Friday, July 22, 2005

Ready, set, Vegas!

I had a very good night's rest last night, and I hope I can get an equally good night's rest tonight. On Saturday afternoon, I'm off to Vegas for my first serious poker trip. I will be in town for roughly 36 hours, and will probably play for roughly 18 hours. I intend to take a shot at the well-known loose $30/$60 tables at the Bellagio. From what I have heard, this is a very high variance action game. I hope that my gameplay is adjusted correctly for the loose game mid limit action. I have been doing a lot of preparation to consider what aspects of my playing style need to be changed.
I have done all the preparation I can reasonably expect to do. There is no substitute for experience.

The one mistake I want to avoid in this game is to "fold the winning hand on the river" when the pot is anything larger than 8 big bets. I'm going to favor the "paying off on the river" mistake in big pots until I have a good feel for my opponents. I guess another way of saying this is that I am going to model my unknown opponents with a considerably higher bluffing % than the average $20/$40 opponent I play with at my local poker room. Additionally, I will have to increase the range of hands that I will bet or raise with on the turn.

I wonder if there will be more multiway (vs. headsup) river situations that will present me with tougher decisions (e.g. facing a river bet from a LAG with a medium str hand with LAG players behind me to act). Quite possibly yes, so I think I want to ensure I am well rested before any of my $30/$60 sessions.

My plan is to play 3 hour sessions. I do not have the mental stamina to play my A-game for longer than 3 hours at a time without starting to play sloppy.

I've had about 5 session hours of experience at $15/$30 Bellagio tables, and I'm quite comfortable with this limit and the "average" player in that game. I may also try an afternoon session at the Mirage $20/$40 game. Based on reviews I have read, I think I should do fine in the Mirage $20/$40 game.

I need to remember to keep a $1 chip from any casino I play in for my collection.

Rules of engagement
Here is a general list of tactical rules I will follow on this trip.

- I will limit all of my mid stakes limit game sessions to 3 hours even if the game is good. (If the game is exceptionally good, I will force myself to walk away from the table for 20 minutes to take a break. Even then I will only continue for a max of 2 additional hours)

- I will have no stop-loss limit for playing $30/$60 (other than complete loss of bankroll). I will stop when the 3 hour session limit is reached, if the table is too tough, I am tired, or I suspect any collusion.

- I will not take a shot at $40/$80 this trip unless my bankroll is up more than $5k. If this is the case, I can attempt a 2 hour session if I am rested. Given the schedule of the trip, it is extremely unlikely for the gating condition to be met. (at a $30/$60 game, that is +83.3BB!)

- If I am tired, but not sleepy I will restrict myself to playing $8/$16 or $4/$8 with drunken tourists.

Goals for the trip?
I'm not sure what my goals should be. If I played non-stop from the time I landed until the time my return flight left, I would be playing less than 2000 hands, and realistically I expect to play less than 1000 hands. This is too small of a number to have a BB/hour target goal.

I think I will resort to my olde "mistakes" method of counting things. After every 3 hour session, I will make some notes on any mistakes I think I made during the session. I should be able to estimate the cost of each mistake in BBs (even if it is a statistical guess). My goal will be to make less than 0.5BB/hour in mistakes.

I can't see any other reasonable way to judge success of the trip. This is of course my rational opinion now. If I come back up $3000 I'll probably have a grin on my face, and if I'm down $3000 I'll probably look pretty glum even if I made 0 mistakes.

I'm expecting to put in approximately 18 table hours this trip with avg table stakes of $40 per BB. Long term for this type of trip, I would like to have an avg result of +1.5BB (net after tips and food). Hmmm, after my travel expenses ($300) this means my goal would only net $780. That seems incredibly lame. I'm not sure how much to value the "learning experience" aspect of this trip. Probably it is not worth that much other than psychological conditioning.

Hmmm, I wonder if +1.5BB is the right number. For example, in my one prior 3.5 hour Bellagio $8/$16 session with sleepy tourists my result was +10.0BB/hour. My hand situations were not too extraordinary. I had an average number of good hands, perhaps a slightly below average number of bad beats, and perhaps a slightly above average number of times I outdrew my opponent. I just earned a large number of extra big bets because some tourists were paying off ~over~calling all the way with any pair (e.g. 3rd pair lousy kicker, pocket pair when board has 4 overcards, etc) chasing gutshots or runner runner draws (proud to show when they missed...). Given those same conditions, I think +5.0BB/hour should be very reasonable. I may have more thoughts on the expected long term results after this trip.


I still have high confidence in my mid stakes limit hold'em game. In my last, $20/$40 session I lost 14BB in 75 minutes. The result was disappointing but I believe I made absolutely no mistakes - losing the minimum and winning the maximum on all interesting hands. I was dealt AKs 3 times, completely missing the flop the first 2 times, but made top pair top kicker when my lone opponent hit a set. Made reasonable laydowns on the river in situations like when two opponents called me to the river which brought runner runner 4 to the straight and 4 to the flush vs my top two pair (9 high flush bet, and got called by unimproved 3rd pocket pair). By contrast, the donkey 2 seats to my left managed to win the minimum and lose the maximum finishing up around 12BB during the same time period. The donkey could not miss a flop though, and opponents had a hard time catching up even when donkey gave free cards. This was the kind of player that had good starting hand selection, but absolutely terrible postflop skills. I'd love to play with a table full of these players every single day.

Patience and discipline. If I can continue to play well, and actually go through some decent situations I should do very well this weekend.


I've delayed deciding what my poker bankroll penalty will be until I come back from this trip.

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