OFC tournament. Simply having the same approach that Aria did, but toning it down some, would allow for a well-run, and fair, OFC tournament. Palms did exactly that – apply a more moderate version of the Aria approach – in their weekly OFC tournaments (that is, until they shot themselves in the foot and destroyed their own game by jacking the rake up), they would play 8 hands per level, and after every other level, there would be a 5 minute break starting when the last table finished that level – so if one table went significantly faster, they still knew they had at least 5 minutes of break, meaning they did not have to sit around waiting aimlessly, not knowing when they would restart.

Further, Bobby was very active in making sure the slower tables got pushed towards speeding up, and the faster tables were told they could relax. None of that was binding, of course, but it didn’t hurt in terms of keeping the tables at the same levels.

Finally, although not in Las Vegas, the Bicycle Casino in LA had a great idea for OFC tournaments – they ran the tournament as a shootout, which of course alleviates any and all concerns about levels since each table is in essence it’s own mini-tournament. Further, this format tests one’s skill in all three games – 4-handed, 3-handed, & Heads Up, and that certainly is intriguing because there are significant differences in each type of game – certain players, like myself, are far better 4-handed than heads up, others feel they are better heads up.

It will be interesting to see how the Wynn runs their OFC tournament in October – hopefully they will drawn upon the experiences of the 2013 Summer, and demonstrate how an OFC tournament can be run efficiently and effectively. I do believe that once directors find the right balance of all the competing elements and challenges inherent to OFC tournaments, we will see a significant number of OFC tournaments – potentially one in each major tournament series, including a Bracelet Event in the WSOP.

We shall see.

OFC Complete Hand Video #2, Part II (The Run-Out)

This is the 2nd part of my 2nd OFC Complete Hand Video Breakdown. Part I can be found here: http://vegasofc.com/2013/08/27/ofc-complete-hand-video-2-part-i-set-up/. The hand in question was a Heads Up Criss-Cross hand played between a good friend of mine (Menikos) and me, and the video is embedded right here:

In case you forgot, here is a picture of where we stand currently.

MGMCrissCrossHandStart

Menikos has the two hands on top, I have the two hands on bottom. Let’s get to the hand!

Menikos Left 6th Street: Q♥

It was funny – there I was thinking I’d get a FantasyLand sweat and have it on video to analyze after the fact, and the first card off the deck in the runout gives Menikos his own decision whether to shoot for it or not.  One thing I do plan to do soon is a full FantasyLand equity breakdown, so I’d rather save that analysis for later. Specific to this hand, however, is that he’s got two live 7s and 2s (for two pair/trips) in the middle), plus he can add one more live card’s outs for two-pair/trips. Just the 7&2 on their own are 16% for two-pair and 10% for trips – if he adds a 2-outs remaining Five or a 3-out remaining 6, for example, those odds increase dramatically). Failing that, he’s also got three lives aces (and two live kings) to hit just one pair in the middle. I have no idea what the total percent to cover in the middle is – someone smarter than me could figure it out, I’m sure, but I’ll just say that it’s definitely well within the boundaries of reasonably live in the middle. Also, he’s fully live in the back to hit trips w/ his pair of Tens, and obviously there are a bunch of live cards he can throw back there as well to add two-pair outs. Side note – the sheer number of contingencies and different run-out odds that I’ve described just now, for this one decision, for this one play and one hand, should illustrate why this game may be theoretically solvable, but theoretically solvable and actually solved are two VASTLY different things. The back odds, as far as I can tell, if viewed in isolation, are that he’s 40% to make Trips according to the calculator I use, and if he picks up a card with 2 outs left on the next street, he’ll have about a 66% chance of making some form of Two Pair or Trips (if he pulls the fully live 6, it’d jump all the way to 75%, if he gets a card with only one out, it still goes up to 55%).

I’ve certainly risked fouling for fantasyland with a lot lower probability of success. The one thing that’s tough about defining your hand this early is that it’s tough to figure out whether you’re putting at risk a scoop or a royalty bonus at risk, as opposed to taking a risk with a hand that’s likely to be scooped if you don’t take the chance. It does appear that Menikos has a fairly strong hand at this point – a live pair in tens in the back and live cards in the middle, but on the other hand, if my right hand doesn’t foul, that means I’ve got at least aces or better in the back and kings in the middle, so Menikos will likely need a similarly situated hand – in other words, he’ll have to end up strong even if he doesn’t go to fantasyland just to avoid being scooped IF my right side don’t end up fouling. My left hand looks very likely to make a flush but not so likely to end up with a strong middle/top, so that’s a substantial risk, but hey, no risk no reward (or no gamble, no future), right?

So now we’ve got two hands that face a substantial risk of fouling, but also offer a substantial reward if they successfully manage to not foul. Isn’t this why action degens love this game?

David Right 6th Street: Q♣

There’s still one more Queen left after this one, and I’ve got KK in the middle. There is absolutely no analysis needed here – it goes up top, end of discussion. Let’s just hope the case queen ends up over here.

David Left 6th Street: 8♣

The standard play here obviously is to put it in the back – and it’s what I do. However, doing so destroys any chance at a straight flush, and at this point, both paths (A4 and 64 of clubs) are still live, so it’s not something to completely ignore. Further, this club happens to also have a lot of value if played in the middle because it pairs my middle hand. So there’s actually two reasons to throw it in the middle and pray for more clubs to run out. However, given that the Queen of Clubs just got played as well, there are only 6 clubs left, which to me isn’t enough outs to comfortably pass over playing the 8♣ here as the 4th club in the back.

Menikos Right 6th Street: 5♦

This is a fairly dead card – only one five left in the deck. That is why Menikos plays it up top, and I probably would play it there as well. The flipside is that putting it up top makes your hand really ugly if you then proceed to pick up another 5 before making a pair in the middle – it becomes an entirely dead card in the middle, and pushes the middle/top combo towards high-card/high-card results, which is nowhere near optimal. Therein lines the decision – if you have a hand like Menikos does – with a draw to a royalty in the back, and are aiming to put live cards in the middle to make pairs and dead cards up top, is a 1-out left card live or dead? I don’t know what the answer is – on the one hand, 1-out is not particularly live, but on the other hand, it’s still 1 out and thus Menikos’ Right Hand is 25% to catch it. I’d go with it as a dead card personally, but I could be convinced to put it in the middle by someone smarter than me.

Menikos Left 7th Street: J♠

Although I’m sure Menikos wanted a 3-out card to put alongside his Tens, the 2-out Jack also makes sense in the back. It can’t really go in the middle, because you can’t use it to make two-pair in the middle – this concept may be lost on someone at first, but you can’t use it for two pair in the middle because your Tens in the back will most likely be the higher pair of any two-pair hand you make in the back if you aren’t lucky enough to run out trips or a full house. Therefore, if you use the J to make two pair in the middle, you’d have Jacks up in the middle and Tens up in the back, and thus foul. If you make Jacks up in the middle, you HAVE to either have a higher two pair, trips or a full-house. If you put it in the back and then pair it, you’ll have Jacks Up in the back and then you can hit a smaller two pair combination, like Sevens and Twos, for two pair in the middle. And remember,  you need two pair or Kings+ in the middle since you’ve already set Queens up top to go to fantasyland, so at this point you have to figure out what is the most likely scenario to cover your Queens up top – and that is either Kings, Aces, or a Small Two Pair in the middle, and Jacks & Tens (or Three Tens or a Full House) in the back.

David Right 7th Street: 4♥

The only downside to putting it in the back and pairing up is that it destroys the wheel draw, but given that there is only one 5 left and only 2 twos & threes, the wheel draw is not particularly live at this point and certainly not important enough to not pair the 4 here. Pairing the 4 in the back gives me another out to cover my Kings – the case 4; so at this point I have four outs in the back – the same as Meinkos for his gutshot straight hand, and the same number of outs many people feel comfortable enough with to justify chasing a flush or a straight. So at this point, I’m not worried about my back hand beating Kings.

David Left 7th Street: K♦

Boy this would have been an ugly card for my right hand. Instead I pick up a 1-out King. This play is the one play of the hand where I am convinced I made a mistake. Yes, there was one king left, but at the same time, there are three aces left and plenty of nines and eights left, so playing it up top would not put me at that much risk of fouling. By going in the middle, I’m severely limiting my options up top at this point, with only one queen left, this might be the best card to go up top for a strong top no-pair hand, and although Menikos’ left hand’s top is not a concern to my right hand (Menikos will either foul or hit his hand, in which case his QQ up top will easily win that row), but his right hand top is a concern and I want to try to scoop him if possible. K-high, A-high, Flush, or K-high, pair, Flush, are both solid hands that may be able to scoop his right hand, whereas less-than-K-high up top may not do it. Finally, given the three aces out there and the one king out there, there is still a small chance of Fantasyland in this hand by running out Flush in the back, Aces in the Middle, Kings up top, so that’s one final reason why it should have gone up top. I definitely messed this one up.

Menikos Right 7th Street: J♥

Another 1-out card. However, you’ve already put one mostly-dead card up top, so if you consider this sort of spot (debating what to do with mostly but not entirely dead cards when you want pairs in the middle and dead cards up top) one where both plays are reasonable in the abstract, then in this spot there’s a good reason to put it in the middle – you’ve already used up 33% of your top hand, and only 20% of your middle hand. You have 4 spots left in the middle, but only 2 up top, and so if nothing else, putting a card that is far more likely to NOT pair up (only one jack left, so 25%) in the middle leaves one with 2 top spots and 3 middle spots to work with, and putting it up top leaves us with 1 top spot and 4 middle spots to work with. The latter is a far less enviable position as it restricts one/s flexibility in building the middle and top and is far more likely to lead to a spot down the road where we HAVE to put a card in one of the two rows (for example, if the last jack actually comes and we have the jack up top and nothing in the middle to beat Jacks). So Meinkos’ play here, to me, is absolutely correct.

So this is where we’re at now:      MGMCrissCrossHand7thSt

Meinkos’ straight draw is still entirely live – the app says it’s 79% likely at this point. It’s actually comical that the only fully live card left is the one that he needs not as a pair-potential, but rather just for it’s role in a straight. There’s also only one 3-outer left, and that’s the Ace. Everything else is two or less. Clubs are still very much live (6 of them left), so my left hand is still in fine shape to hit clubs and not foul.

Menikos Left 8th Street: 2♦

The only bad thing about playing it in the middle is that you destroy the ability to cover QQ with just Aces in the middle (since if you run out two more aces you’d have Aces Up) unless you pick up a 3rd Ten. However, you also have to try something, you can’t keep waiting for the perfect path when a fairly solid path presents itself to you. Meinkos sees a decent plan coming together – two pair in middle, two pair or better in the back, and goes for it. Further, with another jack having been played, there’s now only one jack left but two tens left, the most likely way you’re not fouling is to hit trips or better in the back, and therefore you can actually run out Aces Up in the middle as your cover for Queens up top. And of course, if you don’t pick up anything in the back, your hand is fouling no matter what.

Of note is that had Meinkos started with TT2 in the back, he’d now have two pair already in the back, and would be aiming for Aces in the middle, but he would need 2 out of the remaining 3 Aces, had he decided to go for FantasyLand in such a scenario.

David Right 8th Street: 6♥

The vast majority of the time I have KK or AA in the middle and a live pair / live kicker in the back, I have to also worry about “closing out” the middle so that I don’t backdoor hit two-pair in the middle, because doing so results in a foul – what will happen is I will run out two pair in the back to cover my KK or AA, but then a second pair in the middle will result in my having Kings up in the middle and a lesser two pair in the back for a foul. Had that been the scenario here, I would be incredibly scared of putting a 6 in the middle because it’s 100% live; in fact, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have played it in the middle had that been the case.

But because I had three live aces to make Aces Up, and one live four to make trips, making Kings Up in the middle wasn’t a concern in regards to fouling; I currently have Fours in the back, and Kings in the middle. If I’m able to improve my back, it will not only jump Kings, but also jump Kings Up as it will be Aces up or Trip Fours. The only thing I am doing is killing the potential runner-runner pair of another live card coming and then another one of it coming afterwards.

I’m not so sure it was the right play though. In retrospect, the 6 being FULLY live makes it a great card to put in the back. Even though I have 3 live aces and a live 4, it certainly doesn’t hurt to add 3 more outs in the back. The way I played it, I’m about 68% to hit either trips or two-pair (or better) and cover. Adding 3 outs would jump my odds of covering with either two-pair/trips to 89% (although there is a marginal chance of backdoor fouling by hitting a 6 for two-pair in the back, then running out a second pair in the middle and fouling with Kings Up > Sixes Up). That’s a fairly large increase – going from 68% to 89% is definitely something that, at the very least, I should have given a LOT more attention to, and most likely makes it the better play. It’s not a clear cut mistake in my opinion, but it probably was a mistake.

David Left 8th Street: 2♥

It’s a dead card. Entirely dead. So wherever it goes, it’s going to just waste a spot. Typically I have more room in the middle (5 spots) as opposed to the top (3 spots), so the middle is a more attractive option. However, in this spot, I already have three cards in the middle and I have zero cards up top. If I put the deuce in the middle, I then only have one spot left in the middle, and I can then put myself in quite a tight spot if I pick up an ace – if I put it up top, now I NEED to pair (or pick up another ace) for my middle, on the other hand, if I put it in the middle, I put myself at risk to backdoor foul with a running pair being dealt to me. I could easily complete my flush, then pick up the last two eights, sixes or threes and thus foul my hand because my last 3 cards are all going to go up top because I’ve got no spots left in the other two hands.

So the deuce goes up top here. And just to cover every base – playing the 2 in the back makes zero sense to me here because you’ve still got 5 outs left for your flush, so it’s not at a panic point yet, and if you give up the flush, you’ll be doing so for a pair of 2s in the back – the resulting hand would be, at best, A-high, A-high, twos. While it would beat a fouled hand (which is a clear possibility for Meinko’s fantasyland gamble), it’s definitely at risk of being scooped by the other hand. So giving up a draw that’s still got 5 outs left for a pair of 2s at best in the back? I’ll pass, thanks.

Menikos Right 8th Street: 6♠

When I first started playing poker in New York City, I’d describe this card as the Jenga-card or the Gin-card. I also used to use “yahztee” as a verb to describe this situation, as in “Menikos just yahtzeed 8th street with that card”. A lot of my poker playing friends also used these phrases. It must be a NYC thing because I never hear it out here. Instead, the common ones are “drilled”, “nailed it”, and “bink”. As in, Meinkos just drilled the straight there, or he nailed his draw, or he binked the straight with that card.

I’m sure other people have other clever phrases for this spot. But whatever your preferred poker jargon is, here’s what matters – when Menikos set up 4 to a gut shot straight, and then puts three high cards in the middle, he’s pretty much going to end up needing to hit the gut shot straight to have a hand that’s anything other than high-card, high-card, pair. In other words, it’s “Straight or Bust” for his hand.

And he just got his straight. Yahtzee!

Menikos Left 9th Street: 4♣

At least it’s an easy to play card – a quick check of the cards already out shows that fours are dead, so it’s a useless card for him. It won’t help his back or middle improve, so he puts it up top and hopes for better cards on the last three streets.

David Right 9th Street: 6♦

And that’s why, in retrospect, it may have been correct to play the 6 in the back. Adding 3 outs to the back would significantly improve my ability to cover the middle with two pair (or more) in the back. It is true that I can safely play this in the middle because I’m pulling for either Aces Up or Trip Fours in the back, both of which will cover Kings Up in the middle if I am able to play them, but the point is had I played the 6 in the back, I’d already have the middle covered – instead, I’m now on a 3-outer (the three aces, as the last four just got pulled one card prior).

David Left 9th Street: Q♠

Another pure dead card. It does help build a top-hand that can possibly beat Meinkos’ Right Top-Hand (which at this point is just 5-high), and if I play it in the middle, it’d push my middle hand that much closer to being just K-high, which could cause some trouble as there are still 3 live aces left. It’s a no-brainer play, throw it up top.

Menikos Right 9th Street: 8♥

Menikos has completed his straight – at this point he’s now looking to build a middle and top to potentially scoop. The 8 has one out left, so it’s still live (at this point, even a 1-out card should be considered live; most cards are down to 1-out as there are only 20 cards left in the deck, and while it’d be nice to pick up an Ace and then have 2 more aces to hope for, you just have to take what’s given to you, and there is a chance to hit a pair of 8s, and the next card could also be an entirely dead card (and it can also be the final 8), so I agree with Menikos’s play here, throw it in the middle and hope to pair it.

So – here’s where we are at:     MGMCrissCrossHand9th

Both Meinko’s left hand and my right hand pretty much play themselves out at this point – Meinkos will either hit a 7, or a running pair, and either improve on TTJ in the back, or not. If he does both, he goes to fantasyland and probably scoops. If he doesn’t, he fouls. My right hand needs its back to improve on A44; so either I’ll get an Ace or 2 for trips/full house, or pick up a running pair, or I’ll foul. Additionally, if I get the case jack, I pick up a nice 6-pt royalty.

The other two, however, have middles and tops that are very much still up in the air. Menikos has a made back, and my left hand is very live to finish it’s draw, so now the question becomes developing the middle and top. For both these hands’ middle, the only opponent’s hand to worry about is the other one of these two – neither of these middles are likely to surpass two-pair, which means that if Meinkos’ left and my right hand are able to be valid, their respective middles will be two-pair and beat the middles of Meinkos’ right or my left hand. The same principle applies to my left hand’s top, because Meinkos has QQ in his left hand – if he ends up not fouling, my left hand can’t beat QQ, period. My left hand’s top only needs to worry about Meniko’s right hand’s top. On the other hand, Meinko’s right hand top does have to focus on both of my top hands because I don’t have anything other than Q-high and J-high at this point.

So a lot is up in the air in terms of potential scoops and wins, as well as fouls. Let’s continue…

Menikos Left 10th Street: T♣

No analysis needed. Instead, allow me to post a picture to represent what Menikos’ internal monologue sounds like right now:

halfwaythere

David Right 10th Street: J♣

Well it ain’t fantasyland, but if I catch an ace or a running pair in the back, now I’ll get an additional 6 point royalty for my trouble and risk. Sweet!

David Left 10th Street: 7♦

There’s a case to be made for closing out the top so that I don’t have to worry about backdoor fouling, particularly given the presence of 3 aces left to come and the lack of any pair in the middle here. On the other hand, the 7 is live. I decided the 7’s life was worth taking the chance of having a very awkward spot down the road if I get a non-club Ace. Looking at it again, I think I should have put it up top. If I get another Ace, it really puts this hand in a pickle in every sense of the word. And Q-high has a very good chance of beating Meinko’s right hand top (and again, no top sub-hand I can make here will beat the QQ of Meniko’s left hand, so either he fouls or he wins the top there), and if it doesn’t, the loss of scooping him is probably less valuable than the gains in ensuring no-foul. But I could be wrong in this analysis, I could have been right initially. I’m not quite sure here, so I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this play.

Menikos Right 10th Street: T♠

Hey, if he puts it in the middle he’d be live for a straight there as well. The problem is that said straight is higher than his back straight and thus, his hand would be fouled. And it’s a dead card at this point. So it goes up top, since if Menikos puts it in the middle, he’ll have the same issue that I’ve discussed ad nausem in this analysis – if he then gets one of the three aces left as his next card, he’ll have quite the sticky spot of either closing his middle out with 2 or 3 spots left up top (opening up the door for a running pair to foul), or going up top and then praying you hit a pair or better ace-high in the middle (something which may not happen). So, Menikos thinks about it, and decides that limiting his ability to develop the top hand is worth ensuring that he won’t have to face the OMG-PANIC potential that would ensue if he picks up an ace next.

Menikos Left 11th Street: 8♠

It’s an entirely dead card, and Menikos needs to improve his middle still, whereas he doesn’t need to improve his back (in fact, there are no Jacks or Tens left to improve his back anyway), so the only play here is to put it in the back and close off the back sub-hand as three tens. Now he needs a 7, a 2, or a running pair. Although there are no twos left, there is still a 7 – so he’s still live. But he’s down to 1 out unless his next card is a live card, such as an Ace. But 1 out is still 25%…

David Right 11th Street: 7♥

…until it’s not. This card does nothing to help my draw, but it severely hampers Meniko’s ability to legalize his left hand. I still need one of the aces, but I do have a open slot in the middle (and playing the 7 here also prevents any potential backdoor fouling by picking up the case 6 on the final street and having to play it in the middle (thus making a full house in the middle)

David Left 11th Street: A♥

I point out how I want this card for my RIGHT hand, not my left hand. Not something I wanted here. But, the potential of the left hand picking up an ace is something I’ve discussed at length during this analysis, pointing out how I needed free spots in the middle and top in case the Ace comes so that I wouldn’t have to face a potential auto-foul spot down the road. And sure enough, there’s an ace. But at this point, there’s only two cards left to come (and I still need a club in one of those two), and there are no queens or twos left, meaning that Ace high in the middle won’t put my hand at risk of fouling (independent of my potential to foul by not getting a club). Even the Ace of Diamonds doesn’t foul me because it goes up top, giving me A-Q high up top and A-K high in the middle. It is the case that my hand’s middle and top are likely vulnerable to being topped by Meinko’s middle and top in his right hand, but if I hit a club, my flush will block the scoop by beating his straight, and if I don’t, I’m very likely to foul anyway.

Menikos Right 11th Street: 3♠

A dream card for his hand as picking up a live card this late in the hand is far less likely than picking up a dead card. Menikos needs to hit a pair in the middle or he runs the risk of having this hand be scooped by my left hand if it hits the flush (since my A-K high over there would beat any non-pair middle made by him here), and if he can’t pair his middle, he will also likely end up with a top sub-hand that loses to my sub-hand there as well – he currently only has Ten-high, as opposed to my Queen-high, and if he doesn’t pair the middle, he likely won’t be able to play an Ace up top (the only possibility would be to pick up both remaining aces), so the only chance would be the case King. In other words, if he doesn’t pair his middle, if my left hand hits the flush, there’s a very high chance of this hand being scooped.

This is where we’re at now:     MGMCrissCrossHand11th

  • Meinkos’s left hand needs to get both remaining 9s or both remaining Aces in his last two cards.
  • My right hand needs one of the 2 remaining Aces, or running 9s.
  • My left hand needs one of the 3 remaining clubs to hit the flush for a royalty, although the hand can also be legal (albeit a very weak one pair, high-card, high-card “legal” hand) with either the case 3 or case 5, meaning that there are 5 cards in the deck that, if played in the back, would legalize my left hand.
  • Meniko’s right hand is currently legal, but looking to pair the middle and pick up either an Ace or King for his top-hand to win sub-hands from me. 

In case you ever doubted how swingy Open Face Chinese can be, consider that there is a legitimate chance for Meniko to have one hand end up in Fantasyland, and the other be legal and have a straight, and for both my hands to foul. That would mean both of my hands would owe 13 to his left, and 8 to his right, for a total of 42 points owed, plus he would go to FantasyLand with one of his hands. On the other side, he could foul his FantasyLand hand, and simply be live with his other hand, and I could have a flush in one hand (that scoops his straight/high-card/high-card hand) and Jacks in the other (and have both be live). In this case, his fouled hand would owe me 22 points, and his valid hand would owe me 8 (scoop + flush – straight) and 5 (Jacks + 2 out of 3 – straight), for a total of 35 points owed.

So this hand can easily swing from 42 + fantasyland to one player all the way to 35 to the other player. This game is NOT for the weak-willed players who can’t stand the swings and the variance, that much is clear

Menikos Left 12th Street: K♥

There’s no analysis here, first because he only has middle slots left to go, and second, because his hand is now an automatic foul, as there are no twos, sevens or kings left to improve his middle so that he doesn’t have a stronger top than middle. I try to make the Price is Right Fail Horn – definitely could have done better in the execution of the horn noise.

David Right 12th Street: 9♣

Well I picked up an out by getting the Nine here. No analysis since the only sub-hand with open spots is the back. Now I’ve got 3 outs.

David Left 12th Street: 9♠

And now the 9s are dead – there goes that. And since it’s not a club, it has to go up top. Remember when I played the 4th club (on 6th street) how I talked about potentially playing it in the middle because clubs were fairly live, and after deciding to play it in the back, I concluded that I was a pretty safe bet to hit the flush, and I can thus focus on building the middle and top assuming the flush would come?

Well, about that. Now I need one of the 2 remaining clubs or I miss the flush. I can still be valid with a 3 or a 5, so 4 out of the 6 cards left make my hand valid, however, it’s certainly interesting that I managed to not hit a club up until this point despite my early conclusion that it was a very live draw and thus I can feel comfortable with its high probability of being completed.

Well, interesting for you guys, the readers. Not for me at the time. Going from 4-clubs on 6th street to 4 clubs on 12th street is no fun at all.

Menikos Right 12th Street: 3♥

Well on the one hand, Menikos should be happy that he paired the middle (thus blocking a scoop from my left hand if it successfully completes the flush). Plus he took away one of my non-flush but still sufficient to make the hand live outs with the 3. On the other hand, he actually manages to have a chance to foul this hand as well, as if he binks the case 5 up top, that will give him a stronger top than middle (Fives > Threes). Remember way back at the beginning when I pointed out the dangers of putting a live card up top? Although the 5 was not particularly live at the time – as it was only one out, this runout managed to keep said one out live the entire time, and now, with 4 cards to come, Menikos faces the chance of having that case 5 be sent to his right hand, which would thus result in a foul here.

In other words, there is a legitimate chance of the ultra-rare quadruple foul. All that work for a quadruple foul would certainly be epic, although probably annoying to you guys as you’d have spent all this time and no one would end up winning anything.

Just to remind everyone, entering 13th street, here’s what we’ve got:

  • Meinko’s Left Hand has fouled.
  • My right hand needs one of the 2 remaining aces to be valid – so it’s a 50/50 flip. If it hits, I have a Jacks royalty in the hand.
  • My left hand needs one of the 2 remaining clubs to be valid, so another 50/50 flip. One of the clubs is also one of the aces. The hand also can be valid with the case 5, so it’s 50% to make a flush and 75% to be valid.
  • Meniko’s right hand is 25% to foul by virtue of picking up a 5 and thus pairing the top, resulting in a top hand that is stronger than his middle.

Menikos Left 13th Street: A♣

Well, that is perhaps the worst card for me. Now there’s only one ace left, so my right hand is 33% to be valid, 66% to foul. My left hand is 33% to make a flush, 33% to be valid but no flush, and 33% to foul, and Menikos is 33% to foul, 66% to be live.

David Right 13th Street: A♦

Well that’s awesome. Just drilled the 33% not-to-foul card. In addition to making my hand, now the left hand can’t foul – it’s either a flush or a pair in the back. Further, now, he is 50% to foul his right hand. Finally, of really special note is that the card that gets me a flush ALSO means he gets his foul card. So if I get the 6 of clubs, it’s a HUGE swing in my favor. But even if I don’t, I still drilled this hand with Jacks up top. I run good.

David Left 13th Street: 6♣

I run great.

Just. Like. That. The perfect 1-2 punch – the two cards that complete my hands and give me royaltyies in both spots. Further, Menikos now fouls his right hand by virtue of having 5s up top (since he’s going to get the case 5), as his final card is.

Menikos Right 13th Street: 5♥

He double fouls. Yikes.

He’s going to owe even more than I mentioned before when I talked about the potential swings. He owes my left hand 10×2 (since each of his hands fouled, therefore he got scooped + flush royalty in both spots), and my right hand 12×2 (same, but with Jacks), meaning he owes me 20+24 points, for 44 points. The game was only for $5/pt, so it’s a “modest” $220 win for me.

I won’t sit here and deny it – that was the absolute perfect runout for the last 4 cards, and a grossly good overall runout for me. He double fouls, I make both my draws – a perfect scenario, particularly given the fact that it was entirely plausible that I was going to double foul, and also early on, he looked like he had a fairly good shot at FantasyLand.

The final hand:

Two Fouls for Him & Flush Left, Jacks Right for Me!

Two Fouls for Him & Flush Left, Jacks Right for Me!

I hope you enjoyed my second attempt at full-scale analysis of a live hand. I do welcome any and all comments, suggestions, or criticisms. Also, I made sure to e-mail this to Menikos, because I would love him to come on this site and post some of his thoughts. Paticularly:

1)      Why did you put the 2♠ in the middle as opposed to the back in your initial set-up?

2)      Although heinsight is 20/20, do you think you made a mistake when you put the 5x up top even though it still had 1 out left?

3)      If you were put in a spot with the same odds as this one for FantasyLand, would you go for it again?

4)      Do you see any moves I made that you disagree with? Besides the K♦.

Thank you all for reading this. And if you live in Vegas or plan to be in Vegas sometime soon and want to participate in one of these hands, please let me know as i would love to video a hand and have multiple people analyze it afterwards.

OFC Complete Hand Video #2, Part I (Set-Up)

Probably the one thing people have asked me to do more of are videos of live hands from start to finish, and a strategy analysis breakdown of said hand. I am a man of the people, so I am happy to oblige. The following video comes from MGM Grand – it is a $5/pt Heads Up Criss-Cross hand. I am the player on the right, my friend Menikos is the one on the left. We play Criss-Cross a little different, in that whoever is button goes FIRST and LAST, with the other player going SECOND and THIRD. The more common way to play is for Button to go 2nd/Last, with OOP going 1st/3rd. I happen to enjoy this version more, but that’s not why we do it that way. We do it that way because if another player shows up and wants to play, we don’t have to tell him to wait until both of us have had the button an equal # of times – the button advantage is not particularly strong (if at all), so it’s not a big deal if one player has the button an extra hand.

I e-mailed him this post, and I hope he will write up some of his thoughts on the hand – if he does, I will post them here.

I will refer to the two hands as “Player Left” and “Player Right” – in other words, the hand that goes first is Menikos Left, then David Right, David Left, Menikos Right.

Finally, I know that these breakdowns can be quite long – so what I’m going to do is break them down into two seperate posts – Part I will be the introduction and the first 5 (BTW, what specifically do people think that should be called – the set-up? Initial 5? Anyone?), and then Part II will be the run-out and closing thoughts..

So without further ado, here is the video of the hand in question:

Now, onto the analysis. This post will deal with the set-up:

Menikos Left: Q♦ 7♠ 2♠ T♦ T♥

Unless you’ve got a serious gambling streak and want to shoot for the Royal Flush with QT of diamonds, there’s pretty much zero incentive here to break up the Tens. You’re under the gun so as far as you know they’re still live, and they’re a fairly big pair on their own even if they turn out not to be live, so you better have a good reason to break them up. And, putting them in the middle and your spades in the back would be equally foolish here because 7-2 are both unders to the Tens, meaning that if your spades don’t come you need to run out two pair, so you’re adding a lot of risk of fouling. It’d be much different if your hand was 22, and the T7 of spades, because then even without spades, just one Ten or Seven and you’re now covered in the back.

Finally, if you were 3 to a flush or 3 to an open-ender, it’d be a different argument (either to break up the tens, or to play them in the middle and put the draw in the back). But here it’s only 2 to a flush. So TT in the back. Q up top is standard (we are playing fantasyland so you want to keep open that chance), and 7 in the middle is standard.

That leaves us with his play of the deuce in the middle. I guess he could have been thinking of trying to leave open the small chance of full house or better in the back, spade flush in the middle b/c of how valuable it would be if it actually came to fruition, but I personally just don’t thinks such a runout occurs enough times to justify not putting a live card in the back alongside the Tens.

There is something to be said for waiting to see 15 more cards before then looking for a live card to put in the back – you get so much more information about which card is fully live and thus likely to pair up during your runout – and if the card in question was higher, say an eight or a six, and thus has some more relative value as a pair in the middle as compared to value as the second pair in the back, then I’d agree, but with twos, if I get a second deuce, it’s such a weak pair in the middle that I’d much prefer having it in the back as the second pair alongside my tens. So I disagree with his set-up. I’d go Q♦/ 7♠ / T♦T♥2♠

David Right:    A♠ 4♦ K♠ K♣ J♦

This is one of those hands where I look down, and then, to borrow a concept from the Life With Face Cards blog (http://lifewithfacecards.tumblr.com/), I have a reaction that is best summarized by the following

Pretty Much Sums Up What Goes Through My Mind In a Situation Like This.

Pretty Much Sums Up What Goes Through My Mind In a Situation Like This.

When I get KK or AA as part of my first five, the very first thought that will enter my mind is “Oh It’s On! We’re going to be shooting for Fantasy Land!”. But before I continue, let me point out – the reason I’m talking about KK/AA only is that I’m not talking about starting with them up top. I’m not nearly the believer that some people are in putting QQ+ up top as part of your initial 5, unless circumstances are quite favorable. However, with KK/AA, I’m a huge fan of playing them in the middle, unless circumstances are quite unfavorable. Put it another way – I need a damn good reason to put QQ/KK/AA up top, whereas I need a damn good reason NOT to put KK/AA in the middle. The reason why is that QQ up top requires me to then cover two streets just to not foul (unless I start with two pairs of Queens or better) – two “Degrees of Freedom” to borrow something Barry Greenstein said. With KK+ in the middle, I can focus on just one street of “cover”, and at the same time, if I pick up QQ to go up top, all the better, but I still won’t foul as long as I cover just one street.

Here, I’ve got KK, so unless I have a good reason NOT to put it in the middle, it’s going there, end of story. And it turns out that not only do I lack a compelling reason not to play as such, I actually have cards that actively ENCOURAGE such a play with the A4 combo. The Ace is entirely live, so at the very beginning, I have three outs not to foul. Further, the four is very live to hit trips or two pair with another live card in case aces die. Finally, the wheel draw is also very live. I feel quite safe playing A4 in the back with KK in the middle. Running the odds on one of the odds apps that is out there tells me that I’m XXX to hit HANDS.

The only real question is the J. On the one hand, it’s not a Q and thus no fantasyland. The main reason I’m willing to take the risk of fouling by playing KK in the middle is that it opens up a shot at fantasyland if I pick up two queens. Further, I do need to “close off” the middle without hitting a second pair because if I only pick up an Ace in the back, I need the middle to just be Kings. Each card I put in the middle gets me that much close to safely closing out the middle without screwing up the top or bottom. But on the other hand, with one Queen gone, I can’t ignore that Jacks is a 6 point royalty which I would be more than happy to “settle” for in case I don’t get two queens. In this regard, it’s like playing a flush card when you have four to a straight flush in the back and both straight outs are live – settling for the flush is certainly nice, but it’s still settling – I’m playing the Jack up top here but if I get a Queen, and then I get another Jack while there are still the two final queens out there, I probably will not play the second Jack up top. But if I get another Jack before I get any Queens? Throwing it up top and taking my 6 pt royalty happily. So my hand is now set – The Jack up Top, the Kings in the Middle, and A♠4♦ in the back

David Left: 9♥ 8♦ 5♣ 2♣ 3♣.

Let’s see – three to a straight flush, three to a gutshot straight, or two to a straight that’s open ended (but are higher cards in case the flush and straight chances die out early). Considering that the straight flush is still live and even just looking at the flush chances, there’s only one club out so far, I don’t feel I have to say anything more. The 532 in the back is a SNAP play.

There is an argument to be made for playing the live 9 in the middle and the live 8 up top – it opens up a nice 3 point royalty draw if you bink a 9. However, my counter to that is that first, what happens if you get the 8 before the 9, and second, with both being fully live, I’m looking to hit two pair with both of them and aiming for a bigger (hopefully one of the three fantasyland) pairs up top; with 3 queens and 3 aces left, the dream is still fully live. So this hand doesn’t require that much thought in my mind – the 98 go in the middle, and my straight flush draw goes in the back.

Menikos Right: 9♦ 7♣ 5♠ 4♠ 3♦.

Yuck. 4 to a gutshot isn’t ideal; even though it’s fully live, you’re either going to have to just assume you’ll complete it and build your middle and top under the assumption you will get the straight (and if you do not, then accept that you will foul), or you have to build the middle and top with extreme caution so that you can settle for a pair of 7s in the back in case all the 6s die out. Either you’ll be facing a “straight or bust” scenario, or you’ll not be able to develop the middle and top to be strong hands. However, my villain here doesn’t have many other choices for the hand. You ALWAYS want to play the hand so that there’s some sort of royalty draw – but he’s either got to play 93♦♦, which would be an epically poor choice on his part because there are already 5 diamonds out there, leaving only 6 diamonds in total left for the runout (meaning he needs this one hand to get 3 out of the remaining 6 diamonds), and there’s also already a 9 & a 3, limiting his ability to develop two pair, trips or a full house as well. 54♠♠ suffers from the same problem – there are already 5 spades out there, and also a 5 & a 4 out there. Neither of these 2-flush combos are appealing. 543 isn’t a horrible set-up, but there are already two deuces out there – the most likely way you’ll improve on 543 is to hit a 6; in which case you’ll feel pretty damn bad if you then miss out on the remaining 7s and 2s when you have one already played. It’s certainly a defensible play since it does leave open more options – to complete the straight you can go 76, 62, or A2 on the runout, as opposed to JUST hitting one of the four 6s, but on the other hand, it’s a two-step process whereas the 4 to a gutter is a one-step process. It’s certainly not a great start, but it’s also not a horrible one, and sometimes you just got to pick the least bad option amongst many crappy choices – there is no folding or surrendering in open face Chinese, meaning sometimes you’re in triage mode, trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Villain does that with the 4 to a gutshot set-up. The 9 is still live (just one out there, in my opinion, means you’re fairly live), so it goes in the middle and you hope to pair it, presuming you’re going to take the “straight or foul” method of building the middle and top (which is something I believe in doing). Other players may take the more conservative approach to the middle/top when they set up 4 to a gut-shot; it’s personal preference but as it should already be clear from my blog, I’m definitely of the group of players who are not afraid to foul if it is the result of trying to build a strong hand that’s going to win a lot of money and  simply missing out on a very live draw to complete such a monster.

So here is where we stand:

MGMCrissCrossHandStart

A big thank you to Ben at OpenFaceOdds.com for letting me use the “Sandbox” he has on his website. His website has some amazing features and posts relating to Open Face Chinese, and the two of us have been discussing some collaborative efforts so stay tuned for that.

At this point, everything’s WIDE open. My right hand does face a high-risk, high-reward run-out, but it’s definitely one where the reward is far higher than the risk; it’s probably best to describe it as a medium risk, extremely high reward hand. My left side is is quite live for it’s flush draw, as there are 8 clubs left. A quick check of my odds calculator puts the odds of hitting the flush (presuming I stick with it all the way through) at 67% (8 outs left with 8 pulls left & 20 cards known). Meanwhile, Menikos’ has just a straight draw in the back, but it’s still 70% or so to hit (odds of hitting a fully live, just need one card, gutshot draw, in a 4 player game, when everyone has played their initial 5 and you’ve set up said gutshot are around 70%), and his other hand has a fully live pair in the back, so he can easily hit trips and is in good shape for a royalty back there as well.

The next post can be found here: http://wp.me/p3C3IO-7V, and will cover the run-out

Personal Thoughts on OFC Royalties Part III – Why Middle Trips Should Get Nothing

As the title indicated, it is my contention that the optimal royalty structure would have Trips in the Middle Sub-Hand not be worth any points. They would get nothing – Good Day Sir! (Props to anyone who gets the reference).

A lot of people freak out when I mention this – for whatever reason, Middle Trips have somehow become a beloved feature of Open Face Chinese, despite the fact that as far as I know, the rule only came about in March or April of this year. I personally remember playing at Venetian without Middle Trips as a Royalty in February, and then at some point in late March, someone said that people have begun playing Middle Trips being worth 2 points to try to give the Middle more weight/value, and somehow the rule stuck. The reason I mention the rule’s short history is so people can understand this rule is not some bedrock principle of Open Face Chinese – I’m not reinventing the wheel by advocating for it’s removal. Heck, when Jason Mercier and Friends first tweeted out the improved royalties after the PCA (switching Quads from 8 to 10, SF from 10 to 15 and RF from 15 to 25, and double in the middle), they did not include such a rule, so it’s not even something that was attached to that rule change. Someone just thought of it one day and it stuck.

The reason why it stuck is most likely because people feel that the middle hand is neglected and does not have enough importance – Straights and higher are very hard to come by in the Middle, so people felt that a small bonus for Trips would make the Middle Hand carry more weight. Although I agree with the sentiment of wanting to make the middle hand more important, having a Trips Royalty was a horrible way to do it.

First, from the perspective of a Rules-Obsessed Lawyer Geek, having Trips in the Middle being worth 2 completely destroys the simple and clean royalty structure where the Middle Royalties are simply double whatever the back is. Having the Middle simply be double the Back makes the rules a lot shorter, simpler, and “cleaner”; it allows, for example, for me to say – “Royalties are Straight 2, Flush 4, Boat 6, Quads 10, SF 15, Royal 25 in Back, Double in the Middle, and up top, 6s are 1 point, 7s are 2 points, 8s are 3 points, and so forth until Aces are 9 points, and all trips are 20”. That’s the entire rule set. Adding trips in the middle fucks that up (pardon my language, but it’s entirely appropriate here). That was why Venetian tried to adopt Trips in the back as a 1 point royalty (a rule I supported) – it kept the incredibly easy and clean rule set where the Middle royalties were simply double what the Back royalties were. So from that perspective, Trips in the Middle are annoying because they screw up what was otherwise a perfectly simplistic royalty structure that was easy to describe and follow along with.

But, if it was a good rule for game-play, then I would be okay with the rule even though it messed with the beauty of how simple the royalty set-up was, because game-play is more important than being happy with how simple the rule-set is. The problem is that it’s not – the rule is also a bad rule from the perspective of what is the optimal game-play royalty rule.

The reason it’s bad is that Trips as a royalty does not accomplish the goals behind why royalties exist. One does not “go” for Trips in the middle – it is something you stumble onto once you have a made back sub-hand. Yeah, I will admit that occasionally, one plays Trips in the Middle when you are still drawing to a Flush or Straight in the back, but you would also do the same thing with Two Pair in the Middle (and odds are you made the play hoping to shoot for FantasyLand, not for the 2 point royalty). The point is, Trips come when you have a pair in the middle and you luck into the Three of a Kind card, and you either have a made hand in the back or have a very live draw. At no point did you decide to “shoot” for trips – you were shooting for pairs in the middle and stumbled onto Trips, and at no point did you decide to take on some amount of risk of fouling or making a very bad hand in order to be awarded the 2 point royalty if you are successful. Straights and Flushes in the middle require one to “shoot” for the hand, often times risking having a bigger top than middle (for example, you have a flush in back, and 765 in middle, and you get a J, if you want to go for the straight, you risk fouling if you put the J up top if you don’t improve the middle – a run out of 932 leaves you on 13th street needing to hit a card). And if you don’t hit the straight, even if you don’t foul, you also typically will end up with just one pair or Ace high in the middle – in the aforementioned example, if you pick up a 4 and are now open ended, then you get a K so it goes up top, now if your straight draw outs die out, you’re looking at a pair of 7s at best, and possibly A-7 high in order to simply not foul.

Of course, that is the risk one takes when you decide to go for a straight in the middle as opposed to looking to pair your live middle cards. The point is that one does not decide to go for trips – you either go for the straight/flush in the middle, or you look to pair your live cards (and most likely, try to 2-pair/trips so you can shoot for FantasyLand). That is why Trips shouldn’t be worth anything – you don’t “earn” the royalty.

This concept was what I discussed in the introduction post, and why I stressed it so much – royalties are not simply bonuses for big hands – they exist to encourage “shooting” for the big hands while incurring the associated risk inherent in shooting for said hands. Trips does not encourage shooting, nor does it incur any risk. It is simply something one stumbles onto as a nice bonus for a big hand. That is why it makes no sense as a rule. You don’t earn the royalty, you don’t incur any risk.

I understand the desire to make the middle hand more important. However, first, Trips as a 2 pt royalty came about right around the same time FantasyLand did – and I believe the Middle’s importance in making FantasyLand by itself puts an incredibe amount of importance in the middle (I can think of no better example of how trips don’t matter than pointing out that someone playing trips in the middle before finishing a made hand in the back is not doing it for the 2 pt royalty, rather they’re probably doing it to shoot for FantasyLand), combined with boosting the royalties for Straights/Flushes/Full Houses in the middle sufficiently accomplish the goal of putting a significant amount of value and emphasis on having a strong middle sub-hand.

That Said, I know that a lot of people do like trips in the middle – so I want to know everyone’s thoughts. I’ve Created a Poll – please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section in addition to Voting.

OFC Tournaments Reviewed – Part 2 (Aria)

The Second Tournament this Summer was at Aria on July 1st. The $540 buy-in tournament got 87 runners, with a first place prize of $14,557. Here was the structure and rules for the tournament: at Aria:

The staff at Aria clearly took note of what happened at Golden Nugget in regards to some tables being way ahead in levels relative to other tables, and were determined to make sure that such a problem did not happen at their tournament.

Aria decided to institute a rule that after each level (8-handed levels), every table would wait until every other table was done before advancing to the next level. At first, every player was quite relieved that the problems from Golden Nugget were going to be addressed – the problem, however, was that Aria’s rule appeared to be a classic example of an over-correction, and ended up causing an unintended consequence – specifically, that the tournament ended up going on FOREVER.

The tournament started at 5PM and did not end until well into the morning – and it only ended because the final 5 agreed to chop. Many players played well into the night and were still well short of the bubble. Having to wait for that one slow table to finish up had value, but also meant the fast tables ended up waiting at the end of each level for the other tables to finish. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Even with 8-handed levels as opposed to 4-handed levels, it ended up becoming just a battle of who was able to maintain focus and concentration with so much downtime and waiting in-between levels.

Further compounding the problem was there was no real way to determine exactly how much longer the people who had finished a Level would have to wait. For example, when I finished Level 2, we were the second to last table to finish – 30 seconds later, we moved to the next level. However, after Level 3, we waited 5 minutes – this was in itself not horrible, but it was unclear whether it would be 30 seconds or 5 minutes. This was the problem. Especially for the fastest tables, they would finish their 8 hands, and then not know if they had enough time to go get food, go to the bathroom, go make a phone call, or whether they just had to sit there because the next level would start within the minute. Waiting 5 minutes when you know it’s 5 minutes is much more tolerable than waiting 5 minutes when you have no idea whether it will be 2 minutes or 10 minutes – specifically because if you know how much time you have, you can figure out what you want to do with said downtime.

That, moreso than the actual waiting, was what frustrated players the most – they had to stand around doing nothing because they didn’t know exactly how much longer the level would go on, because no one could tell them which table was the slowest and what hand they were on. Perhaps if each table had a easily visible scorecard so that the finished players could see where the non-finished tables were at, or perhaps if some of the breaks included a guaranteed extra few minutes – such as “the break will be 2 minutes after the last table finishes”, allowing players to better plan the downtime, then the waiting wouldn’t have been so painful. As it was, players spent many a time in the doldrums, waiting and waiting as the tournament dragged on and on. One never expected to use the word doldrums in a poker tournament review, but nonetheless, it’s absolutely the right word for what happened.

That said, the rule did serve the actual purpose for which it was instituted – the tables stayed at the same level across the board, never jumping ahead or falling behind another table. In this regard, the rule was an astounding success in ensuring a more fair tournament for every player, as no one had to fear being sent to a table way ahead or way behind the level that their previous table had just been at. In that regard, it was perfectly clear that Aria had the right idea, the rule just was too strong and went too far. The concept was clearly a good idea – making the fast tables wait for the slower tables to catch up – it just couldn’t be as often and the waiting times as indeterminate as they were during Aria’s tournament.

Otherwise, the tournament was run amazingly well. The staff did an excellent job, and the dealers were much more knowledgeable about Open Face than the dealers at Golden Nugget. The scoring system was a fairly standard system – trips were progressive, as opposed to 20, and trips in the middle weren’t worth anything, but the basic system of 2/4/6/10/15/25 for the back, double in the middle, and 6s being worth 1 point up to Aces being worth 9 points was in play – none of Golden Nugget’s silly top rules where Tens were 1 point and Jacks 5 points. Also, humorously, when Aria announced that Royalties did not trump (as they did at GN), there was a rousing ovation given by the players (just in case anyone had any thoughts that the players preferred having royalties trumped).

Aria also did a good job making sure they got alternates into the tournament, so that everyone who wanted to had a chance to participate. The staff there deserves a lot of credit, and although the tournament was excessively long, that can be chalked up to over-zealousness by the staff in ensuring that the tables stayed at the same levels to ensure a fair playing field for all. As I’ve noted before, Open Face Tournaments are entirely new, so there will always be hiccups along the way – problems will arise, rules and procedures will be introduced to counter the problems, and sometimes those rules/procedures will have unforeseen consequences that also need to be addressed. Ultimately, people will figure out what works best and the tournaments will get better. Aria’s tournament showed that something should be done to ensure the tables are at similar levels – but whatever that “something” is, it can’t be TOO powerful or TOO strict, as that ends up making the tournament feel like, you guessed it, the doldrums.

Here are two pictures from the tournament: