This is going to be an overall review of how I did, poker wise, on my recent trip to Vegas.
No, let me be more accurate.
I’m not going to give you specific numbers; I don’t do that. But it was overall a pretty bad nearly two-weeks of poker I just completed.
And of course, I need to figure out why
And I have come to some conclusions that maybe can help me in the future.
As it happens, one of the nice things about doing the blog, especially the way I do it now, is that I really get to review my hand histories. I record hands at the table soon after they happen. It’s not all the good, big pots, of course. I record the bad, big pots I lost as well. And a lot of the smaller-medium sized pots. Especially if I think I can learn from them. If I lost a small pot that I didn’t play right, or if I won a small pot but should have won more, I record those too.
Not all those hands make it into blog posts—in fact, I’d say more don’t than do. But I think it’s important to think about these hands later.
So, at the table, I tap them into my smart phone. The next morning, I voice-record notes about the day before. I’ll talk about anything that happened that I could conceivably find blog worthy, and I’ll also read the hands into the phone. When I do that, I kind of review them. When I play them back to write the blog post, I’ll hear myself say things like, “Wow, that was a bad call,” or “Man, I didn’t get enough value there.” The funny thing is that when I’m voice-recording the notes, I’ll try to explain what my thinking was at the time. Then when I listen days or weeks or months later, I’ll argue with myself. I’ll say to myself, “That wasn’t such a bad play after all,” or, more likely, “What, are you kidding, there’s no way you can justify playing it that poorly.”
Anyway, in reflecting on the poker I just played for all that time in Vegas—and not having listened to any of the recordings I did up in Vegas—I think I can safely identify three things that contributed to my poor results.
First, I suck at poker.
Ok, maybe I’m being a little too self-critical.
But I do think that, in reviewing my play, I actually think I was a better poker player a couple of years ago than I am today.
I’m not exactly sure why, but I have identified one contributing factor: Information overload.
Is it possible that I’ve read too many books, studied too many videos, reviewed too many forum posts analyzing hand histories? So that when, added to all my own experiences, and trying to learn from those—it seems like I never know how to pick the right advice, take the right line, at the critical moment.
Because, every time you read a poker book or watch a video, or discuss a hand with five people—you run into conflicting opinions. And maybe the problem is I should just stick to one single book and follow it religiously, instead of absorbing just some of it and then going on to the next one.
Or am I just making excuses?
Probably. But you know, if you read several books on hold’em, they will all have different suggestions for starting hands, right? I might not wildly different, but some differences for sure. And different ideas about how to play all but the biggest or crappiest hands. I mean sure, everyone says three-bet Aces or Kings, but Queens? You can find different opinions for sure. And Ace-King? A lot of differences there, definitely. Some say three-bet, some just flat. I even read one poker strategy article—by a poker author I actually played with once in Vegas, no less—who said it wasn’t a very good hand at all and you should just limp with it.
Speaking of limping—some experts say never limp, others say sure, under the right circumstances, it’s fine to limp.
And then there’s always the same self-conflicting information you pick up from playing. You tend to overcompensate. Generals planning war strategy always worry about making the mistake of fight the “last war.” But every war is different. And this is so true in poker. I come to that big decision, call a big bet on the river or fold? I don’t have the nuts, just a good hand. I decide to call. The villain shows the hand I was worried about. A few hours later, or the next day, similar situation. I think back to the big hand I lost, so this time I fold. And the guy shows a bluff, or just a much lesser hand than I just folded. And sometimes I seem to get into the pattern where I always make the wrong decision—fold when I should have called, called when I should have folded.
You get the idea. But honestly, I dunno if I made a bigger percentage of bad decisions this time than in other trips, or I just didn’t get enough chance to make more right ones because of…..
The second reason I didn’t do very well. I was card dead. For longer and more consistent periods of time, pretty much through the whole trip. I was trying to keep to the Ed Miller starting hands I’ve talked about in the past. And I would say that by at least 33%, I got less hands to play than you would expect either from the law of averages or from my previous poker sessions in Vegas. Of course, a really good player can still win with bad cards, but I think I covered the response to that with my first point. Then too, as I started into a bad run almost from the beginning, that made it very difficult to have any confidence at all to try something out of my comfort zone in an effort to improve my results.
Well not much you can do about that. On the theory that sooner or later, things will even up, perhaps I’m due to get better cards than average next time.
But there is something I can do about the third reason I’ve identified for my poor results. And to some extent (maybe a pretty big one), it even helps explain reason #1.
Promos. Promos make me stupid. They are definitely negatively affecting my poker decisions. At least the ones they have in the rooms I play most. I’m sure they have in the past too, but this time it really became obvious to me that some promos are bad for me and I probably don’t have the will-power to completely ignore them and just play the right way. I know plenty of people do have the will-power to ignore them, and it’s embarrassing to have to admit this. But this is a conclusion I’ve definitely come to.
Certain kind of promos are relatively benign, really don’t affect my play. Like high hand bonuses. Or a random splash pot (tho a splashed pot would affect play for that one hand). But promos that are run at a certain time, that you have to qualify for with a certain type of hand, those, I’m now convinced, are really hurting me.
And again, let me be clear. It’s not the promos themselves that there’s anything wrong with. Poker rooms can and should do whatever they deem necessary to get people to play poker in their room. No argument with that. It’s just my reaction to them that is the problem. It’s not them; it’s me.
The most obvious promo is the one I’ve mentioned quite a few times over the past couple of years. It’s the cash drawings that take place every four hours. And if you qualify in the prior four hours by making a flush or better, you have a shot to win some money. It could be $100, $200 or even $400. If you get more than one entry, you can win multiple times during the same drawing. The catch is you have to be in the room, and actually playing in a live game, at the time of the drawing. So if it’s 10:30 PM, and I’ve decided that, for whatever the reason I should stop playing, I think twice if I have already gotten a ticket, because I could miss out on some money at midnite. And I might be inclined to play longer, which might work out but, if I really want to stop playing, might not.
Especially if I start playing differently, because I want to be there for the drawing. If I’m having a bad night, I might play way too tight, not wanting to risk a lot more, because I’m really not playing poker any more, I’m just sitting there waiting for the drawing. So I’m no longer playing my A-game (if I ever was). It’s more like my D-game.
Just because of the promo.
Or, suppose I’m actually having a good night. Suppose there’s lots of chips in front of me. At some point, I’ll start thinking about booking that win. Most of the time, booking the win is more important to me psychologically than financially. But I can’t deny that when I’m having a bad run, I think about the financial side too (because I have a fixed bankroll for each trip). Either way, once I want to leave, if I feel that I am “stuck” there waiting for the drawing, I’m going to be playing bad poker. I’m going to miss opportunities to increase my stack, and playing it “safe” and not wanting to put won chips in play might actually prevent me from betting enough or at all and get me the pot instead of later being drawn out on (or missing opportunities to steal).
I think I already posted a pretty good example of what I mean, of how this plays off, and I’m frankly surprised that no one called me out on it. Recently I posted about the wildest game I was ever a part of, which you can find here. After losing two buy-ins, I had a decision to make. There were two valid options. Buy in again for the $200 I usually buy in for, or realize this wasn’t my night and call it a night. Either one had strong arguments in its favor.
As I said in the post, my budget calls for a max of two buy-ins a session. But this game was so wild, and the opportunity to possibly make my entire losses back in one big hand so great, that I could have easily justified buying in again at full (for me) buy-in. It would have been a perfectly valid decision.
Or….keep with the program and just call it an early night. Not risk another $200 there and start fresh the next day. Again, totally valid.
But as I said in the post, I had a couple of drawing tickets for the next drawing. Plus there was football promo going on so I could have won some money that way too. So I decided to play.
But totally half-assed. I said in the post I didn’t have $200 on me but that’s not quite accurate. I keep my poker money and my expense money separate, and if I used up pretty much all of my spending money, I could have come up with $200 for a full buy-in. Or, if I thought the game was that juicy that I had to take another shot at it, I could have hit the casino ATM and lost a few bucks in fees.
But no, my thinking was, I would buy in for the minimum, $100, and just milk it. Play only the absolute top premium hands. If I could double or triple up while waiting for the drawing, awesome. If not, just try to hang on until the drawing.
What if I got Aces or Kings and got it all in preflop (as I mostly likely would have) and then got sucked out on? I’d be done, right, before the drawing? Well, like I said, I could scrape together another $100 minimum (with a lot of $1 and $5 bills) and then still have been alive at the drawing. By this time, it wasn’t that long until it was time, so it wouldn’t have been a lot of hands before the drawing. So I had the spending money reserve to buy in for one last time at $100. And after I did that, I would have probably left the table until a few minutes before the drawing, then come back just in time, and only pretend to look at my cards and fold every damn hand until the drawing was held so I would still be eligible for it.
Like I said, promos make me stupid. Really, really stupid.
I should mention that there was at least one $1K envelope available, meaning either 5 $200 winners or 1 $400 winner and six $100 winners. So in my mind, it was worth hanging around for that and also the football drawings.
Really, really stupid.
In fact, I probably cost myself a chance to get even because of my stupid idea. There was a hand where I had a suited Ace and I just mucked it right away. I figured there was no way I wanted to risk my $100 (less by then) stack chasing a flush. I was UTG, so M3 was the BB. Any suited Ace is a hand to play preflop in the Ed Miller handbook. I folded and I was shocked to see it wasn’t raised. And sure enough I would have flopped the nut flush draw. It hit on the turn and by the river, I would have had the nuts. Of course, M3 shoved the flop so I would have had to have called my entire stack to chase it, and I wouldn’t have been getting the right odds—unless I considered implied odds. In that case, it was probably worth a call to try to hit it. And sure enough, it was M3 vs two other big stacks and I think the biggest hand was two pair and in all likelihood if I had stayed in and called the flop bet I would have had a quadruple-up. Again, whether I would have played it right (by results) if I had been playing to win (and also if I had a $200 buy-in to risk instead of a $100 buy-in) is not certain.
OTOH, if I was alive in the hand and had to call a shove from the all-time maniac with the nut flush draw and two cards to come, I think if I fold there I should just go home and put on my skirt.
And all through the trip, I found myself making decisions, both in-hand decisions and overall play decisions (like how much to reload for) based on that damn cash drawing promo. I actually have a story where it worked out great one time, and I’ll post that eventually, but overall, I’m sure it cost me a whole lot of money.
Not to mention the occasional time I would play a flush draw too long or call a river bet with what I thought was a losing hand but would get me a drawing ticket. How stupid is that?
There’s another problem with the promo, again a mental thing. If the promo took place in a room where no one knew me, I might never know if I was picked for a prize after I left early, before the drawing. But you know, if I showed up in the room the day after they picked my name for the cash drawing at midnite, and I left at 9:30PM, at least five of my friends would tell me that I tossed away $100—or $200—or $400. It would add insult to injury, for sure.
Even that football promo, which seems benign enough, is problematic. Basically, it is at a real inconvenient time. Not the room’s fault at all, it’s just based on when the games are. But man, 5:30PM to 9:00PM is really inconvenient—do I eat before, or gobble something down at half time, or do I wait until after the game? I have to time my meds based on dinner, so it’s very problematic for me. For just the football promo, it would so much more convenient if it was East coast time….I mean 8:30PM to midnite would be the perfect time for me, a bit after a nice, relaxing dinner. I’m gonna suggest they do the promo on a three-hour delay.
So that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that, since I am weak, since I am a promo whore, I have to stop playing in rooms that have promos that will affect my decision making. I just have to. I have to find those rooms that don't have those kind of promos (should be easy since I enter promos on PokerAtlas). Or just play in one of the five rooms on the Strip that have no promos at all. They should all be safe for me.
Having said all that, can I promise you that I’ll never play in a room that has this type of promo again? No, I can’t. I do want to see my friends. But I think I’m gonna greatly reduce my play in such rooms.
And that said, if I’m in Vegas on New Year’s Eve, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna wanna be around the New Year’s Eve Slut Parade.
But man, I’ve got to greatly reduce the amount of time I play stupid because of stupid promos. I play stupid enough on my own without any help.