2013 Poker Gets Off To Rough Start

So my hopes of getting the 2013 poker season off on the right start took a bit of a hit opening weekend. I managed to dump a few c-notes on the tourists at both Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

I started the afternoon off Bellagio. One of my favorite floor people in all of Las Vegas runs the middle limits there, and I had not been in for a visit in awhile. On the fence on what I should play I decided to jump into a 10-20 limit must move game. Took a seat with my five stacks of nickels ($5 chips) and never got going in the right direction.

I came in as the big blind and got to see my first hand (7-9o) for a check. Sure enough the flop was 8-10-2 rainbow. I went check-call, check-call, check-check to the river with my up and down straight draw only to have my 10 high hand lose to a jack high hand. Ugh! One hand in and I’m down $40.

Within two hours I had dumped $400. There was a little bad play in there and certainly some bad luck. Lost a few bets with K-K to a 10-5c on a J high board. Flopped a flush with 4-3h out of of a check in the big blind. Flop was A-K-J hearts. Lost to a A-Qo when the turn and river went K-K.

I did see my buddy Devo (pro poker player Bryan Devonshire) playing 20-40 Omaha upstairs at Bellagio and got to exchange a few pleasantries. That was the highlight of the night.

After my friend Ben Devlin joined me at Bellagio I took my final $98 from the table and we made our way by tram to Monte Carlo. This is what you do when you are a middling grinder. You look for games with tourists that you can beat. And you go to places you wouldn’t normally go to play poker.

The card room at the Monte Carlo casino.

I like the room at Monte Carlo. You can tell the staff is trying to make poker a good experience there, even if Monte Carlo is probably no better than the 12th choice of most Strip tourists. I should have gone to a no limit game, but after my $400 beating at Bellagio, the 2-6 spread limit game with Ben seemed like a better choice.

At first it was. Flopped top pair, rivered the nut flush against a guy playing 10-5 (payback for the Bellagio guy) for a decent pot. Raised max with A-K. Got two callers. Flopped a king high rainbow. They both folded. I was up $50 over my original $100 buyin the first 15 minutes at the table. I was felted 90 minutes later. That’s poker.

It did put a bit of a damper on the start of my 2013 poker season. But the year is long. I’ll bounce back.

Big Day In The Desert

Black Friday is just a shopping day to a lot of people. A day to stand in long lines, get in a fight with a soccer mom over a $12 toy and spend way to much money on too many people.

The Grand at the Golden Nugget is the place to be today for a $25,000 guaranteed prize pool poker tournament.

But Black Friday for us in the poker world is the day the Federal Government shut down online poker.

Due to the fact that online poker is still illegal in America (that George Bush presidency just keeps looking better and better), poker players are always scouring the live poker landscape for a the kind of good value/large prize pool tournaments we used to be able to play daily on the Internet.

Today is one of those days. The Golden Nugget is throwing open The Grand for a $25,000 guaranteed prize pool poker tournament at Noon. The cost is $125 for 10,000 chips, and $10 more for an additional 2,000 chips. Assuming the Nugget is whacking $25 off the top of the entry fee, they will need around 250 players to meet the guarantee.

I am predicting closer to 400.

I know of around 12 people just from my group of players around Henderson who are heading downtown to partake.

You can follow (some of) us online:

Me — @chadharberts

Ryan G — @crustyscoops

Chris N — @jayhawk1980

Ben D — @bendevlin

Others in our group include JR, Rusty, Rocky, Jose R, JP…I will try to keep everyone updated via Twitter throughout the tournament.

Good luck to all.

Using The Wrong Words Are The Biggest Customer Service Mistake

Words have spilled blood and started wars. Words can build empires and bring down nations. Words can incite and excite. Words are powerful.

In a competitive environment, the words we use can be difference between a growing business and a failing one.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went through a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to a football game. McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants. They have long been pioneers in customer service. McDonald’s turned the restaurant business into fast food. Before they invented the genius that is the extra value menu (actually getting people to pay for more food than they were originally going to buy by discounting the overall price), McDonald’s was legendary for asking customers, “would you like fries with that.”

The problem with McDonald’s today is that customers can now order an entire meal with just one number. A number one gets you a Big Mac, fries and a drink. The customer service person can ask you what size you want. However, if you pull up to the drive thru window and say, “Please give me a number one with a large Coke.” the customer service person is left with nothing more to ask. Yet they have to respond with something. Way too often the response they give is one of the absolutely killers in customer service and sales:

“Is that all?”

What a horrible thing to say to a customer!

“Is that all?”

The phrase itself smacks of a combination of indifference and attitude. The customer service person is actually taking this sentence, “That’s all your going to order? Six dollars worth of food? We are trying to run a business here, and you pull through and waste my time with a $6 order because you are the only person in the car?” to a three-word sentence “Is that all?”

It is condescending and final. There is almost no way the customer is going to respond to the phrase with, “No, on second thought I would also like an ice cream cone and an apple pie. I’m so glad you asked me, ‘is that all’ because I had forgotten the rest of my order.”

I believe the phrase is used in the food business more than most businesses because the food business grinds…get your customers in, get them fed, get them out, get new customers in. Profits in the food business are based on a big volume of customers.

I doubt that after purchasing a $40,000 car at the Audi dealership, the salesmen says, “Is that all?”

But having your front-line people — and in my above example this was not a kid, but at the very least a shift manager based on the man’s dress — use a phrase like “is that all?” is very demeaning.

Customer service is about making people feel good about patronizing your business. Even if the customer has no desire to buy anything else, asking “Can I get you anything else?” is a much better phrase than “Is that all?”

The words we use and the words we choose can make all the difference.

Rungood Summer Continues At The Mirage

The poker season in definitely in full swing and my rungood summer is still plugging right along, as well.

Since my first World Series of Poker cash in the Casino Employees Event two weeks ago I have been playing significantly more poker. I went fairly deep in Daily Deep Stack at the World Series but didn’t cash the following weekend. That 2PM Daily Deep Stack is getting really big. There were more than 600 players the day I played with $25,000 and some change going to first place.

Saturday I broke through again, as a combination of good fortune and good play help me take down “The Stack” Tourney at The Mirage.

PHOTO COURTESY BEN DEVLIN. Chad concentrating on a hand with 11 players left at The Stack Tournament at The Mirage Saturday.

I had the good fortune of my friend and teammate Ben Devlin already playing in the $3-$6 cash game at The Mirage Saturday morning. He absolutely crushes that tourist-filled, river-chasing game on a regular basis. Since I hadn’t really decided where I was going to play yesterday I decided to head to Mirage to say hello to Ben and figure it out from there.

I arrived a The Mirage a little after 11AM. Ben was playing and I was on a waiting list. While I was waiting I found out The Mirage has a tournament called “The Stack.” For $120 ($110 plus a $10 dealer add-on), a player receives 50,000 in tournament chips. The blinds start at 500-500, go to 500-1000 and then 500-1500. The levels are 30 minutes long, and with 100 big blinds to begin it’s a pretty decent structure as far as Strip tournaments go.

Yesterday, The Mirage hosted their biggest “The Stack” Tourney yet. It was 56 players when I signed up. It would eventually climb to 80 by 1PM.

I only played two hands in the first three levels — K-K and A-A, picking up some decent chips both times. By level five I was amongst the chip leaders with 174,000 chips (the average at the time was about 80,000). However, I took a little hit at my new table. Under the gun (UTG) raised all in 47,000. The table chip leader called. I had A-A in the BB and jammed my entire stack in. The table chip leader folded and the all-in tabled J-J. Unfortunately she spiked a jack on the flop and tripled up.

When we got down to 30 players I was in the 10-12 BB area when I put my whole stack at risk with A-Ko. I was called by the table chip leader, who tabled K-Jc. Although he flopped both a flush draw and a gut shot straight draw I faded the outs and doubled up.

From 15 players to 11 players I went on a little run and chipped up to 665K chips. The average stack was 336K. We were all trying to get to the final table, playing 6-handed and 5-handed for more than an hour. Eight places were getting paid.

There I made the call that changed the tournament. UTG went all in — the same woman that cracked my aces with jacks — for 203K. The woman to my left called all-in with a little less. I looked down at 10-10, my favorite hand. I didn’t think I had both players beat but I was sure I had at least one of them beat. It was going to cost me around 30 percent of my stack to call. Even if I lost the hand I would have an above average stack, so I made the call.

Both players tabled A-Ko. They both caught a king in the window one a K-Q-4 flop. The turn card brought and ace to give them each two pair. Luckily for me, a jack spiked on the river (oh, so appropriate!) and my rivered straight took out two players.

We went to the final table with nine players and me leading the pack with 1.1 million chips.

With six players to go the field was trying to negotiate a six-way chop of roughly $1,200. Nervous tourists! I was second in chips to a woman from Switzerland, but not by much. I proposed a chop where her and I each received $1,600, and the rest of the tourists got $1,040 each. It was a no-brainer for them.

The only sour part was typical crappy tourist tippers for the poker dealers. I tossed out my tip first hoping to spur some better tipping. Ugh! The Swiss girl left $10 on her $1,600. One of the other left $5 on his $1,040. The only thing I like about tourists is taking their money!

I was very lucky my buddy Ben was playing at Mirage yesterday as it led to a fine day of poker.

Let that Rungood Summer continue!

Achieving A Dream

Achieving A Dream

Anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with errr passion for cards. I’ve been playing card games since I was a kid. I used to love playing UNO. When I could talk my grandmother into playing me in gin, she used to beat me like a drum. Even when I played Monopoly I would try to remember how many Chance and Community Chest cards had been taken since the last Go To Jail card or Advance To Boardwalk card came up.

As I got older we played guts (three-card poker), seven-card no peek (a crude version of Stud) and a poker game that is native to Iowa called Pepper. We also played every crazy version of poker you could find — baseball, iron cross, etc.

The World Series of Poker has had me hooked since 2005.

When the poker boom hit in 2003, I was hooked. I entered for my first World Series of Poker in 2005, playing in the $10,000 Main Event for just the cost of a $200 satellite at Harrah’s North Kansas City.

Although I didn’t make the money in that first event, playing in the World Series of Poker became an obsession. In 2006 and 2007, I bought into $1,000 WSOP events but didn’t cash.

In 2008, I was on a good run when I came to Vegas. I played in a $1,000 and a $1,500 WSOP event with no success.

The next year I went back to the $1,000 WSOP tournament and flamed out quickly.

Although I moved from Kansas City to Las Vegas in 2010 — in part to chase my dream — I wasn’t able to play in the 2010 WSOP at all. I had taken a job as a poker dealer at a local casino two months before the WSOP started and didn’t have any vacation time built up to play.

Last year, I reentered the WSOP scene, trying my hand at the $500 Casino Employees Event. Out of a field of more than 800 I lasted until 220th, but still short of the money.

But the dream really started to take shape over the last 12 months. Through fate I met and became close friends with people like Ben Devlin, Dave Miller and Aaron Wrightsman, guys who are as serious about their poker as I am.

I had the great fortune to have one of the best poker players in the world walk into the poker room I manage. Bryan is not only a friend but unbelievably smart about poker. Listening to him on his PokerVT videos and talking with him in person has sharpened my game immensely.

In my seventh year at the World Series of Poker and my eighth event overall I finally achieved my dream.
The ticket I took to the cage to get my money.

Sunday night/Monday morning around 1:30 AM I was sent to the Rio World Series of Poker cage to collect my winnings for finishing 61st out of 732 players at the 2012 WSOP Casino Employee’s Event.

It wasn’t life-changing money. In fact, it wasn’t even all mine. A longtime friend of mine from back in my Kansas City days talked me into playing the WSOP. So did Devo, who even backed some of my action.

Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. That may seem a little strange to anyone reading this column who has a spouse or kids, but I have neither. I am a poker room manager and a wannabe pro poker player. I still don’t have that first-ever WSOP bracelet on my wrist yet, but I now have a cash.

And I can’t believe how sweet it feels.

Every Poker Hand Tells A Story

In a tournament Saturday I made a lay down that seemed a little amazing to the average player but was relatively easy to do after watching the entire story unfold.

Blinds are 50-100. My hand: Kh-10h. Villain: X-X.

I raised to 800 under the gun (UTG) +2. An 8x (eight big blinds) raise is a too big here, but this is a tournament where a lot of “fishing” goes on. Players try to get into pots cheap and hit a flop. A big raise scared away the fishermen. After two folds a player raised to 1,800. Everyone else folded to me. I called. The pot has 3,750 chips in it (1800+1800+50SB+100BB).

This is a bad call with a weak hand (K-10) by me and I am out of position. However, I had not seen this player in a pot yet. I wanted to feel him out a little. The flop: As-9s-2c.

Since I missed the flop, I checked. The villain checked. The turn card was Kd. With a pair of kings I checked. The villain checked behind.

The river card was a Kc. I made three kings and wanted to see where I was in the hand. I decided to make a very small bet of 125 into the pot. The small bet can accomplish many objectives. It may get raised and let me get away from the hand cheaply. The raise might freeze a better hand from reraising because it is so suspiciously small. If I am ahead in the hand the bet is so small it will get called my most hands that raised preflop and went all the way to the river. This drags a few more chips into the pot.

The villain raised to 850.

This is where we start to dissect the story. Since my preflop raise was so big, to reraise me the villain must have a huge hand. That already eliminates every pair from J-J thru 2-2, and all A-x hands including A-Q. Why? If the villain were holding 10-10, 6-6 or A-Q he would not reraise me preflop, he would either flat call the big raise or fold. The reraise eliminates every hand except four: Q-Q, K-K, A-A and A-K.

The villain elected to check both the flop and the turn.

When I made three kings on the river and bet, the villain raised me. We know he doesn’t have quad kings because I am holding a king. Q-Q is out since the villain is not going to raise on the river with an Ace and two Kings on the board. A-K is probably out because the villain would likely bet the ace on the flop or two pair on the turn, but A-K is a small possibility. The only hand left is A-A and that makes the most sense here. If the villain is holding A-A he flopped a set and made Aces full of Kings.

A folded my king face up and told the player, “I can’t beat your full house.”

After a few gasps from the table that I had open folded three kings, the villain turned over two aces for a full house. A poker story read perfectly.

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