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:

 

“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/.

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 (www.openfaceodds.com) 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 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

“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.