Golden Nugget 6/6 2014 OFC Tournament

A full review of the Golden Nugget’s June 6th OFC Tournament will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, check out the following gallery of the action, including a picture of yours truly taking down first place after defeating Jon “PearlJammer” Turner in Heads Up Play.

Review: Wynn Fall 2013 Tournament

This post is admittedly quite overdue, as it is currently the summer of 2014, and the topic here is a OFC tournament ran in the Fall of 2013. But I feel I should still post it because the Wynn deserves credit for a well-run tournament that included FantasyLand. They were the first casino (that I know of) to include FantasyLand and although there were a few hiccups along the way, they deserve a lot of credit for making the tournament run as well as it did. 

Because it was so long ago, I will not do a full review, but rather I will simply take note of the most important takeaways from the tournament. First, here was the rule sheet handed out: Rules for Wynn OFC Event

The first thing to note is how they did FantasyLand. I think this is the best way to do it in a tournament style, as the casual “turn around and set hand while the others play out the hand” can lead to all sorts of angles and potential conflict and IMO isn’t an option in a tournament. The way the Wynn did it was that all four (or 3) players would recieve their 5 cards as normal, and then the player would recieve the next 8 off the deck (as normal), then he would get 2 minutes to set his hand (no one else would do anything) face down. Once set, the others would play out the hand as normal. Although this does create some dead time, it’s the fairest way to do it. It was not mentioned in the rules but it was probably the best way to do it, and it was very well enforced.

The second takeaway was the Wynn’s solution to questions of table balance, speed of play (some tables being many hands ahead of other tables), tables being way ahead level wise, some tables being 2-handed while others were 4-handed, and other assorted issues that are created when one tries to run an OFC tournament – the Wynn simply had a floorman actively monitoring every table for speed of play, unbalanced tables and other potential issues, and actively moving players from one table to the other to kep the tournament as fair as possible, both in terms of balancing tables by number, and also simply adjusting a slow-moving table and a fast-moving table by swapping a randomly chosen seat at each table to get a faster player to the slow table and a slower player to the fast table. Typically I am against the idea of giving a person or two the broad and vaguely defined ability to act in the “best interests” of an event due to the inheret subjectiveness and lack of explcit/objective guidelines. However, particularly in the case of OFC tournaments where new issues can arise and it’s not entirely clear what’s the optimal way to run things, it isn’t neccessarily a bad idea, provided the floorman in question knows what he’s doing, and it’s spelled out in advance that he has the authority and will use as such. I’ve spoke highly of the staff at the Wynn before, and I will do so again here – they are fair, honest and quite good at their jobs so giving one of their floormen subjective authority to make sure the tournament is run fairly is perfectly fine because the staff have a pretty damn good idea what they’re doing. The problem would arise if a tournament run by people who don’t have an idea what they’re doing try to emulate the Wynn’s policies. So although I’m not sure the Wynn’s policy of “have a floorman with a brain actively monitor the tournament” is the long-term solution to how to run an OFC tournament, it certainly was a short-term solution that proved quite effective.

Now for some pictures from the event:


Room Review: Orleans

I’ve always been impressed with Orleans. In general, most poker rooms either near the strip (Palms, Hard Rock, some of the Stations Casinos for example) or on the strip but not one of the “big” casinos (Harrah’s, Quad, Luxor, Treasure Island) seem to believe that either they can compete with the big boys (by big boys, I mean Aria/Wynn/Venetian/Bellagio, arguably MGM & Caesars) or that how the big boys run a room should equal how they run a room. By that I mean that because 1/2 NL is the bread & butter of the big rooms, the nearby rooms are going to try to fight in that marketplace. They’ll also fight for the low limit (2-4/3-6/4-8) hold ’em crowd.

Orleans essentially realized that you can’t beat the Yankees by outspending them. Instead, you make a room that puts an absolute hammerlock on the market outside of NLHE and Low-Limit Hold ‘Em. While they do run those games, that’s not the Orleans’ Bread-n-Butter. No, what makes their room is that they’re pretty much the best place for low to mid-stakes Omaha-8, Stud, Stud-8, and all the other non-HE games. I believe they’re the only place in town that runs a HORSE tournament. Orleans realized that they can’t compete with the big boys for 1/2 NLHE, because the combination of location/name recognition/tourist traffic that the top rooms have is simply unbeatable. But what they can do is instead focus their energy

Right now, for example, at 12:20 PM on a random Wednesday in September, they’ve got 2 tables running of 4-8 Omaha 8 or better. No room on the Strip besides Aria, Venetian, Wynn, and randomly, the Flamingo, have more than 2 tables running. Orleans has more than just those two tables, but my point is that instead of making their main focus trying to siphon off of the big room’s edges (I hope that metaphor actually makes sense), the Orleans went for the marketplace that the big rooms ignore – the non-Hold ’em Market. And the results are clear – they’re the most successful off-strip room, bar none.

So it only makes sense that the Orleans would be a perfect fit for Open Face Chinese – their strategy is to get the games that the Strip doesn’t go after, and OFC is exactly that. I’m actually a bit surprised they haven’t done more to go AFTER the OFC crowd, but simply willing to offer a very good rake ($5+$5, regardless of stakes) is far beyond most places.
There are a few negatives, although one negative is countered. First, the dealers there have had some issues. Most of the dealers are fairly “veteran”/”experienced” dealers, who are not very comfortable dealing new games, and don’t really adapt well. I’ve seen a lot of dealers struggle with some concepts – I understand that the first time you deal FantasyLand, it may be a bit confusing, but I’ve seen dealers routinely mess it up, time after time, and make no attempt to get better or to learn. I’ve seen dealers refuse to adopt some of the things that the players, or the floormen, have suggested to speed the game up, because the dealers in question are stubbornly dead-set in their ways and how they believe things should be run – for example, at the Orleans (and almost everywhere) if a card among the initial deal flips up by accident, the players just treat it as an accident and continue going, the card is not burned or replaced. One dealer refused to accept this and called the floorman to verify – I can understand that. But all four players asked the dealer to continue dealing out WHILE waiting for the floor to come over because the floormen were busy on another table – the dealer steadfastly refused. That is a problem, because that’s time wasted in what is already a slow game that is time-raked. I understand needing to call the floor, but continue the hand while the floor comes over, particularly something as simple as the deal, and particularly when all four players are in agreement.

The worst part was when the floor told the dealer we were right, and also in general to keep the game going while the floor is called over (something I give the floor credit for), that same dealer had a later issue where he refused to let the game continue until the floor came over.

Now I know any room has bad dealers, but it just seems that Orleans has the highest number of dealers who simply cannot understand or cannot learn Open Face. The floormen are great, and many dealers are perfectly fine, but I cannot write a room review without acknowledging that negative.

The other negative is the lack of foot traffic around the room; specifically, the lack of tourist traffic. Orleans is not a Strip Casino – it’s just not going to have nearly as many random passer-bys intrigued by the game. What made Venetian and Palms so great, and what makes MGM okay, simply does not exist at Orleans. It’s a huge problem because while it’s a great place to play Open Face, you’re not going to get new blood, at least in regards to tourists or random passer-bys or random poker amateurs playing 1/2 NL at a nearby table. On the flip side, because you have so many mixed game veterans, so many Omaha 8 or Stud players, you DO get a decent number of older players who see this game, have heard something about it (or know what normal Chinese Poker is), and want to add it to their repertoire as they fancy themselves experts in everything poker that’s not NLHE. The problem is that those types of people aren’t typically the ones who will just jump right in, or even ones who will jump right in at lower stakes, rather, they’re going to have to contemplate the game for a while before joining. I’ve only seen 3 people actually legitimately see the game and give it a try, far below even what MGM has gotten in terms of new players. Maybe I’m being too stereotypical, and said old people will actually start playing the game. But to me, it’s just as important that a room be a good place to get new players – it’s not just enough for 4 OFC regulars to play a $10/pt game or a $5/pt game somewhere, the game, like any poker game or the entire poker community, needs a constant influx of new blood, otherwise it just becomes a few people fighting for a dwindling amount of money.

Rules: Orleans uses 222 = 10 pts, 333 = 11 pts, upwards to AAA = 22pts as the Top Royalty. Trips in the middle are worth 2. They are very good about letting players turn around in FantasyLand to set their hand, while letting the other players play out the hand. Rake is $5+$5 (half for house, half for dealer) regardless of stakes.

OFC Complete Hand Video #3 – Pineapple Action!

So for my third OFC video, I wanted to showcase the Pineapple variant of Open Face Chinese. A quick refresher – Pineapple is a 2 or 3-person version of OFC where, after playing the initial 5 the same way as normal OFC, each player is dealt 3 cards instead of 1 on each street and starting with UTG, each player plays 2 of the 3, and discards the 3rd face down. Since each street involves playing 2 cards, there are only 4 streets during the run-out as opposed to 8. And since each player ends up seeing 17 cards, there will be 1 card left over, and obviously the maximum number of players is 3.

FantasyLand rules are a little bit different – a player in FantasyLand receives 14 cards, not 13, and discards 1 while playing the other 13 as normal. Also, a Full House in the Middle does not entitle one to stay in FantasyLand. Finally, due to the fact that it is much easier to successfully play QQ up top in Pineapple-OFC, some people switched the minimum threshold to enter FantasyLand to KK up top. And still others, including myself, believe that is still too easy given how strong hands are in Pineapple-OFC, and believe the best rule for FantasyLand is to set the minimum at AA+. And some people still prefer the rules to stay at QQ+, and just accept that Pineapple-OFC features a lot more FantasyLand hands. Also, I think one possible rule could be that QQ entitles you to a 13-card FantasyLand (the same as normal Open Face), but KK entitles you to a 14-card hand, and AA+ entitles you to a 15-card FantasyLand (discarding 2 cards).

The video that I am going to analyze comes from MGM Grand, where a good friend of mine named Martin, my wife, and I were waiting for the fourth player to arrive for a $5/pt normal OFC game that we had set-up. So, in the meantime, the three of us were playing $3/pt pineapple (due to the much heavier swings and variance caused by the much bigger hands and royalties made in the Pineapple variation, I highly recommend playing for much smaller stakes at OFC-Pineapple as compared to whatever one normally plays for in standard OFC). We had agreed to make AA+ the minimum for FantasyLand. I’m first to act, then my wife, then Martin. So without further ado:

I’m going to try a different format for analyzing and breaking down the hand. Open Face Odds ( has a page called “The Sandbox”, that allows a person to move cards around amongst the 13 slots for each of 4 sub-hands, and also now has a space for comments. So, what I will do is for each player’s move, add their cards to a running picture of the entire hand, and then use the comment section on the right hand side as the place where my individual thoughts on the play in question will be displayed. This will make the actual post on this blog much shorter and more manageable. Please let me know what you guys think about doing the video analysis this way. And again, thank you to Open Face Odds for allowing me to use the Sandbox webpage and take screenshots. Also, remember that I will know my OWN discards, but not what the other two players have discarded, so any attempts to analyze their play comes with the understanding that they have knowledge and information that I am not privy to that may have fundamentally altered how they (or I) would approach the play in question.

As always, all comments and suggestions are welcome. Hope you guys enjoy it.

The Deal: I go first and get a nice 3-club combination. Allison picks up a potential Flush/Flush spot (and in Pineapple-OFC, Flush/Flush happens frequently enough that it’s vital to not ignore such possibilities), and Martin plays two-pair rather conservatively.

The First Pull: I get no help at all, but do throw an Ace up top and there are no other Aces out there. FantasyLand has become a possibility. Allison gets a nasty comnbination that turns her hand into a very high-risk, high-reward hand – flush/straight/big pair is entirely plausible, as is bricking out everything and fouling or playing pair/K-high/K-high. Martin’s hand gets even stronger. Also, yes, for some reason Martin’s 6 of Diamonds vanished from the picture intended to be my first play.

The Second Pull: Well, I don’t have much else going for me at this point – if I don’t pull the trigger and go for glory, I could easily end up with pair/pair/A-high, and that’s rarely good enough in Pineapple. So, no guts, no glory. At least it gets to be exciting – let’s see if I get there. Allison slowly inches towards making her hand, but is beginning to run out of time. Martin makes his boat in the back, and is live for a full house in the middle, and also running Aces up top for FantasyLand if he picks up a second pair in the middle.

The Third Pull: Well I abandon my flush draw, and turn my back hand into a draw to 2 big pair or Trips, and I get a key card (a 3) giving me two small pair in the middle to cover my Aces up top. Now it’s down to getting a T, 9 or 5. There are a bunch of those left – one T, one 9, and 3 5’s! Allison finishes her straight, picks up a 4th spade so she’s got her own monster or foul potential hand here, and Martin finally has a round where he doesn’t improve – and given what else has been played, his hand is pretty much set in stone at this point.

Ending: Do I make it? Does Allison make it? Or do we both foul, giving Martin a nice 12-point hand (6 for scoop,  6 for the full house)…I won’t tell you here!

Conclusion: Allison fouls, Martin has Boat/66/9-high….and I bink a 5 to make my hand legal, which means one key thing – I’m going to the Land! Points: I scoop Allison (she fouls), and I get a 9 point royalty, so +15. I win 2 out of 3 from Martin (his full house beats my two pair in the back) and have a 9 point royalty, but he has a 6 point royalty, so in total he owes me 4 points. Martin gets 12 points from Allison’s foul (scoop + full house royalty).

Yes, I am enough of a jackass to put up a video of me making FantasyLand while taking my wife to the cleaners in Open Face Chinese, as she fouls at the same time. I’ll probably be on the couch for a month, but let’s be honest, it’s worth it.

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.

Room Review Edit: Palms Gets Greedy, Ends Up Shooting Itself in the Foot

When Venetian first decided to jack up the rake for Open Face Chinese to absurd amounts, under the misguided notion that they can consistently fill their room with full-ring games, Palms swooped right in. I praised the Palms’ ability to understand their position within the Vegas Poker Scene – although I’m sure they’d like their 8-table room to be consistently packed with 1/2 or 2/5 No Limit Games getting 20 hands of max rake each 1/2 hr (like Aria is able to do with their 24-table room), the reality of the situation is that Palms often faces an entirely empty room or a room with 1 2/4 Limit Game filled with jackpot/high hand chasers who don’t build the pot enough to hit max rake consistently.

Palms realized that offering Open Face Chinese at a reasonable rake was preferable to no games at all, and probably preferable to the 2/4 limit games that they currently run as well.

At least I thought they did. Apparently not. Or apparently they got greedy. Or they wanted to believe they belong with the big boys like Aria and Venetian (who rake $15+5 per 1/2 hour), Palms decided to jack up the rake as well, just one month after they had made the conscious decision to try to establish themselves as the place to play Open Face Chinese Poker in Las Vegas. Their new rake was $10+5 per 1/2 hr for $2/pt, and $15+5 per 1/2 hr for $5/pt.

And by the very next day, the games were gone. The room was getting 2 or 3 games a night each night, and within a day, any Open Face Chinese Poker action at Palms was dead. I have not seen a single game of Open Face Chinese Poker run at Palms since they jacked up the rake, and I don’t forseee a game running there ever again unless they decide to bring the rake back down – there are rooms that offer reasonable rake (MGM and Orleans, rooms I will be reviewing shortly). Alongside the lack of cash games, the weekly Open Face tournament at Palms is a goner as well.

I still do not understand why Palms did it. Yes, Open Face Chinese Poker is not as profitable a game as a full ring 1/2 No Limit Table or other full ring poker games. But the game is still a profitable one to run for a casino – so why Palms would rather have empty tables and empty rooms as opposed to nights where there were 5 or 6 tables of OFC games going – I simply do not know. And I’m sure whatever reason they would give would be absurd.

Palms had a chance to be the epicenter of OFC Cash Games in Las Vegas – but I guess they’d rather just have their 8-table room sit with 6-7 empty tables, and 1-2 2/4 Limit Games with 8 nits chasing high hand jackpots all day.

Thankfully there are still rooms that reconigze that an OFC game is better than no game for a poker room. MGM and Orleans still run low stakes OFC games, from $2 to $10/pt, at very reasonable rakes. I will be posting room reviews shortly for each room.

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: 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.


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:


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.