January 1, 2006

NEW YEAR'S POKER EDUCATION IN VEGAS

not really feeling the whole celebrating new year's thing, i made a last-minute decision to go to vegas instead and spend it sitting in my red poker sweatshirt next to nine other (generally) male degenerates sitting around an oval table and playing cards. what i got was not only an interesting trip report, but also a nice profit and a good poker education: FRIDAY i arrived at around 5:30pm and headed to imperial palace where i threw my stuff in eafong's room. i then headed straight for the 2-5 NL game at the mirage, where i bought in for 200 and ran it up pretty quickly to about 700. around midnight, i actually found myself thinking "hmm, this game's gotten kinda tough (some solid new players) and i'm feeling kinda tired." of course, i decided to stay and ended up losing most of my chips back when i got trapped by a crafty player. to really understand how i was trapped, we have to go back about an hour. this tight-aggressive played bluffed me off a hand with 26 offsuit, showing me after the fold. i really only had AK after a raggedy flop, so i didn't feel too bad about the hand, but i noted every detail about the hand, hoping to use it later. he knew that i was watching him carefully the whole hand, analyzing him. an hour later i found myself staring at the same player, appearing EXACTLY the same, down to the slow, deliberate re-check of his cards and raise on my bet. it looked perfectly the same. this time, with a Q65 flop with two clubs and AQ in my hand, i read him for a bluff or semi-bluff, and pushed him all-in for another $400. he immediately called and flipped over 55, for a flopped set. honestly, i couldn't do anything but pat the table and tell him "nice hand." he really did just outplay me. anyhow, not long after that i retreated to sleep, even on the night and really unhappy. i know that as a poker player my biggest problems are: 1) steam control, and 2) being honest with myself and leaving when a game has gone bad. i was irritated that i messed up #2 on friday. i mean, yes, i may have been able to stay there and take some more money by trapping one of the other good players at the table, but the odds on that were purely 50-50, and good players know not to get into 50-50 battles with other players. i went to sleep really unhappy with myself and even on the night. SATURDAY armed with a good eight hours of sleep, i headed straight for the wynn las vegas poker room, determined to play great all day and find good games. i sat down at a 2-5 NL game, buying in for 200 and playing pretty well. after a while, i realized the other table was a much better game and asked for a table change. i proceeded to spend the next 9 hours at the other table, running up my stack really well. it went from 200 up to about 700 quickly. the cards were cold for about two hours while i sat out almost every hand. then from about 650 i took it up to about 2350, using a good run of cards and great play (including making one really great call for $600). around 7pm, i realized that the game had gone bad, mostly because i was staring at a bunch of tiny stacks in front of new good players that just wanted a chunk of me. so i did something that i've never done before: i left a game while playing great. pretty proud of myself for that i walked over to caesar's to check out the new poker room there. i watched a few minutes of the final table of the $2200 buy-in tournament, which included shannon elizabeth (actress) and david williams (pro). pretty cool. nice room that they have, but i think they're going to struggle to take any high-limit business from bellagio. when i got over to bellagio, i had another cool celebrity sighting when i saw a-rod playing at a 10-20 No Limit game. i thought about sitting down with him and playing (i even bought up two stacks of $20 chips), just to play against a celebrity. i mean, how great would it be to say "yeah, a-rod looked me up with garbage and i doubled through him." so how did i do at bellagio? well, i played for a while, but not successfully. we won't go into serious details (because i've promised no bad beat stories on here). let's just say i lost two $400 buy-ins at the 5-10 no limit game at bellagio, both on statistically improbably results. we'll just talk the math: * i was a 4:1 favorite after getting all my money ($950) in before the flop, only to lose (that's about a $1930 pot) * i was a 43:1 favorite (yes, that's one out with one card to go) after getting all my money ($411) in after the turn, only to lose (yes, that's a one-outter on about an $850 pot) the painful part was that these weren't just random bad beats, but rather situations that i slowly and patiently waited for. these are situations that i arrived at through studying the players, determining a specific strategy, carefully setting them up, and then waiting. when i finally found a great spot to put all my money in, spots that pros would salivate on, i pulled the trigger and the numbers didn't hold up. just a slightly sickening reminder that luck plays a part in poker, as much as we poker players convince ourselves that it doesn't. so stunned by the second beat, i packed up and slept for the night at around 2am. SUMMARY all in all, it was a great weekend of poker for me. i felt very bittersweet about the whole weekend at first, but i've realized that 1) it turned out to be a good trip financially, and 2) i'm pretty proud of myself for several reasons: * i played the best single day of poker (Saturday) that i've ever played in my life. and when i say a day, i mean an entire day (10am-2am). i told myself when i woke up in the morning that i was going to play great all day and that i would buy in as long as i was playing well (no matter how much money that cost). i'm proud that i was able to do it. * i had the discipline to get up from a game (Wynn) that wasn't great anymore, even though i was playing well and had lots of chips. game selection is so vital and this was a step in the right direction. considering the mistake from the night before, i was happy with myself for that. * i had the discipline to not re-buy when i knew i wouldn't play well (Bellagio). i had plenty of cash in my bankroll for more, but after those beats i realized that i would play terribly. i wanted so badly to come back and bust the guy who broke me, but i was able to control myself enough to say "go home and go to sleep. you can't play anymore today." that is a big step. tags: ,

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