Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Poker Collusion

There's a scene in the movie "Rounders" where a bunch of professional poker players from New York City are in Atlantic City and end up at the same table with each other. Then some non-pros sit down and, while the pros aren't colluding with each other, they know they have a better chance playing hands against the amateurs than against each other, so that's what they do...

A guy from Las Vegas was in St. Louis recently and sat down in our $5-10 no limit hold'em game. Naturally, the conversation turned to where he usually played in Vegas. He talked about the action at Aria, the Encore, and the Venetian. Someone asked him about the Bellagio poker room and he replied that he still played $5-10 there occasionally, but won't play in the $10-20 game anymore because, too often, there are players at the table working off the same bankroll. That means that they've agreed to share their winnings and losses, and because they're not playing against each other, they're more likely to team up on you whenever you get involved in a hand with them. If there are a couple of these teams at the same table, that makes four out of nine players who have a distinct advantage over anyone playing on their own (which we all should be).

I've been at the table when two opponents were obviously playing together, making moves to push other people out of pots, even when they didn't have much of a hand. The worst example I remember was in 2010 at the Venetian, a stop on the PokerStars North American Poker Tour. I was in a pot-limit Omaha cash game at about 3am, playing four-handed, and I knew one of the other players, John, who was from St. Louis.

That's when Young Guy One sat down at the table. He played fairly tight poker for about 15 minutes until Young Guy Two sat down. They barely looked at each other, but both of them started getting way too aggressive for this game, pushing people off hands and taking down several pots in a row. They were especially sticking it to John, whose losses had put him on tilt. He started playing more hands than he should have and they kept playing right back at him. However, when they had gotten him out of the way (for instance, raising and re-raising so much on the flop or turn that he had to fold), they stopped betting against each other. They even laughed as they showed their hands, and we could see that neither of them had anything decent most of the time

After a half hour of this, I'd had enough and called over the floor supervisor, told her I thought these Young Guys were colluding at the table, and explained what I'd seen. She turned to them and asked if they knew each other. There was a pause before they both quickly picked up their chips without saying a word and left together. John was pissed off at me because he wasn't going to get a chance to get his money back, but I explained that he was at such a disadvantage against those two that it wasn't going to happen.

On another occasion, I was accused of collusion. It was during a tournament series in Tunica, Mississippi, and there were a lot of other people from St. Louis there. After busting out of a tournament, I put my name on the list for a pot-limit Omaha cash game. I was eventually seated at a table with Alan and Debbie, two very good players from back home.

We were talking about our experiences in some of the tournaments and other cash games when someone at the table that we didn't know -- who had been losing because of his terrible play -- said, "I knew it. You three know each other. It's obvious that you're playing together against the rest of us." I responded, "If you think we're playing together, you're not paying attention. Debbie would like nothing more than to take all my chips, and I'd be ecstatic if I got all of Alan's chips. That's true in St. Louis as much as it is here in Tunica."

Alan and Debbie laughed at this as another player we didn't know chimed in, adding, "They're not colluding. I've watched every hand at this table, and I haven't seen any evidence they're playing together. You're just mad because they're better players than you are and you keep giving your chips away." That really put the loser on tilt. On the next hand, he was all in on the flop with a non-nuts straight draw, and when it hit but he lost all his chips to someone with the nuts (who was not Alan, Debbie, or me), he stormed away from the table.

By the way, Debbie took about $1,200 off of Alan and me that day. And she never offered to split it with us.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Betting and Punting

Here's something I wrote in 2004 about an incident at a Las Vegas casino that no longer exists...

The Stardust sports book in Las Vegas is considered the sports book, because it is traditionally the first to post the line on most sporting events, and many other books follow its lead. Bob Scucci, who runs the Stardust book, has been on my radio show many times.

Two weeks ago, I was in Vegas and went to the Stardust because it was a great place to watch the AFC and NFC championship games. Naturally, I said hello to Bob and we chatted for awhile. He told me how much the north end of The Strip is changing for the better, thanks to Steve Wynn's new mega-resort and the Fashion Show mall being in the neighborhood. That's good for the Stardust, so I was happy for him.

He comped me breakfast at their coffee shop. I went to eat, then came back to find a seat in the sports book and put down a wager or two. Since I didn't have a hometown rooting interest, putting some money on the games would make them more fun to watch.

One of my bets was a parlay that included one of those proposition bets. It had to do with which team would punt first in the AFC championship game. Since the Colts hadn't punted once in their two previous games due to their high-powered offense, I bet that it would be the Patriots.

As the game went along, neither team punted for quite awhile. It was well into the second quarter before one of them got in trouble and had to kick it away. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Patriots. The Colts lined up for the punt that would immediately make my bet a loser -- but the ball was snapped over the punter's head! As it rolled deep into their own territory, the Colts' punter, Hunter Smith, ran back and kicked the ball on the ground out of his own end zone, for a safety.

Since I had money on this, I ran over to Bob and asked, "Does that count as a punt?" He replied with authority, "I don't know!" He explained that he didn't think so, that it would probably be considered a muffed punt, but that he'd have to wait until they got the official stats from the NFL.

After a safety, the team that was scored against has to kick off on the next play. But because their regular kicker doesn't do it (the punter does), I raised the question of whether the kickoff counted as a punt. This one, Bob knew: it's not a punt, it's a "free kick." In other words, as far as the Stardust was concerned, there had yet to be a single punt in this game, so my wager was still alive. Whew!

The game continued until more than halfway through the third quarter before the outcome of my bet would be settled. Unfortunately, it was the Colts who were forced to punt at that point, and this time the ball didn’t go over the punter’s head.

That killed my bet -- and made my earlier meal the most expensive breakfast I've ever had.

Update: after the Stardust was imploded in 2007, Bob Scucci went on to be Director of Race and Sports for Boyd Gaming Corp.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

David Pogue's Basics: Money

David Pogue, the man behind Yahoo Tech, returned to my show to talk about the latest in his Basics series, this one full of tips that will save you money. He has hundreds of suggestions of discounts and freebies you (and I) didn't know about, including a few that we discussed:
  • why you should buy your own cable box and modem instead of paying rent to the cable company every month;
  • what your options are if you cut the cord and just watch TV online instead;
  • why you should have a credit card that pays you cash back instead of airline frequent-flier miles;
  • why you shouldn't change your car's oil every 3,000 miles;
  • how you can get your flat tire repaired for free;
  • how you can get Starbucks to give you coffee that's hot but won't burn your mouth;
  • a problem with AT&T's "unlimited" data plan that they don't warn you about.
The full title of David's book is "Pogue's Basics: Money -- Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers To Tell You) About Beating The System."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 12/2/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Manchester By The Sea," "Bad Santa 2," "Moana," "Rules Don't Apply," and "Nocturnal Animals." We also talked about an upcoming CBS reality show, "Hunted," some streaming suggestions, and more.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 12/2/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the topical trivia categories include I See Dead People, Things That Happened In December, and Where Was That? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/2/16

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories of a costly eBay error, a thief's debit card, and online breakup revenge. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, December 02, 2016

KTRS Friday

Coming up on my 3-6pm CT show at KTRS today:
  • In the first hour, I'll talk to David Pogue about his new book, "Pogue's Basics: Money."
  • In the second hour, Colin Jeffrey and I will review "Manchester By The Sea," "Moana," "Nocturnal Animals," "Rules Don't Apply," "Bad Santa 2," and other movie/showbiz stuff.
  • In the third hour, you'll get another opportunity to play my Harris Challenge, and I'll have a brand new edition of Knuckleheads In The News®.
Listen over the air, via the station's free smartphone app or via

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Streaming Suggestions

I have two shows to recommend you watch if you have an Amazon Prime account:
  • "Goliath," starring Billy Bob Thornton as a formerly-great lawyer who drank his way to the bottom, but gets a chance at redemption in a case against the big law firm run by his ex-partner (William Hurt, in full slime mode). With Molly Parker as his arch-nemesis, Maria Bello as his ex-wife, and Harold Perrineau ("Lost") as an impatient judge. Eight episodes in the season. I hope they make more.
  • "Good Girls Revolt," about women working at a news magazine in 1969 who are allowed to be researchers and secretaries, but not reporters. Based on a book by Lynn Povich (Maury's sister), one of the real-life women who complained to the EEOC about discrimination at Newsweek. With lots of talk of consciousness-raising and the beginnings of the feminist movement, think of it as a follow-up to "Mad Men" if Peggy and Joan were the central characters. I don't know anyone in the uniformly good cast, although Mamie Gummer plays Nora Ephron in the pilot -- odd since she's the daughter of Meryl Streep, who played Ephron in "Heartburn." I'm only halfway through the ten-episode season, but I'm hooked. 
Meanwhile, Amazon's competitor, Netflix has finally add the download option to some of its movies and original shows. That means that you can download the content to your iOS or Android phone or tablet (it doesn't work for laptops or desktops) and then watch it without having to have a wi-fi or internet connection later. Amazon has offered this for much of its Prime Video content for awhile, which has allowed me to binge-watch stuff while flying without having to pay for the costly (and slow) onboard wi-fi. Now I'll do the same with Netflix material -- like the new season of "Black Mirror," which I've only been able to watch a couple of episodes of.

One other TV note: as a longtime fan of "The Amazing Race," Reality Blurred's Andy Dehnart had me worried earlier this week when he reported that CBS had not set a premiere date for Season 29, which is already in the can. So I was glad to see his update saying that the network has announced it will return on April 21st. However, there are no plans to do a thirtieth season of the show -- yet. Damn you, McGyver!

Picture Of The Day

Because you've always wanted to ride a roller coaster wearing nothing but a towel while sitting in warm water...