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 #1, w/ Part 2 of the “Exhaustive” Breakdown and Analysis

This hand was taken from the OFC Tournament on 7/19 at the Palms Casino. They are down to the Final Four players (out of 20 entrants), and the Top 2 will be paid.

Pauly is the “loquacious” player on the far left – people may know him as @WPTSEUSS on Twitter. To his left is Dan (@Nutcicles), then Jon Turner (@PearlJammed) is the guy in the middle so addicted to OFC he’s playing someone on his iPad while playing at the final table of this tournament. On the far right is Mark, I’m not sure if he has a Twitter handle, so if someone knows it, please contact me and I will edit this post. Note: FantasyLand was not in play for this tournament.

So continuing where I left out, I had completed an exhaustive analysis of the set-ups of each player (probably too exhaustive). So now we’re on to 6th street. Before we continue, let’s visualize where we’re at:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 7♠
Middle 8T♠ T♦ Q9♠ 2♦2
Bottom K77 J55♠ 543 T98

So let’s get to the run-out, which starts right around 0:47 of the video, which again is this:

6th Street:

Pauly: He gets the 4. No reason to abandon the full-house draw, and it’s a live card under his back-pair (meaning he can pair it in the middle without any fear of fouling). It has no real value up top because 4s aren’t a royalty. No real analysis is needed – snap play it in the middle, which he does.

Dan: 8. Given that he’s already got one spot up top, to throw another fairly dead card up there would severly hamper his ability to develop his midle and top because he’d only have one spot left up top. It also would mean he’s got 2-outs (a 7 and an 8) that would really screw his hand up because he wouldn’t want to pair them up top. So although this is a fairly dead card, it makes sense to play it in the middle, which he does.

Jon: 4♠. This is where I differ from a lot of people, Jon included. He puts it in back to pair his 4s, with the idea of going two-pair in the back, Queens or Nines in the middle and smaller pair (or Ace-High) up top. It’s not a horrible plan, but to me, and maybe I’m more gambooly than most, or maybe I’m more used to 4-handed games where you have full information and thus can see if you’re still fairly live for whatever royalty draw you set up, if you set up three to a straight, and nothing significant has changed, I don’t see why you want to abandon it so early for just a pair of 4s – it doesn’t even take the lead in back. Now Jon clearly thinks about this for a while. The angry clacking of his chips suggests that he really didn’t want to break up the draw this early, or maybe he’s just that way all the time, who knows. He then plays with the card while still trying to figure out whether to abandon or not. Perhaps he decided that seeing the pair of 2s in Mark’s hand is enough to determine that he’s no longer live enough for his straight draw – I disagree, as all 6s are live, there are still 2 2’s, and all the Aces are live, but I could see that argument as well. Or perhaps he just wants to play this hand super safe, and with 4s & 3s still entirely live, he feels he has a good chance to hit 2-pair/Trips and then with a 100% live Q in the middle he can take a commanding lead in the middle and perhaps even get a royalty pair up top (like 6s or Jacks). I personally would have put it in the middle as it’s still a fairly live card to pair in the middle, and I still want to wait a few streets for my straight draw. And if you asked Jon, he probably was evenly split as to which path to chose, or at least very close to evenly split.

Mark: T. Same situation here as with Jon – if I set up three to a straight I’m going to want to give it a few streets, particularly if nothing new has changed (and unlike Jon, none of the straight outs have been played since Mark set his hand). On the other hand, Mark was nowhere near as live as Jon in the back, with 7s being mostly dead, so abandoning this straight draw makes a lot more sense to me. It’s also why I wouldn’t have played the straight draw in the back initially. If he had started 229 like I would have, I would have suggested he pair the T in the middle, given how he’s still very live (he has both 2s and all 3 9s left). Given his set-up, I agree pairing the back is the right play here as I am worried about the straight draw given the scarcity of 7s. And given how quickly he played it, he probably started the hand with the mindset that he would be willing to break up the straight draw if any of his pair cards come out first. That’s a fine play heads up, but I don’t like it 4-handed as royalties become that much more valuable (a scoop of 1 player only means points from him, but a royalty gets paid by all 3 players, so a straight is worth just as much as a scoop of 1 player).

7th Street:

Paul: 3♦. An annoying card because it’s still fairly live, meaning that if you play it up top you may end up getting another 3 before you pair the middle, but at the same time, most players, myself included, do not like to commit a 4th card in the middle (leaving only one spot left) before playing a single card up top (again, it has to do with being able to maneuver, when you get down to one spot left in a row, your maneuverability is severely hampered). Either play is “icky”; Pauly recognizes this, hence his hesitation and visible frustration – Pauly is definitely an animated person and I will say there’s pretty much no one else who can manage to make it fun to watch him play even cards he doesn’t like (and not for schadenfreude reasons, rather just for standard enjoyment and humor).

Dan: K. You could argue throwing it up top and hoping that one of the four aces will come to “cover” it in the middle, but that seems foolish to me because K-high may not be that useful up top with those same aces potentially available to other players to make A-high up top. Plus, the K is live and if you throw it up top you could potentially pick up another K and then again have another tough spot. Just like the 8, this goes in the middle, which is what Dan does.

Jon: 5♦. Obviously once you’ve abandoned the straight draw in the back, which he did, it makes sense to also play this card in the back for 2-pair. If he hadn’t abandon the straight draw, it would be more interesting as the question would be whether he should still hold out for the draw, but given that he played the 4 in the back last street, this play is obvious – lock up 2 pair in the back and hope for a Q or a 9 in the middle to take the lead there.

Mark: 6♦. If he had played for the straight, this would be an absolute mess of a card as if you played it in the back you’d now have a 1-out gutshot, which can be easily described as a horrible spot to be in (particularly because you’d have Tens in the middle). With his current hand, the middle makes the most sense as it’s still a fairly live card, and you can pair it safely since you’ve got Tens in the back. If I was setting up the hand, I would throw it up top and try to pair it there for the 1pt royalty – so my hand so far would be 6/TT8/229.

So after 7th street, here’s where we’re at:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 3 7♠
Middle 8T♠4 T8K Q9♠ 226
Bottom K7c7 J55♠ 5434♠5 T98T

8th Street:

Pauly: 2♠. Another annoying card for Pauly, as now he either has to play a fairly dead card in the middle as his 4th card (drastically limiting his options for the remainder of the hand), or commit to 3-2 up top with one card to go. Further complicating the situation is that Tens are now entirely dead, there’s only one 8 left, and only one 4 left, meaning for him to pair the middle, he likely needs a live card to go in the next slot and then pair that card to close the hand out. Although the deuce does have 1 live out left, I think he did the right thing in throwing it up top, although to be quite honest, both spots suck. And in case anyone is wondering, no, playing it in the back makes no sense either, you’re still live for a full-house (albeit with only 1-outers for both the 7 & K), and throwing a 1-out left deuce doesn’t make any sense.  I like playing it up top and praying for a live card, pairing the 8 or the 4, or two of the still entirely live aces (to allow me to go A-high, A-lesser-high. The one thing about the deuce up top is that you’re severely hindering any chance of scooping people by doing so, and Pauly audibly notes as such later on when he talks about how he’s got to figure out something to win the top sub-hand.

Dan: 6♣. Another very live card (at this point, having 2 pair outs left in the deck can be classified as very live, , so he’s got the same dilemna he’s had with each previous card. I agree with playing it up top, the theory being if you do pair the Jack (which is still entirely live), you can hit a pair of 8s or Ks in the middle and then 7s or 6s up top for the royalty. I can’t fault a player for wanting to play it in the middle, however, with the goal being to pair one of the live cards in the middle and then playing A-high up top (again, all four aces are left). Either way you bank on hitting a live Jack, but at some point, you’ve got to have faith that your live cards will come.

Yes, someone in the nearby sportsbook yelled Boom-Shakalaka. My guess is that he had $20 on an MLB game and someone just went yard to take the lead. And yes, as Pauly points out, that’s the first time any of us have heard that phrase since NBA Jam. I personally loved that game because Ewing was far faster in that game than he was in real life, and Ewing/Starks didn’t have nearly as much trouble with Pippen/Grant as they did with the real Bulls (which unfortunately actually included MJ). But that’s an entirely different subject, and if I continue I’ll end up going off on a tangent about how the Knicks had the Bulls beat in 1993 but freaking Charles Smith couldn’t hit a damn layup…okay, that’s another story. Back to the hand.

Jon: Q♣. Given that the whole point of abandoning the straight draw so quickly was to get 2-pair in the back and then a big pair in the middle (because your Q and 9 were very live), I hope I don’t have to analyze this play. He binks the best card in the deck for his hand – a Queen, and snap pairs it in the middle. Now he’s hoping for running Jacks or running 9s for a royalty up top.

Mark: 9♦. As played, he snap plays it in the back (it’s not like you even can try to wait for 3 of a kind, the Tens are fully dead). This is the best remaining card for his hand, it gives him Tens and Nines in the back, the highest possible remaining hand for him once he paired the Ten (since he did it with the last Ten in the deck). If he had started with my set-up, he’d have 6/TT8/2299, and someone would probably make a snarky comment about how lucky I was to pair the 9 to cover the Tens in the middle.

9th Street:

Pauly: A♣. I think Pauly briefly entertains the idea of playing it up top and hoping another Ace will come in the middle; it’s not a horrible play, you’d have 3 outs (any Ace), plus if you hit 2-pair in the back, you’d have the 8. However, it’s also a risky play, one that doesn’t offer much of a reward because A-high in the middle doesn’t beat 2 of the players (Jon and Mark each have a pair in the middle), and likely won’t beat Dan either (very live pair cards). You’re taking on a risk of fouling for the upside of winning 2 out of 3 from people (Top and Bottom). If the risk offered the reward of scooping players, it may be worth it, which is another reason why it can be justified in the middle – if you do complete 2 pair or Trips in the back, you are also very live for Aces in the middle, giving you a commanding lead in the middle and a very plausible chance to scoop with the best 2-pair, Aces in middle, and something up top that wins (whatever that “something” ends up being). Pauly even talks about this as he finalizes the play – he talks about how he’s going to catch another Ace (“that’ll be good”) and put it up top to jump out to the lead up top over everyone else. That’s his mindset when he plays the Ace in the middle, and it makes sense.

Dan: Q♥. The “nit” play here would be to throw it up top and lock up Q-high. But at this point, Dan’s still got all three Jacks remaining to hit 2-pair (or potentially a full house) in the back, so he sees the Q as having 1 out still left, giving him a chance to also have a pair of Queens in the middle. Given that Q-high up top may not be sufficient (again, three aces still out there), I tend to agree.

Jon: 6♥. Competing points here. On the one hand, there is one 6 left, so it’s not a bad card to play up top, as you can then pair it if you get the last 6, and end up with a 1pt royalty up top (and likely win the top from everyone). On the other hand, you need to close up the middle, because you can’t hit two-pair (Queens & anything would be better than 5s and 4s, Jon’s back hand, thereby meaning he fouls), so in this case, playing a card with only 1-out isn’t as ideal as playing a completely dead card, but at the same time it’s still one more card to completing the middle as just a Pair of Queens. Further, 6s up top isn’t “that” great, there are still 3 Jacks left, so aiming for 6s comes at the cost of having less room to aim for Jacks. I agree throwing it in the middle is the right play, but he better pray he doesn’t hit the case 6.

Mark: 7♦. That’s a comical card. Mark knows it too, he knows that had he followed through on the straight draw and set up for a 1-out gut-shot, it would have hit, miraclously. But with his current set-up, it makes sense to go up top – he’s got more room (3 open slots in the top versus only 2 in the middle) up top and it’s an entirely dead card at this point, no chance of getting another 7. Under my initial set-up, this would go in the middle since it’s entirely dead and has no value to me as 7-high (I already have 6-high), so my hand would be 6/TT87/2299. Side-note: This is also the 5th diamond, so had he set up Diamonds in the back he’d complete the flush and have 4 cards to come to develop the middle and top. This game is a lot easier when played with hindsight.

10th Street:

Paul: K♥. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pauly play a card faster in my life. And I also don’t think I need to waste any more words. Jenga-card for him, gives him two pair in the back, and we’ll move on. Also, poor Pauly laments Mark taking up the last 7, severely limiting his ability to hit a full house.

Dan: 8♠. A classic example of having to trust in your live cards. Here, breaking up the boat draw when all 3 jacks are STILL live is foolish, and giving up the top by playing the 8 there for 8-high is equally foolish. Pair the middle, and just hope a Jack comes. There are 3 of them left. You are 55% to hit a Jack at this point (not to mention you can still go running Aces as well). Yeah, it’s a gamble, but the other alternatives suck. Risk the foul and just have faith your live cards will come. Dan sees it the same way I do.

Jon: J. This is pretty much the best card for his hand – now he’s got two outs to a 6pt Royalty up top. Easiest. Play. Ever.

Mark: 4. It’s a dead card. Outside of running 3s, there’s no way for Mark to improve his middle without “jumping” his back and fouling his hand. So he’s pretty much stuck at Tens Up in the Back, and 2s in the middle. You’ve got two free spots in both the middle and the top, but you also do have to consider that there is one Deuce left in the deck, and that CANNOT go in the middle, so all else equal, you’d rather save your top spots in case you hit a 2. Since there’s really no other value to this card in any way shape or form, it’s going to be a dead spot no matter where you play it, the aforementioned point of keeping the top open as much as possible in case you hit a 2 means that the “right” play is to play it in the middle, but that’s only because there’s simply no other reason to play it in either spot, as either way it’s a dead card and an empty slot. Interestingly enough, in my other set-up, I’d want to play it up top because I don’t want to close out my middle entirely with 2 Jacks and 3 Aces out there to potentially go runner-runner up top to foul (since I only have Tens in the middle, so Jacks or Aces up top would foul me). So I’d have 64/TT87/2299. Also, just to taunt Mark further, he got his 6th Diamond. Techincally he could have just put the 8 of Diamonds in the back with Deuces in the middle and still run out a flush (not exactly an advisable play, but just humorous to think about).

We’ve now finished 10th street, so let’s take a look at the hands:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 32♠ 7♠6 J 7
Middle 8T♠4A T8KQ8♠ Q9♠Q6 2264
Bottom K77K♠ J55♠ 5434♠4 T98T9

Dan’s got the riskiest hand, but also has the best “best-case scenario” (6s/8s/Boat) and also a very good “pretty good scenario” – A-high/8s/Jacks Up probably scoops two players and wins 2 out of 3 from Jon. It just goes to show you how much variance there is – he could easily end up scooping two players, he also has a shot at a full house in the back, but at the same time, if he doesn’t hit one of the two remaining jacks he fouls his hand. Pauly’s got a good set-up if he can get another Ace. Paul, Jon and Mark each have an “ugly” card – a 3 for Paul, a Q for Jon, and a 2 for Mark; each of these cards “has” to go in a slot because it would foul their hand to play it in the other spot.

11th Street:

Pauly: 3♥. I swear I didn’t write the previous paragraph knowing that he’d hit a 3 here. But it’s funny that he does hit the one card that messes his entire hand up. It’s also funny because his scream of agony can’t even be described adequately – if anyone can describe it please let me and Pauly (@WPTSEUSS) know. It’s both incredibly painful and incredibly beautiful to listen to. Over and over. Start at 2:26 and enjoy. Also, Pauly – kudos on the Rage Against the Machine reference, even if you’re using it entirely out of context (I don’t think the band ever wanted their name to stand for the rage one has that you hit the one card in the deck that kills your hand’s potential).

He can play the 3 up top and gamble for one of the 2 remaining aces – if he does hit one of them, he’ll likely scoop everyone with 3s/Aces/Kings Up (Jon is the only question as he can still play Jacks up top); given that he’s 45% to do so, it’s certainly an arguable play. On the other hand, that’s the only way he can cover, as the other cards he has in the middle are all dead. He’s not getting scooped by either Jon or Mark as it currently stands, so if he plays it in the middle and gives up (playing A-high in the middle), even if he also ends up with a losing top hand, he’s at worst only losing 3 points unless Jon hits a Jack for a royalty or Dan goes runner-runner Jacks for a boat. I have a gambling problem so I may go for the scoop here, but it’s certainly quite reasonable to give up the middle because you’re not being scooped anywhere, and if you don’t hit your Ace, you’re going to foul and payout a lot more than if you played the safe way. It’s the classic risk v. reward – gamble or play it safe. I think Pauly would agree that if this was a royalty pair, such as Jacks, he’d gamble for it with 2 Aces left, but 3s on their own just probably aren’t worth it, even if it’s a likely scoop.

Dan: 3♠. Well this card sucks. You can’t play it in the back because it’s dead and doesn’t do anything to help you there, it actually kills your small chance at a full house in the back, and you need a Jack at this point (plus it destroys the potential runner-runner Aces in the back as the other way to not foul). But up top you’ve now got 7-high, which is pretty much guaranteed to finish last up top. Ugh. Dan knows this card sucks, hence why he’s visibly annoyed at drawing this card given that there are Aces still out there, a 6 still out there, two Jacks still out there, and he ends up with the nut-low card for his hand. But he has to just grit it and play it up top for the monster 7-high. Gotta love Pauly’s needle about being able to beat 7-high (which comes on the next street). Oh wait, “The 7-high”. Apparently 7-high is worth giving itself a full title.

Jon: A. I will admit this play seemed quite peculiar to me at first, because I’d normally think you snap play this up top and take a commanding lead of the top hands from everyone else with A-J high. But thankfully Jon doesn’t do that, because he realizes that doing so opens up a whole host of potential backdoor fouls – there’s still a Queen left (which can’t go in the middle for Trips), there’s still a 6 left (which also can’t go in the middle for a better 2 pair than his back), and an Ace left (which can’t go up top since Aces > Queens). So if he plays the Ace up top, he’s now got 3 cards out of 9 remaining that HAVE to be played in the other spot, and if he gets one of them, let’s say the 6, which he has to play up top, then he still needs to avoid the final Queen not to foul. And if he hits his Jack next, he still has to be afraid of the Q/6 foul combination. On the other hand, while wasting the strength of being an Ace, playing it in the middle and locking up Queens guarantees the only way he can foul is to go runner-runner Jacks up top, he still can get just one Jack for the royalty and kill everyone point wise, and he still has one more Ace to play up top. So while I would have played the Ace up top without thinking about it, Jon’s more measured approach clearly works out as he makes the better play by playing it in the middle. I would have absolutely rushed to play the card up top and made the mistake – it’s not a huge mistake, but it does leave the door open much wider for a potential backdoor foul.

Mark: 2♣. Well that’s the card he has to avoid, and why he kept 2 spots open up top. Throw it in an empty slot up top, and now you’ve got a free spot in both middle and top to maneuver based on what comes next; it’s actually a good thing to get rid of the only painful card now so there’s no risk of a backdoor foul anymore. Also, had he played it my way, this would be his full house card. 64/TT87/22992.

12th Street:

Pauly: 9♥. Before he peels the card, he knows he’s looking for one of the remaining Aces or other high cards to go up top (so he can keep his full house draw in-tact). I don’t think he was envisioning a 9 as “something to go up top”, but as he points out, 9-high does beat Dan’s 7-high, so he blocks the scoop there, and he’s already blocked the scoop from the other two players. Given that there’s no way he can scoop anyone (as all 3 players have pairs in the middle), there’s no reason to abandon the potential full house in the back (1 king left for it), so throw it up top and rejoice that 9-high is not the worst hand, which is exactly what Pauly does. And once again, Pauly with a description that only he would come up with – “I guess that’s up top for today. Don’t try this at home kiddies”

Dan: J♣. Sometimes you just have to have faith in your live cards. Binks the Jack, snap play it in the back and now hope you pick up the last one for the boat. Pauly’s attempts at a needle “Oh you got out of jail” can be shrugged off, because Dan knew he had live jacks, and he had faith that they would come. And Pauly quickly also realizes that Dan may be live for a full house, and Dan answers Pauly’s question by affirming that he is live. Spoiler Alert: Dan misses the full house – I only say that because I wish he had hit it, if for no other reason than Pauly would have said something truly poetic afterwards.

Jon: Q♠: And that’s why he played the Ace in the middle – because if he played it up top, he’d now HAVE to play the Queen up top, which kills his chance at Jacks up top for the royalty, and also exposes his hand to a backdoor foul with a 6 on 13th street for two pair in the middle.  Instead, it goes up top, he still has a shot at Jacks up top, and he can’t foul his hand now. Had he played it my way, he’d now be sweating a potential foul card on the river instead of sweating a potential 6pt royalty.

Mark: A. The main value of playing 2s in the middle is so you can comfortably play an Ace up top. Yes, I’m sure Mark didn’t expect to have to wait until 12th street, but he still can play the A up top and now ensure he wins the top hand against two of the 3 players (Dan and Pauly) who already have locked up 9-high and 7-high respectively. As for what to do if it was my hand, you could either play it up top and lock up a hand that scoops both Pauly and Dan (unless they boat up themselves), or you can shoot for the 1-pt royalty. I probably play it up top. A64/TT87/22992.

And that brings us to 13th Street…

Both Jon and Dan would get a 6pt royatly with the case Jack. Pauly could get a 6pt royalty with the case King. Also, the case Ace could give Jon a 2 out of 3 (as opposed to 1 out of 3) against Mark. Lots of potential!

Pauly: 6♠. Fail. No full house. Further, it’s not a Jack, meaning that there’s now a 66% chance that Pauly will have to payout a 6pt royalty to someone. Hence why he starts chanting “No Jack” as both Dan and Jon peel their cards.

Dan: K Fail. No full house.

Jon: A♠. Fail. No Jacks up Top. Does switch his result to 2 out of 3 from Mark as opposed to losing 2 out of 3. And note that he did hit one of the cards he was worried about when he closed up Queens three streets ago. Pauly’s sigh of relief can be heard throughout the poker room.

Mark: J♣. Had he played it my way, he’d have A64/TT87J/22992. Granted, you can say I’m only saying that because of hindsight, but again, the 2s were live and the 9 would have been the highest live card (since there were 2 Tens out, but only 1 9 and 1 8). If you want to say I would have gone 228 in the back, then the hand would have run out A74/TT99J/22862 or something along those lines. Or if I would have waited for the first fully live card to come after the initial set-up, that would have been the 6, leading me to A74/TT998/2262J. So even if you want to say that “my way” wouldn’t have actually gotten a full house, it is worth noting that had he played deuces in the back, he would have ended up with at least trips, and potentially a full house. However, his play would have been very risky because he would have paired the Tens in the middle before covering it in the back, and just like we saw Dan have to sweat out covering 8s in the middle, Mark would have had to take the risk that he hits another 2 or a 9 (or whatever his kicker in the back would be alongside the deuces). But as the saying goes, “No Gambol, No Future”.

Also, although this is blatantly using hindsight, he would have hit his flush had he set up with the two diamonds in the back.

It just goes to show you how complex Open Face Chinese hands can be, particularly 4-handed, and how different set-ups can lead to drastically different results. Mark didn’t play the hand “bad”, he just took a set-up that involved far less risk, but offered far less reward. This run-out, it would have been more profitable to take the riskier line. But if he didn’t hit a Deuce or a 9, he would have fouled and had to pay out 18 points instead of just 1. You can compare the different plays to what happened in Jon’s hand – the one play I really did not like, abandoning his straight draw when it was still fairly live, ended up being a very good play. Had he tried to hold out for a straight, he never gets there, and ends up fouling. That’s the flip side of playing the riskier line and hoping the live cards will come – if they do, you end up with a big hand with a royalty, as I would have had with Mark’s hand, but if they don’t come, you end up having to salvage something or potentially fouling, as I would have done had Jon not abandoned the straight draw as early as he did.

I’ve played with both Mark and Jon many times, and they’re both very good players. Depending on if I’m feeling boastful or humble, I would describe them as either on par with me, or better than me. They definitely fall somewhere in that line. They both took reasonable lines, and the plays made sense. I just would have played it differently, and one hand I would have run-out a monster that scooped everyone, and another I would have fouled. Higher Risk, Higher Reward. Some cultures use the phrase “No Gambol, No Future”, others “No Guts, No Glory”. I personally prefer Latin because it makes me sound much smarter than I actually am: “audentes fortuna iuvat”, or as many know it, “Fortune favors the bold”. But then again, sometimes the counter holds true – “He’s got more guts than brains”.

So let’s finish up. The final hands look like this:

Pauly Top 3 2♠ 9 9-high
Middle 8 T♠ 4 A 3 Ace-Ten High
Bottom K 7 7 K♠ 6♠ Kings & Sevens
Dan Top 7♠ 6 3♠ 7-high
Middle T 8 K Q 8♠ Pair of Eights
Bottom J 5 5♠ J K Jacks & Fives
Jon (Seat 3) Top J Q♠ A♠ Ace-Queen High
Middle Q 9♠ Q 6 A Pair of Queens
Bottom 5 4 3 4♠ 5 Fives & Fours
Mark (Seat 4) Top 7 2 A Ace-Seven High
Middle 2 2 6 4 J♠ Pair of Twos
Bottom T 9 8 T 9 Tens and Nines

Pauly wins 2 out of 3 from Dan (Pauly wins Top and Bottom), so Dan owes Pauly 1 point.

Pauly loses 2 out of 3 to Jon (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Pauly owes Jon 1 point.

Pauly loses 2 out of 3 to Mark (Mark wins Top and Middle), so Pauly owes Mark 1 point. Pauly loses 1 point in total.

Dan loses 2 out of 3 to Jon (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Dan owes Jon 1 point.

Dan wins 2 out of 3 from Mark (Dan wins Middle and Bottom), so Mark owes Dan 1 point. Dan loses 1 point in total.

Jon wins 2 out of 3 from Mark (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Mark owes Jon 1 point. Jon wins 3 points in total.

Mark loses 1 point in total.

So, all that, and three players lose a whopping 1 point, and Jon, the big winner, nets 3 points. With no royalties and no scooping, the payouts are fairly tame. And I do find it comical that I managed to film the one hand where there wasn’t a single foul, a single scoop, or a single royalty. However, the hand did certainly illustrate how complex a 4-handed OFC hand can be, and also how there are still many different ways to play hands and lots of spots where there are multiple plays that can be labeled “correct”.

Thank you for reading this, or skimming it after also reading the cliff notes version. I plan to do a lot more of these. If you have any suggestions on how to improve my analysis or possibly how I presented it (perhaps there’s a better way to organize the sections or an easier way to illustrate what’s going on), please feel free to e-mail me. Also, any comments or thoughts on my analysis, whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to either leave it as a comment or e-mail it to me, I didn’t start this blog just for me – I love discussing Open Face so feel free to leave any comments. Thank you.

OFC Complete Hand Video #1, w/ Part 1 of the “Exhaustive” Breakdown and Analysis

This hand was taken from the OFC Tournament on 7/19 at the Palms Casino. They are down to the Final Four players (out of 20 entrants), and the Top 2 will be paid. I must warn you ahead of time – I am quite long-winded in my analysis as I try to cover every base. For those who want a cliff-notes, or some may say, much more reasonable, version that keeps the analysis only on the most direct points and limits the side-tangents, that post can be found here: http://vegasofc.com/2013/07/25/ofc-complete-hand-video-1-w-reasonable-length-breakdown/

The video for this hand:

Pauly is the “loquacious” player on the far left – people may know him as @WPTSEUSS on Twitter. To his left is Dan (@Nutcicles), then Jon Turner (@PearlJammed) is the guy in the middle so addicted to OFC he’s playing someone on his iPad while playing at the final table of this tournament. On the far right is Mark, I’m not sure if he has a Twitter handle, so if someone knows it, please contact me and I will edit this post. Note: FantasyLand was not in play for this tournament.

So let’s begin the breakdown. Pauly was 1st to act. He lets us know this, and reiterates that “it’s a huge disadvantage”.

Pauly: K, 7, 7, 8, T♠. Pauly plays the 7s in the back with the King as his kicker. It’s the most standard line to take in this spot. I guess you could argue for 87♥♥ in the back because it leaves open both a flush and a straight as an option, but it’s a tough sell to argue to break up a pair of 7s for just a 2-flush/2-straight combination. If the 7s were dead, maybe, but since Pauly’s first to act, we don’t yet know what cards will be dead or live (for that matter, hearts and the middle straight draw may also be dead).

The only real question is in the Kicker. If FantasyLand were in play, and he had KQ877, the set-up would be a no-brainer – Q/K/778. Even with the hand he has, if FantasyLand were in play, a good case could be made for x/K8/77T, with the 8 being a waste-card in the middle (the goal with such a set-up is to have Kings in the middle, Two-Pair or better in the back and Queens up top to go to the ‘Land). But in this tournament, and in every tournament I’ve seen so far, FantasyLand is not in the rules. Obviously if we had more information on which of the 8/T/K was live, we’d be able to figure out which is the best card for the back – you generally want the livest card as your kicker because you want the highest chance of improving to two-pair. But Pauly does not have any information since he’s first to act, so from his point of view, all three are equally live.

To me, there are two defendable choices for the Kicker here, since all three choices are higher than his pair (it would be different if he had some higher and some lower). First is simply the highest live card, which is what Pauly chose, and putting the two other overs in the middle. Second would be the lowest of the three live cards (the 8), with the other two in the middle. The former keeps open the chance of two-pair (or better) in the back and two-pair in the middle if you end up getting another 8, T and K, whereas the latter does not (if you set-up x/KT/778, and pair the Ten and the 8, you then can’t put a K in the middle if you get it unless you are willing to gamble for a full house in the back, otherwise you’ll have Kings Up in the middle and Eights up in the back for a mis-set). The latter, on the other hand, creates the potential for a stronger one-pair hand if you JUST end up hitting one of the two pair cards in the middle and pairing your kicker in the back; for the former, such a result would be either Tens or Eights in the middle and Kings up in the back, whereas in the latter, you’d have Kings or Tens in the middle and Eights up in the back; the difference between Kings and Tens/Eights amongst one-pair hands in the middle is far greater than the difference between Kings Up and Eights Up in the back.

Of course, this is all conjecture, and in the absence of more information as to which cards are live, both plays are certainly reasonable (You can also argue for T/K/778 to try to get a big royalty up top, but I’ve already rambled enough and that play requires you to be willing to gamble if you hit another T before you have anything in the middle and the back, so I’ll just acknowledge that the most aggressive players could make a case for that set-up). So Pauly’s play is fairly standard, and he certainly can’t mind such a hand for first position.

Dan: Dan’s dealt J, 5, 5♠, T, 7♠. He too has no 3-flush or 3-straight combinations, but has a live pair and one fully live kicker. Yes, heads-up players may not like putting 5s in the the back since Pauly has 7s in the back, but he doesn’t have too many other realistic options. His 7 is mostly dead (only 1 out left), there’s also a T already out there, so putting 5s in the middle and high cards in the back means he’s only got one fully live card (the Jack) to draw for. Further, this is a 4-handed game, so we can’t just worry about Pauly’s hand, we also have to play the most optimal strategy against the two unseen hands, and breaking up 5s or putting them in the middle makes zero sense against the two unseen hands. Finally, we hold a blocker for Pauly’s hand here, and our 5s are fully live, so even if it was just heads-up it wouldn’t be a bad play.

Even more clear is what card to place alongside the 5s – unlike Pauly’s hand, here the answer is entirely simple – the 7s are mostly dead, the T is partially dead, and the J is fully live – in addition to being the highest card, it’s the ONLY live card amongst the three, so J55 in the back is pretty much the only realistic play. Dan then puts the T in the middle and the 7 up top. The T in the middle is standard. The 7 up top, he’s placing it there because it’s mostly dead. Some people don’t like to put anything up top this early unless it’s entirely dead (or it’s a Q-A for FantasyLand/High-Card reasons), but others don’t mind throwing a mostly (meaning 3 of them already accounted for) dead card. I personally prefer the former, and would have placed the 7 in the middle, but I certainly by no means believe my way is conclusively better, and welcome anyone who can show me why the way Dan played it is a better overall strategy – either play makes sense to me. So even though I’d set up with T7 in the middle, Dan’s set-up is just as reasonable, and like Pauly he certainly can’t hate his position either.

Jon – Jon’s hand is a little uglier than the previous two. Q, 9♠, 5, 4, 3. It’s tough to argue for his one flush draw (54hh) because there are three hearts already out there (giving him only a 22% chance of hitting 3 more hearts), so the question then becomes whether to just revert to the default of two livest cards in the back, or play his 3-straight in the back. Given that there are no 2s and no 6s out, and no As out, even with 7s being mostly dead, I personally would much rather play a mostly live 3-straight as opposed to simply 2 live big cards. I wouldn’t break up a pair for a 3-straight, but I’d rather have 3 to a royalty (albeit only a 2pt royalty) as opposed to needed a lot of help to turn my live Q-9 into a full house. Further, the 4 and 3 are fully live, leaving open a backup plan of 2-pair in the back, and Queens or Nines in the middle; such a fall-back plan is still a fairly decent hand all things considered. It may not be an awesome starting hand, but it’s the best option available, and one of the things that makes this game great (no folding; you play your hand all the way through no matter what) also often leaves you in a spot where you’re just trying to salvage something halfway respectable out of trash.

Mark – Mark takes an interesting line here. It’s certainly the most noteworthy play of the four initial set-ups. He’s dealt T, 9, 8, 2, 2. The T is mostly dead, the 9 and 8 still have 2 more left in the deck, and the 2s are fully live. However, they’re still a pair of deuces, and playing them in the back would mean he’s starting behind Dan and Pauly (and if Jon gives up his Straight, he’d do so by pairing a card higher than the 2 as well). On the other hand, there is only one 7 and only one 5 left, whereas there are both deuces left in the deck, meaning he’d have the only fully live pair in the back. The other two players are 25% to catch trips in the back, he’s 44% to catch a 3rd Deuce.

He elects to play T98 in the back and 22 in the middle. I understand the play – if your deuces don’t improve you’re in a very bad spot as you’re starting way behind two other players, and T98 not only is a 3-straight combination, it also has a backup plan (pairing any of the three cards) that jumps Pauly and Dan’s current hand (7s and 5s respectively). On the other hand, I always try to have a live royalty draw in the back, and there is only one 7 left (although 6s are fully live, Jacks are mostly live, and Queens are mostly live). In general, if I start 3 to a straight I want to be able to see it through for a few streets, and I don’t know if I would be willing to do that here given the scarcity of 7s left.

One option he could have considered was 82♦♦ in the back – diamonds are pretty damn live (9 left in the deck); he’d be 40% to complete the flush. However, the back-up plan isn’t particularly strong – if diamonds don’t come, he’s got to pair the 8 or the 2, and if he pairs the deuce first, even if he goes on to pair the 8 as well, he’s looking at a middle of high cards only since the T is fairly dead, and he’d have a dead deuce in the middle as well. If you’re willing to gamboool it up, it’s not a bad play to set diamonds in the back, but you’re pretty much committing yourself to diamonds-or-bust; if you don’t hit the flush, you have a very significant chance of fouling. If it was 98♦♦, or even T9/T8, allowing you to keep the deuces in the middle (and if the deuce wasn’t a Diamond as well), this play would be a no-brainer in my opinion. But that’s not the hand we have here. Finally, in case someone wanted to ask, T9cc doesn’t make much sense to me in the back as Clubs are already fairly dead (6 out there, so he’d need 3 out of the remaining 7; yes, 3 out of 9 is a lot different than 3 out of 7).

So all three options – Diamonds in the back, deuces with a kicker (and note that none of his kickers would be fully live, at best you’d have a 2-outer kicker with the 9), or 3-straight in the back have their strengths, but also come with significant warts. I personally would play 229 in the back, T8 in the middle, because I’m not confident enough that a 7 will come to start T98 in the back – if I start T98, I’d immediately be willing to abandon it for one pair, breaking up any potential royalty in the back way too quickly. As a result, 229 gives me the best chance for a royalty, so I’d play that.

Whew. Trust me, that’s the longest part of the breakdown. Before we continue, let’s visualize where we’re at:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 7♠
Middle 8T♠ T Q9♠ 22
Bottom K77 J55♠ 543 T98

No hand here really jumps out as being in either great or horrible shape – Pauly and Dan have fairly live two-pair draws (and subsequent boat draws), but both only have 1-out for trips. Jon’s probably in the best overall shape with a fairly live straight draw in the back and live big pair cards in the middle. If Mark does complete his straight he’s in great shape, but he may end up abandoning the straight draw before it even has a chance because he’s got to make sure he covers the 2s. The flip side is that with all the Aces live, he’s the only one who can comfortably play an A up top because he’s already got a pair in the middle.

So let’s get to the runout, which can be found in Part II.

OFC Complete Hand Video #1, w/ “Reasonable” Length Breakdown

This hand was taken from the OFC Tournament on 7/19 at the Palms Casino. They are down to the Final Four players (out of 20 entrants), and the Top 2 will be paid. This post serves as the abridged, and admittedly far more reasonable version of my full, exhaustive, and most likely way over-analyzed/TL;DR version that can be found here (Part 1): http://vegasofc.com/2013/07/25/ofc-complete-hand-video-1-w-part-1-of-the-exhaustive-breakdown-and-analysis/ and here (Part 2): http://vegasofc.com/2013/07/25/ofc-complete-hand-video-1-w-part-2-of-the-exhaustive-breakdown-and-analysis/

The video for this hand:

Pauly is the “loquacious” player on the far left – people may know him as @WPTSEUSS on Twitter. To his left is Dan (@Nutcicles), then Jon Turner (@PearlJammed) is the guy in the middle so addicted to OFC he’s playing someone on his iPad while playing at the final table of this tournament. On the far right is Mark, I’m not sure if he has a Twitter handle, so if someone knows it, please contact me and I will edit this post. Note: FantasyLand was not in play for this tournament.

So let’s begin the breakdown. Pauly was 1st to act. He lets us know this, and reiterates that “it’s a huge disadvantage”.

Pauly: K, 7, 7, 8, T♠. Pauly plays the 7s in the back with the King as his kicker. It’s the most standard line to take in this spot. I guess you could argue for 87♥♥ in the back because it leaves open both a flush and a straight as an option, but it’s a tough sell to argue to break up a pair of 7s for just a 2-flush/2-straight combination. If the 7s were dead, maybe, but since Pauly’s first to act, we don’t yet know what cards will be dead or live.

The only real question is in the Kicker. All three are equally live (since we’re first to act and have no other information). Since all three are overs (and thereby present the problem of whichever one he choses, the other two overs will go in the middle and if one of them pairs first, he’ll be at risk of fouling if he plays the card in the middle), he can either go highest of the three (which leaves open potential two-pair/two-pair in case he ends up hitting all 3), or go the lowest of the three (which leaves open the chance for the best possible one-pair hand in the middle, while killing the two-pair/two-pair chance). I personally think I’d rather go 778, because I value having Kings or Tens in the middle and am less concerned about two-pair/two-pair, but given that there’s not “that” much difference between the three as one-pair hands, leaving open the two-pair/two-pair runout is entirely reasonable too, and fairly standard.

Dan: Dan’s dealt J, 5, 5♠, T, 7♠. He too has no 3-flush or 3-straight combinations, but has a live pair and one fully live kicker. Yes, heads-up players may not like putting 5s in the the back since Pauly has 7s in the back, but he doesn’t have too many other realistic options. His 7 is mostly dead (only 1 out left), there’s also a T already out there, so putting 5s in the middle and high cards in the back means he’s only got one fully live card (the Jack) to draw for. Further, this is a 4-handed game, so we can’t just worry about Pauly’s hand, we also have to play the most optimal strategy against the two unseen hands, and breaking up 5s or putting them in the middle makes zero sense against the two unseen hands. Finally, we hold a blocker for Pauly’s hand here, and our 5s are fully live, so even if it was just heads-up it wouldn’t be a bad play.

Even more clear is what card to place alongside the 5s – unlike Pauly’s hand, here the answer is entirely simple – the 7s are mostly dead, the T is partially dead, and the J is fully live – in addition to being the highest card, it’s the ONLY live card amongst the three, so J55 in the back is pretty much the only realistic play. Dan then puts the T in the middle and the 7 up top. The T in the middle is standard. The 7 up top, he’s placing it there because it’s mostly dead. I personally don’t like putting a card up top (besides Q-A as high-card and for FL reasons) unless it’s entirely dead, but playing it up top because it’s already mostly dead (only one left) is certainly a fair play too.

Jon – Jon’s hand is a little uglier than the previous two. Q, 9♠, 5, 4, 3. It’s tough to argue for his one flush draw (54hh) because there are three hearts already out there (giving him only a 22% chance of hitting 3 more hearts), so the question then becomes whether to just revert to the default of two livest cards in the back, or play his 3-straight in the back. Given that there are no 2s and no 6s out, and no As out, even with 7s being mostly dead, I personally would much rather play a mostly live 3-straight as opposed to simply 2 live big cards – the 2 highest live cards is the “if there’s no other option” set-up, and in this case there is another option – a fairly live 3-straight draw. Further, the 4 and 3 are fully live, leaving open a backup plan of 2-pair in the back, and Queens or Nines in the middle; such a fall-back plan is still a fairly decent hand all things considered.

Mark – Mark takes an interesting line here. It’s certainly the most noteworthy play of the four initial set-ups. He’s dealt T, 9, 8, 2, 2. The T is mostly dead, the 9 and 8 still have 2 more left in the deck, and the 2s are fully live. However, they’re still a pair of deuces, and playing them in the back would mean he’s starting behind Dan and Pauly. On the other hand, there is only one 7 and only one 5 left, whereas there are both deuces left in the deck, meaning he’d have the only fully live pair in the back. The other two players are 25% to catch trips in the back, he’s 44% to catch a 3rd Deuce.

He elects to play T98 in the back and 22 in the middle. I understand the play – if your deuces don’t improve you’re in a very bad spot as you’re starting way behind two other players, and T98 not only is a 3-straight combination, it also has a backup plan (pairing any of the three cards) that jumps Pauly and Dan’s current hand (7s and 5s respectively). On the other hand, I always try to have a live royalty draw in the back, and there is only one 7 left (although 6s are fully live, Jacks are mostly live, and Queens are mostly live), so I don’t know if I can consider the straight draw here very live. In general, if I start 3 to a straight I want to be able to see it through for a few streets, and I don’t know if I would be willing to do that here given the scarcity of 7s left.  So I’d go 229 in the back (the live pair and the higher of the 2 somewhat live cards), T8 in the middle.

One option he could have considered was 82♦♦ in the back – diamonds are pretty damn live (9 left in the deck); he’d be 40% to complete the flush. However, the back-up plan isn’t particularly strong – if diamonds don’t come, he’s got to pair the 8 or the 2, and if he pairs the deuce first, he’s looking at a middle of high cards only since the T is fairly dead, and he’d have a dead deuce in the middle as well. If you’re willing to gamboool it up, it’s not a bad play to set diamonds in the back, but you’re pretty much committing yourself to diamonds-or-bust; if you don’t hit the flush, you have a very significant chance of fouling.

So all three options – Diamonds in the back, deuces with a kicker (and note that none of his kickers would be fully live, at best you’d have a 2-outer kicker with the 9), or 3-straight in the back have their strengths, but also come with significant warts. I’d personally chose the 229 route, but it’s certainly got its own weaknesses as well, and Mark’s play here has its own strengths and weaknesses as well.

So before we continue, let’s visualize where we’re at:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 7♠
Middle 8T♠ T Q9♠ 22
Bottom K77 J55♠ 543 T98

No hand here really jumps out as being in either great or horrible shape – Pauly and Dan have fairly live two-pair/boat draws but both only have 1-out for trips. Jon’s probably in the best overall shape with a fairly live straight draw in the back and live big pair cards in the middle. If Mark does complete his straight he’s in great shape, but he may end up abandoning the straight draw before it even has a chance because he’s got to make sure he covers the 2s.

So let’s get to the runout, which starts right around 0:47 of the video.

6th Street:

Pauly: He gets the 4. No reason to abandon the full-house draw, and it’s a live card under his back-pair and 4s aren’t a royalty so it’s got no value up top. Snap play it in the middle.

Dan: 8. He’s already played one mostly dead card up top, you don’t want to play another up there without developing a middle first, because you’ll severely hamper your ability to maneuver the Top/Middle sub-hands. later on, as now you’ve only got one spot left up top. So although this is a fairly dead card, it makes sense to play it in the middle, which he does.

Jon: 4♠. This is where I differ from a lot of people, Jon included. He puts it in back to pair his 4s, with the idea of going two-pair in the back, Queens or Nines in the middle and smaller pair (or Ace-High) up top. It’s not a horrible plan, but to me, and maybe I’m more gambooly than most, or maybe I’m more used to 4-handed games where you have full information and thus can see if you’re still fairly live for whatever royalty draw you set up, if you set up three to a straight, and nothing significant has changed, I don’t see why you want to abandon it so early for just a pair of 4s – it doesn’t even take the lead in back.I go into more detail in the full analysis post, but certainly a case can be made either way, but with 6s fully live, 2 2’s left, and all the aces, I just don’t see why you abandon the draw so quickly. I’d play it in the middle.

Mark: T. Somewhat similar situation here, but, Mark was nowhere near as live for his straight as Jon is in the back, with 7s being mostly dead, so abandoning this straight draw makes a lot more sense to me. It’s also why I wouldn’t have played the straight draw in the back initially. Given his set-up, I agree pairing the back is the right play here as I am worried about the straight draw given the scarcity of 7s.

7th Street:

Paul: 3♦. An annoying card because it’s still fairly live, meaning that if you play it up top you may end up getting another 3 before you pair the middle, but at the same time, most players, myself included, do not like to commit a 4th card in the middle (leaving only one spot left) before playing a single card up top (again, it has to do with being able to maneuver, when you get down to one spot left in a row, your maneuverability is severely hampered). Either play is “icky”, but ultimately I think Pauly’s play is correct.

Dan: K. You could argue throwing it up top and hoping that one of the four aces will come to “cover” it in the middle, but that seems foolish to me because K-high may not be that useful up top with those same aces potentially available to other players to make A-high up top. Plus, the K is live and if you throw it up top you could potentially pick up another K and then again have another tough spot. Just like the 8, this goes in the middle, which is what Dan does.

Jon: 5♦. Obviously once you’ve abandoned the straight draw in the back, which he did, it makes sense to also play this card in the back for 2-pair.

Mark: 6♦. With his current hand, the middle makes the most sense as it’s still a fairly live card, and you can pair it safely since you’ve got Tens in the back.

So after 7th street, here’s where we’re at:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 3 7♠
Middle 8T♠4 T8K Q9♠ 226
Bottom K7c7 J55♠ 5434♠5 T98T

8th Street:

Pauly: 2♠. Another annoying card for Pauly, as now he either has to play a fairly dead card in the middle as his 4th card (drastically limiting his options for the remainder of the hand), or commit to 3-2 up top with one card to go. Further complicating the situation is that Tens are now entirely dead, there’s only one 8 left, and only one 4 left, meaning for him to pair the middle, he likely needs a live card to go in the next slot and then pair that card to close the hand out. This card essentially destroys either your middle or your top – but since there’s still a glimmer of hope for the Top because of the live Aces, I like Pauly’s putting it up top.

Dan: 6♣. Another live card, so he’s got the same dilemna he’s had with each previous card. I agree with playing it up top, the theory being if you do pair the Jack (which is still entirely live), you can hit a pair of 8s or Ks in the middle and then 7s or 6s up top for the royalty.  Either way you bank on hitting a live Jack, but at some point, you’ve got to have faith that your live cards will come.

Jon: Q♣. Given that the whole point of abandoning the straight draw so quickly was to get 2-pair in the back and then a big pair in the middle (because your Q and 9 were very live), do I have to say anything other than that this is the Jenga-card for him?

Mark: 9♦. As played, he snap plays it in the back (it’s not like you even can try to wait for 3 of a kind, the Tens are fully dead). No analysis needed.

9th Street:

Pauly: A♣. I think Pauly briefly entertains the idea of playing it up top and hoping another Ace will come in the middle; it’s not a horrible play, you’d have 3 outs (any Ace), plus if you hit 2-pair in the back, you’d have the 8. However, it’s also a risky play, one that doesn’t offer much of a reward because A-high in the middle doesn’t beat 2 of the players (Jon and Mark each have a pair in the middle), and likely won’t beat Dan either (very live pair cards). You’re taking on a risk of fouling for the upside of winning 2 out of 3 from people (Top and Bottom). If the risk offered the reward of scooping players, it may be worth it, but that’s not teh case here. Instead, it makes more sense in the middle, and maybe you can bink another Ace to take a commanding lead up top and look to win 2 out of 3 from players.

Dan: Q♥. The “nit” play here would be to throw it up top and lock up Q-high. But it’s live, and with all the Jacks live, he could easily envision hitting two pair+ in the back and Queens in the middle. I tend to agree.

Jon: 6♥. Competing points here. On the one hand, there is one 6 left, so it’s not a bad card to play up top, as you can then pair it if you get the last 6, and end up with a 1pt royalty up top (and likely win the top from everyone). On the other hand, you need to close up the middle, because you can’t hit two-pair without fouling (Queens Up > Fives Up). Ideally we’d play a fully dead card, but Jon has to play the cards he’s dealt, and it’s mostly dead, and it’s only a 1-pt royatly up top (so he wants to hold out for a better pair like Jacks).

Mark: 7♦. That’s a comical card since it would have hit his 1-out gutshot had he played it as such. But with his current set-up, it makes sense to go up top – he’s got more room (3 open slots in the top versus only 2 in the middle) up top and it’s an entirely dead card at this point.

10th Street:

Paul: K♥. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pauly play a card faster in my life.

Dan: 8♠. A classic example of having to trust in your live cards. Here, breaking up the boat draw when all 3 jacks are STILL live is foolish, and giving up the top by playing the 8 there for 8-high is equally foolish. Pair the middle, and just hope a Jack comes. There are 3 of them left. You are 55% to hit a Jack at this point (not to mention you can still go running Aces as well). Yeah, it’s a gamble, but the other alternatives suck. Risk the foul and just have faith your live cards will come. Dan sees it the same way I do.

Jon: J. This is pretty much the best card for his hand – now he’s got two outs to a 6pt Royalty up top. Easiest. Play. Ever.

Mark: 4. It’s a dead card. Outside of running 3s, there’s no way for Mark to improve his middle without “jumping” his back and fouling his hand. So he’s pretty much stuck at Tens Up in the Back, and 2s in the middle. You’ve got two free spots in both the middle and the top, but you also do have to consider that there is one Deuce left in the deck, and that CANNOT go in the middle, so since either way you’re just going to be killing one spot, might as well give the edge to the non-insignificant chance that you hit another deuce and HAVE to play it up top – therefore, use up one of your middle slots here.

We’ve now finished 10th street, so let’s take a look at the hands:

Pauly Dan Jon Mark
Top 32♠ 7♠6 J 7
Middle 8T♠4A T8KQ8♠ Q9♠Q6 2264
Bottom K77K♠ J55♠ 5434♠4 T98T9

Dan’s got the riskiest hand – he needs a Jack not to foul. But he also can develop the best hand; live trips, live two pair, live boat draw in back, live 6s up top, can play A-high up top, etc…it just goes to show you the variance in this game – Dan can realistically end up fouling, and realistically end up with a monster (full house + scooping 2 players), and there’s only 3 cards left.

11th Street:

Pauly: 3. The agony of this card is either beautiful or painful to listen to. If you’ve got a way to adequately describe Pauly’s scream here, please let me and Pauly (@WPTSEUSS) know. It’s both incredibly painful and incredibly beautiful to listen to. He either has to gamble with 3s up top (hoping to hit an Ace, as the other cards in the middle are dead), or surrender his middle as Ace-high, or break up his boat draw. None of the options are particularly good, but given that he’s not being scooped (unless Dan goes runner-runner boat in the back) by any player, I don’t think he should risk the foul; surrender the middle and continue crying. I think Pauly would agree that if this was a royalty pair, such as Jacks, he’d gamble for it with 2 Aces left, but 3s on their own just probably aren’t worth it, even if it’s a likely scoop.

Dan: 3♠. Well this card sucks. You can’t play it in the back because it’s dead and doesn’t do anything to help you there, it actually kills your small chance at a full house in the back. But up top you’ve now got 7-high, which is pretty much guaranteed to lose. Ugh. Dan knows this card sucks. But he has to just grit it and play it up top for the monster 7-high.

Jon: A. I will admit this play seemed quite peculiar to me at first, because I’d normally think you snap play this up top and take a commanding lead of the top hands from everyone else with A-J high. This will be the only analysis I don’t cut any part of from the full version to the cliff notes, because thankfully Jon doesn’t do that, because he realizes that doing so opens up a whole host of potential backdoor fouls – there’s still a Queen left (which can’t go in the middle for Trips), there’s still a 6 left (which also can’t go in the middle for a better 2 pair than his back), and an Ace left (which can’t go up top since Aces > Queens). So if he plays the Ace up top, he’s now got 3 cards out of 9 remaining that HAVE to be played in the other spot, and if he gets one of them, let’s say the 6, which he has to play up top, then he still needs to avoid the final Queen not to foul. And if he hits his Jack next, he still has to be afraid of the Q/6 foul combination. On the other hand, while wasting the strength of being an Ace, playing it in the middle and locking up Queens guarantees the only way he can foul is to go runner-runner Jacks up top, he still can get just one Jack for the royalty and kill everyone point wise, and he still has one more Ace to play up top. So while I would have played the Ace up top without thinking about it, Jon’s more measured approach clearly works out as he makes the better play by playing it in the middle. I would have absolutely rushed to play the card up top and made the mistake – it’s not a huge mistake, but it does leave the door open much wider for a potential backdoor foul.

Mark: 2♣. Well that’s the card he has to avoid, and why he kept 2 spots open up top. Easy play; if you put it in the middle you foul, so it goes up top.

12th Street:

Pauly: 9♥. Before he peels the card, he knows he’s looking for one of the remaining Aces or other high cards to go up top (so he can keep his full house draw in-tact). I don’t think he was envisioning a 9 as “something to go up top”, but as he points out, 9-high does beat Dan’s 7-high, so he blocks the scoop there, and he’s already blocked the scoop from the other two players. It’s not pretty but it works.

Dan: J♣. Sometimes you just have to have faith in your live cards. Binks the Jack, snap play it in the back and now hope you pick up the last one for the boat.

Jon: Q♠: And that’s why he played the Ace in the middle – because if he played it up top, he’d now HAVE to play the Queen up top, which kills his chance at Jacks up top for the royalty, and also exposes his hand to a backdoor foul with a 6 on 13th street for two pair in the middle.  Instead, it goes up top, he still has a shot at Jacks up top, and he can’t foul his hand now. Had he played it my way, he’d now be sweating a potential foul card on the river instead of sweating a potential 6pt royalty.

Mark: A. The main value of playing 2s in the middle is so you can comfortably play an Ace up top. Yes, I’m sure Mark didn’t expect to have to wait until 12th street, but he still can play the A up top and now ensure he wins the top hand against two of the 3 players (Dan and Pauly) who already have locked up 9-high and 7-high respectively.

And that brings us to 13th Street…

Both Jon and Dan would get a 6pt royatly with the case Jack. Pauly could get a 6pt royalty with the case King. Also, the case Ace could give Jon a 2 out of 3 (as opposed to 1 out of 3) against Mark. Lots of potential!

Pauly: 6♠. Fail. No full house. Further, it’s not a Jack, meaning that there’s now a 66% chance that Pauly will have to payout a 6pt royalty to someone. Hence why he starts chanting “No Jack” as both Dan and Jon peel their cards.

Dan: K Fail. No full house.

Jon: A♠. Fail. No Jacks up Top. Does switch his result to 2 out of 3 from Mark as opposed to losing 2 out of 3. And note that he did hit one of the cards he was worried about when he closed up Queens three streets ago. Pauly’s sigh of relief can be heard throughout the poker room.

Mark: J. Does nothing for his hand either way. Another complete blank.

Compare my suggested start for Mark (229 in the back) with my suggested play for Jon (hold onto the straight draw on 6th street). If Mark listened to me, he would have had a boat in the back, Tens in the Middle, Ace-High up top for a Monster. If Jon had listened to me, he would have fouled as the straight never came.

It just goes to show you how complex Open Face Chinese hands can be, particularly 4-handed, and how different set-ups can lead to drastically different results. This run-out, Mark’s hand would have been more profitable to take the riskier line. But if he didn’t hit a Deuce or a 9, he would have fouled and had to pay out 18 points instead of just 1. But Jon’s hand is flip side of playing the riskier line and hoping the live cards will come, but if they don’t come, you end up with true crap or fouling.

They both took reasonable, safer, lines, and the plays made sense. I just would have played it differently, and one hand I would have run-out a monster that scooped everyone, and another I would have fouled. Higher Risk, Higher Reward. Maybe “Fortune favors the bold”, or maybe I’ve got “more guts than brains”.

So let’s finish up. The final hands look like this:

Pauly Top 3 2♠ 9 9-high
Middle 8 T♠ 4 A 3 Ace-Ten High
Bottom K 7 7 K♠ 6♠ Kings & Sevens
Dan Top 7♠ 6 3♠ 7-high
Middle T 8 K Q 8♠ Pair of Eights
Bottom J 5 5♠ J K Jacks & Fives
Jon (Seat 3) Top J Q♠ A♠ Ace-Queen High
Middle Q 9♠ Q 6 A Pair of Queens
Bottom 5 4 3 4♠ 5 Fives & Fours
Mark (Seat 4) Top 7 2 A Ace-Seven High
Middle 2 2 6 4 J♠ Pair of Twos
Bottom T 9 8 T 9 Tens and Nines

Pauly wins 2 out of 3 from Dan (Pauly wins Top and Bottom), so Dan owes Pauly 1 point.

Pauly loses 2 out of 3 to Jon (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Pauly owes Jon 1 point.

Pauly loses 2 out of 3 to Mark (Mark wins Top and Middle), so Pauly owes Mark 1 point. Pauly loses 1 point in total.

Dan loses 2 out of 3 to Jon (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Dan owes Jon 1 point.

Dan wins 2 out of 3 from Mark (Dan wins Middle and Bottom), so Mark owes Dan 1 point. Dan loses 1 point in total.

Jon wins 2 out of 3 from Mark (Jon wins Top and Middle), so Mark owes Jon 1 point. Jon wins 3 points in total.

Mark loses 1 point in total

Thank you for reading this. I plan to do a lot more of these. If you have any suggestions or comments,  please feel free to e-mail me or respond in this thread.

Room Review: Palms

Overview: It isn’t exactly a secret that the Palms Poker Room (specifically, the Cantor Poker Room at Palms Casino) is struggling. There are certainly other factors at play, but the two main reasons for the recent lack of success are first due to the casino’s off-strip location and also due to the poker room’s desire to try to compete head-on with the “big strip poker rooms” like Aria, Venetian and Bellagio. So whereas Aria consistently fills its room (and Venetian can point to days where they filled their room to support their delusions of consistently being at capacity) and thus can be discriminating with which games they wish to run (catering to the ones that get the highest rake for the casino), the Palms, simply put, cannot. They need games running. But sdsxd

I say this not to bash the room, but rather, to point out that the room is in a very different position than rooms like Aria and Bellagio. It is for that reason than whereas Venetian seems determined to kill low-stakes OFC, Palms wants to embrace it. The first day Venetian announced their rake, I spoke with management at the Palms, and when I mentioned that Venetian’s rake would kill the game there, the exact response was “Venetian’s loss is our gain”. They have an 8-table poker room and the management has said point blank he would not mind seeing all 8 tables filled with Open Face Chinese games. They know they cannot compete with the “big boys” for 1-3 NL, but they can easily compete, and win, at being the best place for Open Face Chinese, and the management there understands that 8 Open Face Chinese games is vastly superior to 8 empty tables.

That’s why they are making such an effort to become the epicenter of Open Face Chinese. It’s why they’ve agreed to have the $5+$5 rake for any level of stakes. They’ve promised to many players, including myself, that if they do not have a dealer on staff, they will call in a dealer into work so they can get a game going. They made sure that every dealer knows the game, to the point where the dealers at Palms take an active role in payouts and hand adjudication moreso than any room I’ve ever seen (and I feel much more willing to pay a rake if I know I’m getting a dealer who is going to make sure all the payouts are correct and no one feels uncomfortable about being potentially shorted $). They have no problem playing any variant you can think of – so any degenerate variant you have at your home game, just tell the dealers and they’ll deal it out for you.

They’ve even gone so far as to decide to host a weekly tournament for Open Face Chinese, and run the first of many promotions specific to Open Face – in this case, they’re offering to freeroll anyone who played 20 hours of OFC the previous week into that week’s OFC tournament.

Now, it still must be noted that the Palms still has one huge downside that places like Venetian and Aria do not – player traffic. Since the Palms does not have many other poker games running – at most they’ll have 2 other games running, you do not get nearly the same level of player traffic – poker players wandering around, checking out all the games, potentially seeing OFC being played and becoming intrigued. Aria, Venetian, Bellagio all have a significant amount of traffic; and Rio/WSOP’s entire reason for why they can be so horribly run is b/c of the traffic/player base created by the WSOP tournament crowd. Palms has none of that. It’s a significant hurdle, because it means they have to depend that much more on either players bringing in other players, or being able to contact interested players to tell them a game is running.

The one caveat is that the poker room’s presence next to the Sportsbook, and also being clearly visible to casino-goers passing by, does lead to a decent number of gambling-minded individuals seeing Open Face Chinese being played and becoming intrigued despite not being normally there to play poker. This does not compensate fully for the lack of poker traffic, but it is still a significant source of players for Open Face games. One thing Palms has done recently is begun running a “Open Face Chinese Class”, the same way casinos offer Blackjack or Craps class – one of the dealers or floormen sit down with a few interested players and teach them the basics and play a few hands at 50 cents or $1/pt – and just like the Craps classes work in that players then decide to go “play for real”, I’ve seen at least two “graduates” go and then play in the $5/pt game that same day.

So – essentially, what is important to know about the Palms Poker Room is that they really want Open Face Chinese games to run regularly there. They will go the “extra mile”, moreso than any other casino in Vegas. This is for the same reason that ends up being the hurdle for them as they try to build an OFC community – specifically, they don’t have a lot of poker traffic from other games – it’s both why they want to run OFC as much as they do, and why I can’t give it a perfect score for it’s OFC games (if I actually graded the rooms out).

Rake: $5+$5 forced dealer tip per 1/2 hour for any stakes from $2/pt to $25/pt – higher than $25/pt, management has said they will play each high-stakes game by ear. Also, they are very good about not charging a rake for two people if they agree to start heads-up with the intention of getting a game going.

There still remains the issue of the lack of player base/traffic; Palms never has and never will have the traffic that an Aria or Venetian has. They do have a comparable level of casino traffic, and their location in the sportsbook does help add some gambling-minded individuals to the “pool” of people who may pass by, see the game and become interested; however, it is still the one big hurdle that the Palms will face as they try to turn themselves into a huge player in Open Face Chinese in Las Vegas. The only real solution is for them to continue spreading the word about their desire to host OFC games, and continue to try their best to pull interested players in. Outside of that (admittedly significant) downside, the Palms is just simply an awesome place for OFC. It’s not hyperbole to say that it has become the best place to play non-nosebleed Open Face Chinese.

Rules: The Palms has been quite flexible with the rules, if every player agrees to a certain rule set. However, they do have a standard Royalty sheet – Trips in the middle is 2, Trips in the back is 0, Trips up top is 20. Tablestakes (and they are very aggressive in enforcing this rule, they will warn players who get short-stacked that they can only double up, and they will also warn the rest of the table that they can only lose what’s in front of them).

In conclusion – come check out the Palms, if you want non-nosebleed OFC action. Particularly if you also want to watch some baseball or another sporting event – then it’s the best of both worlds.