Aug. 9-14: midsummer success at some new games


I drove down on Sunday from the Bay Area, leaving early in hopes of getting to watch the Sunday AVP mixed game at the Imperial Palace. After I checked in to my (downtown, $5/night) hotel and freshened up, I headed to the strip, parked in the Mirage garage, and walked over to IP--only to find the game not running! I mean, I didn't feel ready to actually risk my money at games where I've never played (and some had no clue how to play, despite the instructions), but I did want to watch a bit.

So I headed back to the Mirage and sat in on the $3/$6 game for a bit. After the long drive, I wasn't sure I was sharp enough to tackle NL, so I wanted to just relax a bit. Kind of a crazy game (surprise, surprise), but I walked away at midnight after 3 1/4 hours up $28.

I wanted to start the day Monday with a small buy-in tournament (yes, I know that they are not as good, but I didn't want to risk large chunks of my bankroll). I woke up too late to hit the strip ones, so I walked over to the Golden Nugget for its $65 + $40 tournament. It was smaller than I hoped--only 17 entries--and I busted out 7th.

To the strip and the MGM Grand. Sat down at a $1/$2 NL table at 4:15pm, got up 2 1/2 hours later up $162. Actually only my 2nd time ever at a casino NL game, I played pretty snug, I think. But I think I did an OK job of figuring out who the aggressive players were, who the passive players were, and who the sharks were, and playing the right way (most of the time) against each. I had a very interesting hand that I'll post in the strategy forum. I was so happy that I did OK that I went to go catch a movie with my newfound free time, discovering a discount movie house just down Tropicana and watching "Star Trek" (again!) for $3.

Decided to stop back at MGM Grand and see what the late-night players were like. Definitely some at least semi-inebriated tourist types, but the game turned out to be a tough grind. I played til 4:15am and left down $3.

Tuesday I decided to see what was being spread at Bellagio. When I got to the desk, the floor said that they pretty much never spread $8/$16, so I settled on a $4/$8 game. More wildness ensued. One guy, middle eastern I think, blew of $500 or $600 in a couple of hours. I was mostly card dead, took a couple of bad beats, and walked out when I got my chip stack back to when I entered the game. Actually, as it turned out, when they counted it up at the cashier, after 6 hours of play, I was down $1.

So I grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to the Mirage and sat down at a $1/$2 NL table. I was in seat 8. In seat 10 was a young guy with a bandanna that called most every preflop raise. Across the table, in seat 3, was what seemed to me to be a very sharp and disciplined player. She definitely took advantage of position when there were several limpers, among the other plays I saw her make. I stayed only an hour and 15 minutes, leaving up $130, after making a tough all-in call. I had raised with A-10 and the guy to my left was a caller. The flop came 10-high with 2 diamonds. I bet out and he raised. I called. (I could but him on most anything. The turn came another 10. I checked, he bet decent (about $25 or so, IIRC), and I called. The river came a third diamond. I checked, he bet big enough to put me all in. I tanked a bit, realizing that he had been frequently aggressive after flops where he stayed in, trying to bully other players. I finally called, and he slowly flipped first a jack, and then a 10. I quickly flipped my A-10 and took down a nice pot.

The Orleans was my destination on Wednesday because they have two limit tournaments scheduled, on at noon, one at 7pm. Only I arrive to find no noon tournament because of some freeroll tournament that was going on. I was not happy. I hit the buffet (good food, very reasonably priced), and then was happier. I decided to give the $1/$2 NL game a try while I waited for the 7pm tournament. I cashed out after only an hour when I found myself up $110.

Then I went over to try some Omaha/8. I've played this only in tournaments before (there's a fun little tournament on Wednesday nights here that's half hold 'em, half Omaha/8 that I've been playing regularly), and $4/$8 was a level where I felt comfortable learning. (Actually, before I started playing in those tournaments, I got a couple of books to try and understand basic playing strategies.) It was an enjoyable--and educational--4 hours, and I cashed out up $85.

The tournament didn't go well. Took a couple of bad beats, caught a few nice wins, suffered through some card-deadedness, and busted out 18th (of 36). I decided I had enough poker for the day.

Thursday was my last full day, so I decided to hit MGM Grand again. A mistake, I think, getting there so "early." Sat down at 1:15pm and found what seemed to be several locals who played well. Got felted once, and did my only rebuy of the trip. Walked away at 5pm feeling lucky to be up $16.

Headed over to the Mirage, and after getting some dinner (I hit Imperial Palace intending to get a burger, but found that they have all-you-can-eat pasta form 5-7 for $10), I got a seat in the $10/$20 (limit) game. It looked like it was all regulars. There was one guy there who looked and sounded a lot like Antonio Esfandiari. Seated a few seats to my right, he raised a lot preflop and pushed the action. I found A-J offsuit on my first hand and decided to just limp in. I didn't hit, and folded, and make a couple of loose calls early with the express intend of trying to present a loose image. I tightened up after that (it helped not getting cards for a round or two), and ended up collecting some blinds with later raises with A-x. Got pocket kings twice late in the session and both held up. First was when I bet out after an ace hit the flop and all 3 callers folded, the second when a Q hit the flop and someone played her top pair aggressively. I also got lucky when a player on my immediate right raised (she'd not raised a lot, so I put her on a pretty big hand) and I cold-called whit A-Q. A Q flopped and I decided not to raise her flop bet. Another Q on the turn. I just smooth called, intending to raise on the river, but that plan was foiled when the river put Q-J-10 on the board. Still, I cracked her pocket kings. I got up after 2 1/2 hours up $325.

The good luck notwithstanding, I don't see this as an easy game. But I think, too, if you are patient and play a solid limit game, it's beatable. A number of players seem to prefer higher games (a few talked about making that game a $20/$40 game) and it is not a very passive game at all.

I asked at the desk when I was leaving how the hours tracked were used. She said after accumulating some hours, you could get dollar vouchers, I think for food. She noted that I had forgotten to check out on my previous visits and offered me a voucher anyway. I thanked her for her generosity, but declined, saying that I'd be back anyway. That was a nice thing for her to do.

I decided on Friday morning, rather than head right out of town, I'd head over to the Orleans again, take in the breakfast buffet (which cost my a whopping 15 cents thanks to poker room comp dollars), and then play a little more Omaha/8. Yes, this game seems to get going early. They opened a must-move 2nd game at 10:30 and I sat down, whereupon I proceeded to utterly fall apart, not being disciplined at all. I dropped $85 in a little over 3 hours. Bad, bad, bad.

Still, that left my up about $600 for the trip, after taking out the tournament entries, and up $757 for just cash game play.

I'm thinking of returning again soon, and if I do, I might forgo the tournament scene altogether. Cash games seem to be more profitable in the long run. Specifically, I might spend another night or two in the Mirage $10/$20 game and practice more in the Orleans $4/$8 Omaha/8 game.

That said, I spend far too little time on any game to make any sort of definitive conclusion. I do know that I have a bad habit of getting up, thinking that the game is good and I should be able to make more, and watching my stack then dwindle. So--especially in the NL games--when I got up a satisfactory amount, I routinely decided to pull up stakes and get out of dodge. I'm under no illusion that I'm a good enough NL player to "crush" any game, no matter how soft, and I saw no need to take unnecessary risks when I was up.

I also think that the daytime $1/$2 NL games, at least on weekdays, are something to stay away from if you're not significantly more than merely competent.

Limit games
$3/$6 hold 'em: 3 1/4 hours, $8.61/hour
$4/$8 hold 'em: 6 hours, -$0.17/hour
$10/$20 hold 'em:: 2 1/2 hours, $130/hour
$4/$8 Omaha8 half kill:: 7 1/4 hours, $0/hour
(4 hours, $85)
(3 1/4 hours, -$85)

NL games
$1/$2 hold 'em: 7 1/2 hours, $38/53/hour
(2 1/2 hours, $162)
(3 3/4 hours, -$3)
(1 1/4 hours, $130)

$757, $28.56/hour

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  1. @twriter

    Great trip report, I really enjoyed reading it. The key, IMHO, is that you play whatever is working for you. Sometimes you grind cash games and nothing is happening. No one is rebuying, you are barley winning enough to cover the blinds. The only one making any money is the house. Some times tourneys are not working for you, you are left with inevitable decisions. AQ raises, you have to shove with AK, and he has to call. The stacks/pot/blinds make such moves inevitable and you get snapped off.

    So next time you go back cash games may not be working for you, so don't be totally committed to your idea.