Blog from E. Mark, the "e- Shark"


ICE Totally Gaming Show

Last week’s ICE Totally Gaming show at Earls Court London was a demonstration of how gaming is turning the corner, away from the economic malaise that’s affected many in the sector.

The show’s internal newspaper contained daily stories relating to combinations, acquisitions and other gaming deals being made.  Of course, this level of new activity in the sector comes as no surprise to those who read gaming’s daily trade publications.

Part of the resurgence is certainly attributable to the US Department of Justice's "Christmas Bonus," which undercut those who had argued that a US Federal law prohibited online poker and other casino type online betting activities. The DOJ opined that the federal Wire Act of 1961 only addressed sports-related gambling.  This removed a major cloud that had deterred investment in online poker.

In the aftermath of the DOJ determination, New Jersey, Nevada and other states are quickly advancing legislation to allow intrastate online play.  Consequently, there’s a significant resurgence of industry interest in investment in both online poker and social gaming platforms.  Beyond initiatives to freshen existing platforms (with UI enhancements and features) and launch new platforms, there’s also a heightened interest in new games generally and poker games specifically as a means of platform differentiation.

From the way 2012 is starting, we can all look forward to a year of opportunity and growth.

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross


 Proud of Myself, Opening the Year with Character

On New Year’s Day, I was playing my regular game, the Borgata's Atlantic City $10 / 20 limit table.  In an unraised hand, as big blind, I 'played' Jack, 6 offsuit (I can't fold to no-raise).  The flop fell Ace, Ace, Jack and everyone checked.  When a third Ace fell on the turn, I bet my Aces-full-of Jacks.  [With three Aces on the board in a limped pot, my hand seemed likely the best.]

Everyone folded, except for the small blind, an elderly gentlemen named Dimitri, who I’d never seen before in the cardroom.  Same hand?

He and I checked the river after a King opened. In position, I saw no reason to bet. He'd only call with the same hand (he holds a Jack too), or maybe he caught the King and rivered the winner.

I tabled my hand Aces-full-of Jacks. He held up his Ace, Jack hand for-my-eyes-only. I looked, smiled, laughed and congratulated him: ‘Nice hand!’

He then tossed his cards face down into the muck.  He killed his Quad Aces!

The dealer pushed the pot my way.  I practically jumped out of my seat and insisted that the pot be awarded to Dimitri.  As this happened, Dimitri showed his confusion.  I again congratulated him and told him: 'ALWAYS table your winning hand and any that you think might be a winner. ' You can’t win, absent an opponent with integrity, if you fold your hand.

Postscript:  Mary, on my left, whispered to me later: ‘There wasn’t enough for you to insist on winning the pot.’  She missed the point:  There is no 'enough' to take a pot from an elderly player who makes a technical error.  Imagine his story if he’d lost: I went to a poker room and was robbed of my pot, when I made four Aces.

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross

3pips   THE POKER GODS LAUGH AT ME! (12/15/11)

The Poker Gods Laugh At Me!

I was playing a fairly loose Atlantic City $10 / 20 limit table last weekend at the Borgata.  I started off down about $100, a small amount on the table where every hand had a pre-flop raise and at least 4 callers.  Luck was a major factor on the table, as no one could control the pre-flop action. For me, it was like playing in quicksand, as I kept fluctuating in a small range without ever being up.

After hours, I decided to work out and run in the Pump Room gym before it closed.  Hell or high-water, I would pick up before the next dealer change – another half hour of play.

Shortly thereafter, playing the button, I looked down at the Ace and King of diamonds.  There’d been four limpers already.  I raised to get money into the pot, knowing that I held the best starting hand.  But, would it hit?  Not surprisingly, I got many callers and six of us went to the flop, 4, 6, 9, with one diamond.  Everyone checked to me and hoping to weed-the-field-down, I continuation bet.  There were two callers and the third to act raised. I three-bet to control the action plus hopefully see two more cards before having to put more money into the pot. Several called.

Everyone checked the Queen of diamonds turn card to me and I checked and took the free card.  Then, bingo, the 2 of diamonds opened on the river giving me the nut hand: Ace-high flush.  I took down the pot and was up for the first time during the session.

The poker gods laugh at me!

I decided to try locking-in the $80 profit by basically shutting down, looking and folding my last ‘free’ hands before I’d pickup (instead of taking the big blind).  Mentally, I’d decided to only play the absolute best starting hands.

My penultimate hand before picking up was a pair of 4s, which I tossed after showing Dianne who’d just folded on my right.  There were several callers and predictably a raise. Five players went to the flop. Arghhhh, the door card was a 4 - my set, and the next card was a 4 – my Quads!  The raiser later showed the winner, pocket Kings.  I’d have hauled in a nice pot with Quad 4s, but instead knew I’d played well.

I’ve shaken it off, but have to say folding unplayed flopped Quads really sucks.  The joke's on me!

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross


A 'Familiar' Setting in a New Location; Playing Wynn Macau

It’s always nice when business travel – meeting Asian gaming concerns in Macau, has unexpected upsides.  Talk about an amazing city, with a mega-casino around every corner, and you're talking Macau.

And, I often find that the more things change the more they stay - or appear to stay - the same.  It's just like Vegas, only frequently better. I don't think I’ve ever felt more at home in a first-time setting.  I am enjoying Macau and its poker experience!  It’s amazing how Wynn has emulated the façade of its Vegas property, while also staying fresh and right for Asia. The poker room has the same quality feeling you encounter at Wynn's Las Vegas Blvd. property.  Best of all, as a capper, I had both good cards and a winning experience in the Wynn's upscale poker room.My Best Hand:

I played Ace King against a gentleman who had the same hand, and won a big pot by continuing to bet throughout, despite having missed the board.

After I bet a respectable amount on the river (having bet each street), he open folded his Ace King. I looked at his hand and told him "no good" as I dragged the pot without showing my Ace King.  Well, his hand wasn't good, after he folded:-).

Ah, the power of no limit betting and understanding that your opponent hasn't connected either.

Postscript: MGM and others also have many ‘familiar’ aspects to their presence in Macau.

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross


The Worst!  And Thanks for the Pesos

I've been staying in Cebu City, The Philippines. Last night at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino, I saw the worst play!

I'm table captain of sorts at a 7-handed 10-pesos/20-pesos no-limit Hold'em table (that's about $1/2 no limit to us Americanos), where I've more than doubled my 2000 pesos buy-in and have about four times the next largest chip stack.

I'm seated under the gun +1, the UTG folds and I look down at Ace -10 offsuit.  I raise to 100 pesos, hoping to find out where I'm at and perhaps simply take the blinds without a flop.

A new player directly to my left with most of a 500 pesos buy-in smooth-calls. No one else calls and we go heads-up to the flop; an Ace and a low pair.

It's possible the caller has a better Ace than mine (Ace-Jack maybe?).  Still, I bet 300 pesos hoping to win (he could have a calling hand that missed, like King, Queen suited).

Instead of folding, he goes all-in with his 395-pesos stack, thereby raising me by 95 pesos. I groan, figuring he holds a better Ace.  Still, I have to call the additional 95, being pot-committed.

Here's the amazing part:
He turns over his hand; pocket Kings. Given his chip stack, he had two good choices. Either, he should have raised me all-in pre-flop (I'd have folded, and at least he wouldn't be inviting and pricing-in possible over-callers), or he should have folded to my 300-pesos flop bet when the Ace opened on the board.

I actually later asked him his thinking, because I was so surprised at his play.
Here's what he said: "It's a game and I come to have fun." Well, there is that.  But, I'll try to play smart and have fun while hopefully winning. And winning is more likely if you know how to make a good laydown after a questionable pre-flop play.

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross


What if (almost) everyone at the table was Asian?

I'm always into playing in exotic locations. So, I was thrilled to hear that Cebu City, The Philippines – where I'm visiting – has poker!

When I went over last night to the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino, they were spreading 10peso/20 peso no-limit Hold'em and 25 peso/50 peso no-limit Hold'em. I joined the 25 peso/50 peso no-limit game - that's about $.50/$1 US - and bought in for $100, or 4100 pesos.

I was the only Caucasian at the table [PC Q. Am I allowed to say that? :-].  As you might imagine, the action was off the charts. It was great to watch the hands play. I say 'watch,' as I was playing super tight - no limping cheap here. Players were raising weak hands to $20, just for the thrill. I was the only person at the table who seemed to appreciate that ideally 're-buy' is not something you say every several minutes. Probably the best, was a re-buy of 50,000 peso - more than $1000 - to continue playing on our 'small' table.

Players were OVER-calling their entire multi-thousand peso stacks with losing top pair, top kicker hands, on boards that supported full houses and flushes. One player lost about $600, playing an off-suit 3, 7 -- the flop was 4, 5, 6 and another player of almost equal stack had a more reasonable 7, 8 hand. The winner flopped the higher straight that won the hand.

Of equal interest was the hand where a player called a $400 turn bet (the bettor held the nut hand; a straight) and rivered a medium flush to win about $900. This might have made sense, except when the ultimate winner made the call, he had about $7 invested in the pot and there was no assurance that if he made his hand it would be good (I guess it never entered his mind that two flushes are better than his Queen-high flush draw).

It became commonplace to hear people re-buy for several hundred dollars, at a table where the big blind was less than one dollar. I don't have enough experience to tell you it's always true, but based on my session I have to say: If you want 'action, action and more action,' come to Asia! 

Given the size of pots at this table, it's just a postscript to note: I lost my $100 playing two hands (I played about four hands in 3 hrs.).

1. Holding pocket Queens, I limped and then re-raised all-in (about $95). This lost me half my chips to a  short-stacked player holding 10, Jack off-suit, who felt he should call my massive raise and won with a straight. [Don't look for more rationale than his interest in action - he had about $2 invested in the pot when he called and everyone else had folded].
2.  I lost the rest of my chips going all-in pre-flop with pocket Jacks. A player with a King flopped trips.

So it goes.....Hours of entertainment and for-me, no re-buys.

- E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross

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