Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 2 -- What’s Your Plan?

Touched down at McCarran Airport around 10 a.m. Vegas time on Wednesday. Check-in wasn’t until the afternoon, so Vera and I grabbed a quick lunch and I dropped her off at the Thomas & Mack before motoring the rental car over to Binion’s Horshoe. Got there about 12:15 p.m. Figuring I had the time, I decided to try to play a spell there at “the place that made poker famous.” Plan was to sit in on a $2/$4 limit hold’em game for a bit until the 2:00 p.m. meeting of the Wednesday Poker Discussion Group. If a seat were available, that is.

Wandered over to the poker room and saw one table going -- the final table of the daily tourney -- and nothing else. Heck, I thought. Where is everybody? A desert in the desert. I kept wandering and soon found the new poker room with the tables of beige-colored felt. There were about four tables going, including a couple of LHE ones. A seat was open, and before long I was in it.

Live Poker, Binion’s Horseshoe

Binion's Horseshoe CasinoOn my fourth hand I was dealt two black queens in the cutoff. Two players limped, I raised, and both blinds called, meaning five of us saw the flop of 9d6c4s. It checked to a player in middle position who hesitated, then checked. Has that nine, I thought. Checked to me, I bet, and all but one stayed for the turn -- the 9c. The MP player bet this time, and despite my having decided he’d made trips I went ahead and called, as did one other player. The river was the Kh, and when he unhesitatingly bet again I did what limit hold’em players generally shouldn’t do -- I folded on the river. The other player called, and the MP player turned over Ah9h. So it goes.

The dealer said something in my direction about that king being “just a notch” too high as he gathered the cards, which I took as a correct read of my hand. I don’t think I had given anything away when still in the hand, really, with my actions, though perhaps when folding I showed the king’s influence on my decision. I said nothing.

That hand was followed by several orbits of trash hands, most of which I readily folded. It was a full table, with lots of limpers and callers and not much reason to try to win hands without cards. Saw a couple of flops with suited connectors, but they weren’t connecting.

The Poker Grump arrived and I was starting to think about leaving, having gradually dribbled down a good $35 or so. That’s when I picked up 6h6d in late position. A few limped, I called, and the button called behind me. Flop came 6sTsJc. Checked to me, I bet, the button called, and two other short-stacked players, each of whom had only bought in for $20, called as well. The turn was the Td, giving me sixes full of tens. Checked to me and I bet again, the button called, and the two others both put in their last chips. The river was the Ah. I bet, and the button thought a moment and called.

I showed my sixes, and he turned over Js7c. The side pot was mine. How about the main pot? Both short stacks mucked, so that was mine as well. I dragged the chips, flipping the dealer the only tip I’d leave the entire session, and soon left just seven dollars down. Woulda made more on that one had the short stackers had more behind, but I was glad to win anyhow.

Was joking with the Grump afterwards how silly it was to think how winning that one pot so greatly affected my mood about the entire session, but he agreed that being “results oriented,” while not advisable, is hard to avoid. If we are human, that is.

Was also talking to Grump about how in these lowest-limit games players often tend to play as though they are competing against the house, not other players. Not much regard for hand selection, really -- as if one is playing blackjack, and is basically forced to play whatever cards one is dealt. Then the focus is mainly on connecting with the board (like getting as close to 21 as one can), then showing down in hopes of winning.

For example, in the two sessions I ended up playing last week, I saw players limp in with A-A no less than three times. These same players limped in with all other hands, too. Why not just pull a lever over on the slots? So the only way to go, really, is to practice some hand selection, make hands, and value bet at every opportunity.

As I was saying last week, I don’t really view these $2/$4 tables as a place either to (1) learn a lot of poker strategy, or (2) make much cabbage. But I do get something, I think, out of simply playing more live hands -- which can’t hurt down the road, regardless of what I end up doing poker-wise.

The Wednesday Poker Discussion Group, Binion’s Coffee Shop

The Wednesday Poker Discussion GroupThe Poker Grump and I went over to the coffee shop around two o’clock, but there were only a couple of others there for the WPDG. We hung out and talked with them and some of the other friendly folks who gradually trickled in. Eventually about 25 people turned up, gathered around three or four tables. Ages ranged from 20s to 60s. Just two women showed, I believe. A couple of discussion leaders took positions at one wall, positioning menus so as to create a place to display cards from a giant-sized deck. Finally by about three o’clock the meeting began.

There were some preliminaries. New people introduced themselves. I described myself as an amateur who was really more of a poker writer than a player, and mentioned my having helped cover the WSOP last summer. There was some talk of the various promotions and freerolls available around town, with several recommendations made. Then we got to the main focus of the meeting -- the hand discussions.

I think the plan might have been to discuss multiple hands played by group members, but as it turned out we spent the entire meeting (at least another hour-and-a-half) talking about a single hand that came from a $2/$5 no-limit hold’em game ($1,500 cap) over at the Wynn. The hand occurred around six in the morning, and involved a group member and a couple of loose players who had been drinking.

I won’t get into all of the specifics other than to say our hero found himself sitting with Qc8c in the big blind. One heavy drinker and loose player raised from UTG, another drinker flat-called from late position, and our hero decided to call, thereby closing the preflop betting, and see a flop. The flop ended up coming eight-high, putting the hero into another tricky spot. Even before that, however, the group debated for at least ten minutes the preflop decision to call.

“What’s your plan?” asked one group member. Not everyone cared much for calling an under-the-gun raise with this hand, although compelling arguments were presented for sticking around as well. And, of course, that eight-high flop encouraged a great deal more debate.

I leaned over to the Poker Grump midway through the discussion to joke that it didn’t seem fair to the lone drunk player who ended up heads-up against our hero that he was now competing with 25 minds all trained against him. Of course, given all of the different lines that ended up being entertained, the hero was probably better off only having had his own second thoughts to complicate matters.

The discussion was quite illuminating, though, in the way it revealed the many different approaches and styles that guide poker players’ thinking. I can imagine the group being extremely helpful to a serious player looking for feedback and advice. It was entertaining, too, with lots of very funny, self-effacing humor coming from all sides throughout the meeting. Everyone was very friendly, the vibe was conducive to dialogue and new ideas, and a good (and informative) time was had by all.

I’d definitely recommend the WPDG to any poker players with a free Wednesday afternoon in Vegas. There’s also a Monday meeting at the Stake Out Bar & Grill over on Maryland Parkway from 7-9 p.m. that focuses on no-limit hold’em. Newcomers are welcome.

Next up, dinner at the Grand Lux Café over at the Venetian with a bunch of other pokery scribblers.

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Blogger --S said...

I've had my best luck playing $2/4 as a drawing game. I fold big pairs preflop to two raises. I fold big pairs in late position to any raise when there are more than 4 people in the pot. I cap the living shit out of the pot with the likes of 8-9 suited or similar. I consistently beat the other players and lose to the rake and the tokes.

Playing contrary to what everyone else does just provides some amusement for me...and makes me a break-even player in a game I use mostly just to kill time.

If only I could get back to Vegas so I could start playing again ;)

4/21/2009 2:02 PM  

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