Tuesday, October 11, 2005

7 Poker Lessons I Learned in Vegas

(Hey, look, a post not about Party.)

1) I need to play higher than 10/20 when playing limit live. The slower pace and still very emu-esque play frustrated me a good bit. It may partly be due to some of the bloom coming off the poker rose for me, but I definitely didn't feel like I was achieving anywhere near an equivalent ROI playing 4/8 and 10/20 live, and that the general play was still bad enough to negate some of the advantage of knowing what the hell I was doing. Yeah, I know, you get bad play at all levels, big hands get cracked by junk everywhere, etc., but if I have the bankroll and the time to play, I should play at the highest limit I can comfortably swing.

2) On a related note to #1, I have to get over the psychological gambling hump as far as playing with real dollars, in a live game. I don't have this hangup online when it's virtual money, but my sphincter tightens when it involves actual paper money exchanged for chips which are then (hopefully) exchanged for more paper money. I probably should go ahead and withdraw some cash from Neteller and keep a larger physical cash bankroll for live games. Yeah, I can hit the ATM, but that's psychologically destructive, not to mention a strain on marital bliss if chunks of money start disappearing from our joint checking account.

3) Reads are easier live. (Duh.) Which is nice, but it also includes an even greater obligation to follow through on your reads, no matter how painful. There were two different instances where I absolutely, positively knew I was beaten, even though it meant that someone was about to crack a set of mine with a junk hand like K8o or 59o. Yet I managed to concoct reasons to call it down both times, only to see exactly what I knew they had.

4) Quit when you're tired. I've mastered this as far as online play goes but one night I insisted on playing long past the point of sharpness, for no reason other than to maximize my chance to play poker live. Yes, granted, living in the midst of Texas kind of sucks as far as live play goes but Vegas isn't going anywhere, nor is Louisiana, and there'll be plenty of poker to play in the future.

5) I still need to play much more live poker. I'm not as aggressive live as I should be, as far as making moves or re-raising when I think I'm marginally good, for the very simple reason that I don't want to look foolish. Online, sure, what the hell, as I can hide behind lovely anonymity when exposed as being full of shit, but I'm still hesitant to make plays I know I should live.

6) I need to talk more. Quiet guy who pays close attention and plays very few hands = scary. Loud, obnoxious guy who keeps knocking over his drink, always raises when he plays, and never knows when the action is on him = action. I'm never going to be loud, obnoxious guy but I also don't have to be quiet, scary guy.

7) Table selection applies to live games just as much as onlnie games. Yeah, it's a pain to re-rack chips and find another game but that's what all those poker tables are for, especially if you're in a room with other available tables. Whether it's rocky conditions or one hell of an annoying frat boy WPT-wannabee, there's no reason to sit there if you know there's a better table somewhere else.


d said...

I agree with every one of your points, particularly #1 (although #2 is not much of an issue anymore, although it was earlier).
I'm not sure if #6 stops being true at higher limits, but it is has been certainly true for all limits I have played up to $30/$60.

Captain Freeman said...

I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about your Lesson #6 while playing at the local boats. The first few times I went I was too nervous to say anything more than "sorry" when I made a mistake, and I got no action. Last time I went, I played about the same percentage of hands with about the same aggressiveness, but I made a point of commiserating with people when their J6o that flopped bottom two got "sucked out" by AKs making a flush on the river.

Sometimes you don't even have to play the bad hands to get labeled "fish"... you just have to talk about them.

littleacornman said...

Good post.Your lessons really hit the nail on the head.I've only played live a couple of times and lesson 6 was me both times.

I think I recognised it though ( 2nd time) and when I'd settled in I started stealing and making a few more moves.

Getting respect for my bets gave me confidence and helped me find my usual game.Came 7th from 40 for £5 net so hardly big stakes though.

Beck said...

Great list. I'm going to join everyone else in saying that #6 applies for size. Forcing myself to be even slightly gregarious yields a lot more action when I have a hand.

Even weak players can perceive the people who are only playing the best 10% or so of hands, and they resent it. They only want to give action to fellow "gamblers" who are just there to "have fun."

cc said...

A few other learnings in live, casino cash games (mostly learned at Bellagio, but have played many rooms around the US):

#8: For limit, you should play 1.5-3.0x your normal game to play with similar types of players.

#9: Where you play and the stakes are important. As there are now an ever-increasing number of card rooms opening up in casinos and out, you're seeing a few distinctly different types of rooms: the new add-on room (like at Mandalay Bay) where the limits are fairly low and you're mainly getting tourists. The former stars (like Binion's Horseshoe) where you'll find the crotchety old-timers. The boats, where you'll find the local collection of grinders and TV-watchers. The second-tier studs (like Casino Arizona) where you'll find a large collection of everything you want in players and games. And the cream of the crop (from my experience): #3--Borgata, #2--Foxwoods, #1--The Bellagio. At these, you'll find poker the way it was meant to be played live.

#10--In the relatively smaller rooms, I'm beginning to NLHE is a better +EV than mid-level limit. There tend to be significantly more fish that let you take their funds.

#11--When you play is almost as important as where. Thursday-Sunday provide the easiest ROI.

#12--Donkey bad beats happen live as well as online.

#13--Horrific runs live are scarier than online. First time I moved up from $4/8 to $15/30 live at the Bellagio, I had the following three hands in the first ten I was dealt: AQ beaten by AK, flopped 33 set beaten by flopped 99 set, and flopped AJ straighten taken out by a flush on the turn. Physically shaking, I thought, "Man, I'm not ready for this, it's a different game."

#14--Beware of higher-limit NLHE. I couldn't get a $4/8 table at the Bellagio early in my live play, so I sat down at the min$200 NLHE ($2/5). I lose my first $200, then get moved to the main table. To my right is this Somali with like $3,000 in chips. Every time I would raise a pot with whatever, he would re-raise $300. I eventually took down an evil guy and got even, but I was scared to death.

#15--You have to alternate your method of mucking to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

#16--Stacking large quantities of chips is funner than hearing Congratulations!

#17--There is nothing cooler than getting up, taking a break, and walking by a table with Gus Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Phil Ivey, David Williams, and four folks you don't know with stacks of chips whose denominations you aren't familiar with.

Drizztdj said...

I always play live half in the bag to force myself to be more socialable.

Possibly a -EV move but it also gets me over the psychological hump of raise with chips instead of a click.