Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Vegas trip report

My first Vegas poker experience was satisfactory.

I managed to get in a combined 10 session hours during the trip at Aladdin, Bellagio, and Wynn. Given the situations I encountered, my results were reasonable: ~3BB/hour. For example, during a shorter session at the Bellagio, I was able to extract the maximum from my hands and lose the minimum when at a table with 5 tourists and 3 locals. During a later session at a much tougher table, I lost two large pots to a very LAGgy player with strong 2nd best hands. So the sessions kind of balanced themselves out.

Quality of Games
I may not have enough playing time to make a good comparision, but my initial thoughts are that the Vegas games are moderately better than the games at my local cardroom - perhaps 1 BB/hour better, perhaps much more. The obvious scenarios this derives from is the tourist. The "I didn't come all the way to Vegas to fold" mentality (although this can introduce bigger variance in short term results because there will naturally be more outdraws). Also, during a 3am-6am session I noticed ~20% of the players in the cardroom were falling asleep at the table. (a.k.a. The "I'm only in town until tomorrow, so I'm going to play all night long" mentality). It was amazing to me that players would often need to be woken up when it was their turn to act, yet they would still remain at the table.
The alcohol factor was also present. However, I didn't have the feeling that this differed all that much compared to players at my local cardroom during an evening or weekend session.

Bad Beats
By rough guess, I would estimate that I gave and received approximately the appropriate number of bad beats. (It is much harder to estimate bad beats received live since you generally will not see mucked hands in river showdowns. Naturally, it is just as easy to count the number of bad beats I gave live vs online. :P) Anyway, my only point is that it felt like the number of outdraws for and against was not out of line, and hence my results are not too skewed.

As far as I can recollect, I recall only wasting 3BB the whole trip in clear mistakes. (1 call when I was clearly beaten, 1 missed value bet against a loose passive player, 1 poor river bluff where my opponent would clearly call) I did make 1 other crying call on the river with TPTK because I was getting too concerned my play had become too weak tight in one particular session.
In terms of macro decisions, the most notable thing was that I did not elect to leave a table where I had a weak table image.

Table image
During ~70% of my table hours, I interpretted my table image to be strong. The discussion of table image assumes that opponents pay attention. I believe my sesssions ranged from having as few as 2 opponents paying attention (at a 3am session) to having all opponents paying attention (at a 6pm session).
It is difficult to pin down the value of strong table image, but I would venture to guess it was worth ~2BB per hour from 3 major types of situations: 1) opponents are considerably less likely to try bluffing you, 2) higher probability to steal the pot when scare cards come on the board, 3) opponents give you more free cards to avoid getting raised or check raised.
A big part of table image gets built up in the first half hour or so after being seated. Sometimes just the way the cards are dealt, you can't really help ending up with a very weak table image. When that happens, I need to remember to switch tables or just call it quits.

My play
Generally speaking, I was satisfied with my postflop play. I usually bet or raised correctly to protect my hand. I selectively raised to get free cards with good draws. I built large pots on the flop with monster draws (quality pair with nut flush draw, open ended straight flush draw, etc.) (though I actually missed my hand on all of those occasions!)
I'm not completely sure I caught enough turn or river bluffs (when I had hands like big unimproved As and mid pocket pairs w many overcards in short handed pots). Possibly I did not call down on enough hands. Hard to tell, but my feeling is that I didn't catch enough bluffs.
I also think I don't pick up on enough tells. I have to work on this more.
During all sessions, I was playing somewhat tired. It was almost unavoidable in this trip. This likely had a modest impact on my judgement. It may also have affected how many tells I might have put out (the most likely scenario is that I didn't get maximum value for my big hands). I need to plan more carefully how to be well rested before any further Vegas poker adventures.

Other notes on the trip: I saw MicroBob at the Bellagio, so I introduced myself. There were some name stars in the poker room that day as well - Mel Judah, David Chiu, Chao Giang to name a few.

Poker rooms
The Bellagio and Wynn poker rooms are both very nice. The rooms are both non-smoking, but since smoking is permitted in the rest of the casino, then smoke can filter in from people standing on the rail. The chairs at both rooms are comfortable, although the Bellagio seats don't have wheels which I prefer. The lighting is reasonable, although I'd prefer brighter. The way I read my hole cards, I could rarely see the color of my cards because of the lighting so it would often take me longer to look at them. (i.e. I would often be determining suit by shape instead of color and shape) I usually only look at my hole cards when it is my turn to act, but since it was taking me a second or two longer to read them, I eventually starting reading them in advance.
The rake at Vegas poker rooms is much more reasonable than my local cardroom. I estimate for an $8/$16 game, the higher rake would probably cost me $5/hour more at my local cardroom. This I would consider significant.
I found that the # hands per hour was probably 5-10% less than at my local card room, even though all places I have played used card shuffling machines. Factors that had an influence on the fewer number of hands included: far more inexperienced players (e.g. not noticing it was their turn to act), when players were slow to act (for whatever reason) the other players and the dealer did not push very hard to speed up the action, more dealer interuptions (e.g. dealer exchanging chips for whatever reason), possibly slightly more dealer mistakes than I am used to seeing.
The wait list system at the Bellagio is too primitive for my liking. I have heard the wait list system is nice at the Wynn, but I didn't see it since I was immediately seated.

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