Monday, April 23, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 2 -- The Return

MGM GrandThe decision to play at the MGM Grand poker room was due to a couple of factors. For one, I rarely play live, and the only time I’d ever played in Vegas before was at the MGM -- a couple of years ago, not too long after they had opened, I believe. I wasn’t necessarily nervous, but did consider the calming benefits of familiar surroundings. Also, I guessed they’d likely be spreading a 2/4 limit game. I knew when the trip began that I’d not be venturing any higher than 3/6. And while I am aware how difficult it is to stay ahead of the rake at 2/4, I mainly wanted to gather some live experience here.

I worked my way through the slots, roulette wheels, and blackjack tables. Looked in on Sky and Jade, a pair of seven-and-a-half year old lions on display not too far from the poker area. They appeared sleepy. I couldn’t have been more awake. Put myself on the list for 2/4 limit. My name was fifth.

I waited for 20-25 minutes or so, watching the 1/2 NL game going on at the near table. Later I jotted down a couple of the hands I saw. (All of the hands I recount here come from notes I took soon afterwards.) In the first an EP player raised to $15 and everyone folded to a LP player who called. The flop came 992, and EP quickly pushed out $30 of chips. LP leans in and flicks his hand forward, saying he’s all-in (for $115 or so, I believe). EP thinks a bit and folds, and LP shows Ah9h. The other hand was another large pot -- $200 or so -- in which JJ cracked big slick when a jack flopped.

After seven names have appeared on the board, they send us all back to Table 18 on the other side of the room, far away from the NL game but near the two remaining tables of the daily tournament. As I approach the table I see the only person seated is an older woman looking like she’s having trouble working her cell phone. I decide to sit on her right. I’d subsequently be glad about that decision, as she never raised a single hand preflop -- not even with AA -- during the two hours we played together. I buy $100 worth of chips and await the rest of the players.

Five show up (including me), then no more. Didn’t much like the idea of only playing short-handed, but then again most of my play online over the last year has been 6-max. I notice the plaque beside the dealer that describes the rake: 10%, $4 max. We drew for the button, and I got the ace. Might as well consider that a sign.

The first hand I was dealt KQ (on the button) and watched as everyone limped in. I just called as well, telling myself Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth certainly wouldn’t approve of such applesauce. The flop came three baby cards and when someone bet I hastily got out. Sheesh, Shamus (you’re cryin’). How you gonna win playing like that?

The tightness continued for the next couple of orbits, as I folded nearly every hand. Meanwhile, I noticed everyone else was playing every hand. I mentioned back in January Barry Tanenbaum’s advice about trying to win your first significant hand when sitting down for a session of limit HE (which I’d heard him discuss on Keep Flopping Aces). Tanenbaum finally formulated that advice as a CardPlayer column just a couple of weeks ago, where he recommends starting out conservatively and trying to win the first hand one plays to the end as a means to establish a positive image. (And achieve a little self-confidence, too.)

At last I pick up AcQhin the cutoff and raise it up. The button -- a tanned gentleman in a gray baseball cap with a blue bill -- calls, as do both blinds, and the flop comes QJ6. Checks to me, I bet, and the button raises. The others fold and I decide to reraise. Baseball cap just calls. The turn is a king. I bet and he just calls. The river is a 9. We both check and he turns over QJ for two pair. I’m down to $84. So much for winning that first hand.

I’m actually not too bummed, remembering how I had in fact spooked Baseball cap into just calling my flop reraise and checking the river, saving myself a few chips. The fact was, the entire table was very passive and very predictable. They’d call if they hit the flop -- however modestly -- but almost never raised unless they really had something special. And no one seemed ever to three-bet.

A few hands later the table fills up with players in all ten seats. I pick up 4s4d in LP and limp in along with everyone else. The flop comes three hearts and all check. The turn is the 4c and again everyone else checks. I throw out four chips and the table folds. Toss one to the dealer and see I am up exactly two dollars. I’d been playing for half an hour.

Soon I’m on the button and look down to find AsAc. (Never got rockets once two years ago, I thought fleetingly.) Four players limp, I raise, and everyone -- including both blinds -- calls. Seven players to see the flop. My poor aces, I think. The flop is QsJd4h and all check to the cutoff who thankfully bets. I raise, causing everyone else to fold, and he just calls. The pot is up around $40. The turn is the Jc and his rapid check tells me it is much more likely he’s holding the queen than the jack. I bet and his call esssentially confirms my suspicion. The river brings the Ah, giving me the boat. He check-folds, and I decide to show my aces. “Ace [on the river] cost you a bet,” he informs me. “Queen?” I ask. He nods, eyes closed. I tip the dealer again. I’m up $30 or so.

About an orbit later I get JJ in the small blind. Again, nearly the entire table limps in. I go ahead and raise it and everyone (but one) calls. The flop comes a sweet KJ8-rainbow and I bet out. Three players call. The turn is another king, giving me jacks full. I bet again, expecting someone with a king to raise me. All fold except one player across the table from me who just calls. The river is an ace. I know he doesn’t have big slick. I’m also doubting seriously he has K8. I bet and he raises. I pause a beat, and announce reraise. The table is murmuring that I must have AK. With a desperate look, my opponent calls and shows QT for a rivered straight. Another tip, this time for Bob (whom I remembered had dealt at my table two years ago, as well). I drag the $60 pot and start building more twenty-blue-chip towers.

Some younger guys come to the table -- all friends, a couple of whom are brothers -- and the chat increases. The mood is friendly and I’m feeling very comfortable, particularly now that I’m ahead about $65. Was a little amazed at how often players around the table were acting out of turn. The dealers did a pretty good job, however, keeping all in line. Meanwhile, I tried to pay attention and play every hand exactly the same way, dropping a chip on my cards before looking at them, then riffling a couple of small stacks with my left hand while awaiting my turn to act.

I fold a few more hands, watching with amusement as a big-haired woman with sunglasses accidentally bluffs one of the young guys out of a medium-sized pot with a river bet. He had raised preflop -- something he did every single time he was dealt an ace, as far as I could tell -- and the flop had come AQ5. Everyone but the big-haired lady had gotten out by the river, which brought another queen. Acting first, the lady surprisingly bets, causing the young man to groan. Then he breaks into a good-natured smile and folds with a chuckle, showing his ace as he does. She then turns over K4. “You bluffed me!” cries the young man, incredulously. She takes off her sunglasses and explains she thought she had a queen. The table cracks up.

A new player arrives announcing he is buying in for $160. Uh oh, I think. This table is going well for me, and I don’t want somebody who knows what he’s doing screwing it up. My fears dissolve immediately, however, as he leans over to tell the dealer “This is my first time playing. Please tell me if I’m doing something wrong.” A nice fellow, he asks several players where they are from. Eventually he and I chat a bit. He tells me he’s only played $0.25/$0.50 online. I don’t offer any information about my own background, instead just telling him that online is a great place to learn the game. Later on he’ll ask me if I’ve been playing for a long time. “Not really,” I answered.

A few hands later I get Kd3d on the button and decide to call with the rest of the table. Eight or nine of us see a flop that brings two diamonds, including the Ad. An early position player bets and a couple of others call. I call as well, making the pot $40 or so. The turn brings another diamond, giving me the nut flush. EP bets again, one other player calls, and I raise. Both call. The river’s a blank, and both players check-call me. EP shows an ace, the other mucks, and I show the nuts. Another nice pot -- $60 or so. “He can’t miss,” someone exhales from across the table. I shrug and tell my side of the table I’m getting hit over the head with cards. I’m up about $90.

After that I go back into mostly-folding mode. I do semi-bluff one hand when I flop a flush draw, causing my only two opponents to fold. I win another hand with AQ-suited. Some players start to leave and as we head back down to short-handed I decide I’ve had enough. I grab a couple of racks and carry my $195 worth of chips over to the desk to cash out, pocketing one for a souvenir.

Not a bad way to spend two hours, I’m thinking as I head back out through the casino. I certainly benefited from some nice cards and fortunate timing. Didn’t take that much, frankly, to distinguish myself with that particular group of players. But I thought I’d played fairly well, too, adjusting to the table and picking my spots.

I push out the MGM doors and move out onto the sidewalk. Decide to wind my way up to the Bellagio, where I’m curious to see what games are being spread (and whether any pros might be trying to satellite into the WPT championship). I keep one hand on my hat as fifty-mile-an-hour winds are blowing across Las Vegas Blvd. Dust from ubiquitous construction on both sides of the street makes the journey even less pleasant.

But I’m feeling fine.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Gadzooks64 said...

Riveting!

Man, I can't wait to hit Vegas in June. I hope I get as lucky as you!

4/23/2007 10:37 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Thanks, Zooks! Yes, that was one fine afternoon of cards.

4/23/2007 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Awesome. Must've been a real confidence builder for you, for next time you play, to get out winning, and especially the way you won. Sounded like you dominated.

4/24/2007 1:23 AM  
Blogger Cell 1919 said...

Thanks for that Shamus.

I've never played live but kinda feel like I was there with you when playing those hands.

Really looking forward to the rest :)

4/24/2007 2:47 AM  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Nice result Shamus! Already looking forward to the next write up!

4/24/2007 4:26 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Now that's a way to start of a Vegas trip! Nice score!

4/25/2007 4:56 PM  

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