Wrapping up my Vegas reporting
The quality of play is really amazingly donktastic. Every time I go to Vegas I tell my wife that I ought to move out there and play full time. There are a number of good players who have done so, and the game is not as soft in middle limit Hold’Em as it used to be, but it is still plenty soft. The NL games are even worse than ever and you could easily make a lot of money nut peddling. The trick is, as always, adjusting to the other guys.
The most extreme example of adjusting I ran into was at 3:00am at the Wynn. I was playing 15/30 fixed limit, which was as high a game as they spread at that hour. In fact, the table nearly broke around 2, but there was one other decent player who played heads-up with me for a while. He was exploitable heads-up, but he kept catching better than me and I actually dropped $200 to him, when a few players started to trickle in. We got up to six handed when two guys from some mysterious foreign country arrived. One of them was insanely drunk, stumbling and slurring his words. He had a very simple strategy to poker. He had apparently heard that aggression was the key and he employed it to the maximum extent possible. If the action was on him, he raised. Not sometimes, not mixed in with calls and folds, essentially every hand. This created an interesting bingo dynamic. For a while, we didn’t realize that his strategy involved always betting/raising at every decision point. I picked up on it on the third hand, when I noticed he forgot to look at his cards first. I quickly realized that this was like the table Hold’em game. You are against a random hand and you get to determine how much it pays.
The other players weren’t adjusting too well to this guy. They usually just check-called with any pair and raised with better holdings. I started killing this guy once I figured out what was up. There was a very cautious old guy in between us, but I had position on the guy (what do you call him, more than a LAG, more than a maniac even). So I was three-betting him pre-flop a ton and calling down with hands like Queen high. It was fairly swingy, but I was steadily building up my stack. A few other players got isolated with him and lost with overpairs against ragged two pairs and they were getting visibly frustrated. In one hand I had TT which was an overpair most of the way and rivered a set. I put in five bets on the flop, three bets on the turn (which was a Queen) and eight bets on the river. The action went just like this: He bets, I raise, he 3-bets, I 4-bet, he 5-bets, I 6-bet, he 7-bets, I 8-bet, he folds. This was the first time I had seen him fold and he was getting about 4,000 to 1. It made me laugh. I was up more than $1,000 at this point. There was another hand where the board was T72 and I held pocket 5s. When the board paired 7s on the turn, it was lunatic, old guy and me in the pot. Lunatic bets, old guy calls, I raise, lunatic 3 bets, old guy looks at me for a while and mucks. I call the 3 bet and go three more on the river when it brings a 4. I figure 7s and 5s are way ahead of a random hand there. The old guy goes apeshit. Apparently he was certain my raise meant trips or better and he folded Kings! I wouldn’t have folded Kings with a gun to my head. The old guy said “I thought you were a good player.” He didn’t understand that you can’t follow a chart that says “check-call with this and re-raise with that.” The game is completely and totally different when there is a guy like this in it. Finally, I turned a flush and the dealer helpfully pointed out that since we were heads-up, we could just agree to go all-in. Drunk guy was agreeable and drawing dead. I was up $1,500 and he was broke. He actually had $150, but they wouldn’t let him buy in short, which was just as well, since he would obviously lose that too. He assured us he would return once he found the ATM and we all waited patiently. It was weird to go back to normal poker while we waited. It took him more than an hour, but he returned with cash.
I forgot to tell you his favorite game. He would bet/raise all the way to river without ever looking at his cards. He then wanted the other player to expose his hand first and he would turn his cards over one at a time to great drama. The old guy objected that he was supposed to show his hand first, but the rest of us got into the spirit of this new game. It was pretty fun. When he sat back down, he had $500. On the second hand of his return, there was a board of K6Q36 rainbow. I had 76 for trips on the river. We went bet/raise/raise/raise/raise/wanna go all-in?/sure! I felt a bit bad, but when he was gone the dealer and the other players convinced me he was going to go broke anyhow to the casino table games, so better us than the house. I believed, because I wanted to believe. He did his magic trick and the first card he rolled was a Queen. He shouts with joy and starts calling for another Queen and sure enough, he rolls them over. I actually laugh and celebrate with him, because I know he’s going to lose it all anyhow, so he might as well savor his brief moment. He wins one and loses one and thn we’re in another huge hand. He’s now back to about $900 and he’s looked at his cards this time. I turn a set and we agree to put it all-in again. The pot has almost $2,000 in it and he turns over a flush draw, I think believing he already has the flush (clubs and spades look similar!) Once he realizes he needs the flush to come, he begins to exhort the dealer to give him one more club and the dealer obliges! Bedlam ensues. He hugs his friend that he came with, excited counts his money and decides that his poker fortune can not possibly continue and that the time is right to cash out. To the enormous dismay of the rest of the table, he proceeds to rack up four full racks of red chips and staggers to the cage. To my disgust, he announces that he is bound for the craps table.
I actually ended that session up about $150, so it wasn’t a disaster, but I should have been up $2,000 or more. Strangely, I didn’t feel that bad. I guess if I had actually lost a lot of money to him I might have tilted, but I don’t think so. He was playing a game that was destined to give me money if we played enough and I was just amused and amazed by it. None of the regulars were willing to gamble quite so much with him and after he left they advised me that I should have just played smaller pots with him and he could never have got lucky enough to get so much money back. They might have been right, but I’m happy to make big bets when I have the best of it. They told me that some variation of this wasn’t uncommon on weekend nights. Usually the guy isn’t such a maniac, usually he is more the call every hand to the river type, but still a cash machine. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.
The Wynn has an extra element of rake. In addition to the tokes for the dealer and the cocktail server, they have the most amazing massage therapists. It runs $2 a minute and I think I paid them more than I won. It was worth it. At one point, she hoisted my arms above my head and told me gently to prepare for the biggest stretch in poker. She bent me backwards until my spine made noises and it felt amazingly good. The idea occurred to me that they should have massage therapists in a lot more places. At the sushi bar would be great. At the airport, even better! On the plane! Anywhere you have to wait!
I played a few other events. There was a donktastic low-buyin tourney at the Golden Nugget where a bunch of ITHers played. I got a big stack and donked it off with JJ where I should have known I was beat, but I didn’t care. My table image was a bit loose, so I knew he thought I probably has less than Jacks. I played a WSOP sat where I went card dead for a long time at the worst time (just as the blinds were starting to hurt) and I had to fold QQ to big action on an Ace high flop and then lost my pushbot play with ATs. My net results were up in cash games, although not nearly up as much as I should have been and down slightly in tourney play.
I’m heading back July 7th for the Main Event of the World Series. This is the big one that airs for weeks at a time on ESPN. I feel pretty good about my chances, but you never know how the cards will fall.
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