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:

 

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/.

“2 v. 1” – Canadian Criss-Cross?

One thing that I’ve never been able to figure out is why I don’t like Criss-Cross all that much. I like 4-handed games just as much as 3-handed games (and prefer 3 & 4 handed to traditional heads up), and the common complaint about 4-handed games – that they are “too much information, almost overwhelming with all the cards that are out in play” has never really been a concern for me – maybe if it was a double deck game with 8 players, then it would be, but just 3 other players to track and 39 other cards in total has always been routine to me.

But for whatever reason, I do feel that Criss-Cross is “too much”, and feel it’s simply overwhelming and over-the-top with how many cards are out there. I have no idea why but for some reason I don’t have the complaint in 4-handed games, but I do feel the way many others also feel when it comes to Criss-Cross. I’m guessing I’m the only one who feels that way about Criss-Cross and not traditional 4 handed, but I know there are many who feel that way about both.

But I also find traditional heads up to be boring, particularly live. So when a player or two steps away or leaves and 2 people are waiting for another player, I’ve found playing heads up to kill the time to be a very poor game to accomplish the task. Which is why I’ve found that a variant I will take claim as the “founder” serves as the perfect middle ground between traditional heads up and criss-cross – I call it “2 v 1”.

As its name implies, one player will be playing 2 hands, the other player plays 1 hand. Following traditional Chinese rules, the button will play 2 hands, however, because this game is often played in short intervals of 1 or 2 hands in-between 3/4 handed games, you can’t let the button have such a huge advantage that it would not be fair to the other player if you played just one hand, since then 1 of the 2 players will have played a button hand and not an OOP hand. So instead, you make the button play the UTG hand & the button hand, with the other player playing the hand in-between. So Player A is button, Player B is his opponent. Player A is dealt a left hand card then Player B is dealt a card, then player A is dealt a right hand card, repeat 4 more times for 5 cards to each hand. A then sets his left-hand (the UTG one), without looking at his right-hand, then B sets his hand, the A sets his right hand (the button). Play continues in the same manner. B’s hand is scored versus both of A’s hands. Then button moves to player B.

This way if you only get to play 1 hand, the person who is the button will have only gained a marginal edge, but not a huge one as he also has to play the worst position of the 3 hands (setting his hand first with no information), so it’s not a big deal if you only play 1 hand as the middle hand will not have gotten screwed by not playing his button.

The one thing is that Fantasyland is treated a little differently. Regardless of whether you got to Fantasyland from the button (1 of your 2 hands got QQ+), or from the OOP hand, Fantasyland reverts to a 1 on 1 heads up situation – the player in FL is dealt a normal FL hand, and the player facing FL is dealt out a normal 5-card start, 1 card at a time runout. This is to prevent having issues over the player with 2 hands potentially knowing 13 cards (which greatly helps his other hand), and issues over whether a player who gets to FL from OOP then gets a FantasyLand against 2 hands of the opponent. Instead, FL just goes back to 1 on 1, all staying in FL rules apply, as well as rules allowing the player facing FL to go to FantasyLand.

Once FL is over, you move the button and go back to the 2 v. 1 set-up.

One thing I have found about this format is that it gets you a big benefit of criss-cross (more hands, more action, more payouts, more gambool) without the huge downside that comes from playing criss-cross (massively slower game, overwhelming amounts of information). Anyone who has played 4-handed and 3-handed knows this from those two games – 3 handed moves A LOT faster than 4 handed, and 2 v. 1 moves A LOT faster than Criss-Cross.

So try it sometime, for those who find criss-cross to be frustrating, but want more action than standard heads up games. So far, virtually everyone who I introduced 2v1 as an alternative to Criss-Cross when we play Heads Up games has said that they find 2v1 to be a superior game because the difference in the length of time it takes to play a full hand and score all 4 hands in Criss-Cross versus the length of time in 2v1 is astronomical, but at the same time 2v1 offers enough of an increase in action versus standard HU that pretty much the consensus is that 2v1 offers all of the good parts of Criss-Cross and none of the bad parts.

The only thing left is to come up with a better name than 2v1. The only thing I was thinking was Canadian Criss-Cross (referring to Canadian Doubles in tennis when 2 players play against 1 player), or just Canadian for short. So I’d name the game “Canadien OFC”; but if someone out there has a better name for the game, please let me know.

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.

Personal Thoughts on OFC Royalties Part II – The Actual Proposal

Back Sub-Hand:

Straight 2, Flush 4, Full House 6, Quads 10, Straight Flush 15, Royal Flush 25

Middle Sub-Hand:

NO BONUS FOR TRIPS, Straight 5, Flush 10, Full House 15, Quads 20, Straight Flush 30, Royal Flush 50.

Top Sub-Hand:

Pair of Twos to Sixes: 1 pt, Sevens 2, Eights 3, Nines 4, Tens 5, Jacks 6, Queens 7, Kings 9, Aces 13, Trips 20.

Fantasyland at QQ+ up top, with a 14-card fantasy land for AA or Trips. For 4-player games, I do acknowledge this requires either shuffling a card back into the deck or somehow the discarded card being played on a certain street, and would welcome suggestions on how to best make that work while still allowing the new standard of “player sets his FL away from the table” to be the way FL is played.

Shoot The Moon: 20 Point Royalty + you do not payout any points for being scooped (or losing 2 out of 3), if you successfully play Q-high or worse in the back and 8-high in the middle.

In the next few days I will be writing posts that address each of the proposed changes – the 0 pts for trips in the middle, the increased bonuses for Straight/Flush, the increased bonuses for middle hands in general, the small pair up top bonus, the increased bonus for Kings and Aces, and the shoot the moon bonus.

Personal Thoughts on OFC Royalties Part I – Overview

I’ve often been asked what Royalty system I think is best – and since I happen to be addicted to the game, I often ponder the question myself even without being prompted to do so. First, it must be stressed that there is no “right” answer. There may be an industry standard, but there is certainly no “right” answer; just like how the the NBA uses 4 12-minute quarters and College Basketball is 2 20-minute halves, what royalties one consider “best” come down to personal beliefs as to what best balances the competing interests.

What, exactly, are those interests? There are three core elements of the game – properly setting a hand (not fouling), having relatively better sub-hands than one’s opponents, and making royalties. If we didn’t have royalties, then there would be no incentive to go for a big sub-hand once you have guaranteed yourself a relatively stronger sub-hand than your opponent; if three of a kind on its own is good enough in the back, there is no reason to go for a full house, thereby turning the last two spots in the back into throwaway cards. Although such a game would be interesting in the abstract, it likely would become boring fairly quickly. That is why Royalties are so important – they add a significant incentive to go for a big hand, even at risk of fouling, and thereby increase the overall complexity and excitement to the game. However, the bonuses do not simply exist to add excitement; this key concept appears lost on a lot of people. It is certainly true that one of the big reasons that the game has become so popular is the bonuses for big sub-hands that one gets, however, this does not mean that the royalties should be viewed simply as a way to make the game exciting; the royalties exist to offer incentives to aim for big hands – the fact that they make the game exciting and fun to play arises out of that principle.

Therefore, since royalties exist to provide incentive to go for big hands – the most optimal royalty structure is one that structures the payouts proportional to the risk one takes (either of fouling or of not having good sub-hands in the other two rows) in going for such a hand. The only caveat is that the reward cannot be so great as to warp gameplay as to make the game ONLY about such a bonus. To borrow an example from sports, if the NBA awarded 10-points for shots from beyond the arc, the result would be too much emphasis on shooting jumpers from beyond the arc, if one gave a bonus of 100 points for Quads in the back, people would treat the front and middle sub-hands as nothing more than 8 throwaway spots to put cards that didn’t help them have quads in the back. To continue with the example, the compromise the NBA reached was that they rewarded long-range jumpers with one additional point – to the league, this was enough of an incentive to be worth the added risk of a higher percentage of missed shots, without offering such a huge incentive as to turn the game into nothing but shooting shots from beyond the arc.

Now, for the truly rare royalties – the ones that require a very specific set of circumstances to even contemplate “going for it” in the first place (a Royal Flush in the back would be the best example) the aforementioned problem is not a huge issue. It’s impossible to turn the game into a “Going for the Royal Flush competition”.

However, a secondary problem emerges – namely, that if the payout is so massive for such a hand in an attempt to reflect the rarity of both the circumstances and the successful completion, the occassional “blind luck stumble” into such a hand creates such a massive swing that it can essentially destroy one player’s massive point-lead built over many hands. Yes, luck in theory evens out, so this is not a paticularly big issue – over time, both players will have the same “blind luck stumble” into a hand so the swings will even out, but going back to the NBA example, would people really find it fair if there was a rule that awarded 25 points for a 3/4rs-court length shot (to encourage trying such extremely tough shots), and then a team that has thoroughly outplayed for an entirely game and is down 25 oints with 30 seconds to go, launch one full court hail-mary, sink it, tie the game up? Even though the rules were designed to award a significant number of points to incentivize a player to take such a low percentage shot, most people would find such a huge swing to be “unfair”. Turning back to Open Face Chinese – while there are entirely valid reasons to make a Royal Flush worth 50 or 75 points in the back (to incentivize a player to pass over flush cards in an attempt to hit a royal), the flip side is that such a huge bonus can also result in an inferior player being thoroughly outplayed for the entire session and then hitting a royal by pure dumb luck and wiping out the entire night’s worth of victories for the superior player. Thus, the incentive for going for a big hand cannot be SO huge that it introduces too much random swings based on who happened to stumble into a super rare royalty that night.

So what does this all mean? Simply put, Open Face Chinese Royalties have to be analyzed under the rubric of being proportional to the risk inherent in going for such a hand, both in potentially fouling one’s hand, and in neglecting to build strong sub-hands in the other two rows,  while at the same time not being so large as to pervert overall gameplay by placing too much emphasis on achieving the royalty in question or by being able to single-handedly swing the results of the game from one side to the other based on nothing more than pure chance. And yes, I fully acknowledge that the preceding paragraph is about as dorky, academic and “lawyer-y” as one can be when trying to describe Open Face Chinese Royalty rules.

Admittedly, there are certain areas, such as Straights and Flushes in the middle, where I am not quite sure what is the best royalty payout – I believe it should be greater than it is but I don’t quite know yet how much “greater” it should be. I welcome any opinions on such issues. On the other hand, there are other areas where I feel my proposed royalty guide below is quite good and entirely defensible, and I plan to write such defenses and post them on this blog (I still welcome any opinions on these issues as well, please let me know what you think on any of these royalty ideas, whether positive or negative – vegasopenface@gmail.com).

So, now that I’ve most likely thoroughly bored you, the reader, allow me to move on to Part II – my actual proposed Royalty set, and then get into articles on why I think certain royalties should be certain payouts.