Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's Better to be Lucky Than Good

This was a night where I did (almost) everything wrong and managed to have one of my successful sessions ever.  In fact, if you look at the amount I won over the time of the session, it was downright epic.

This was Tuesday night in Vegas, the night after I had played in the Aria tournament (here).  As I mentioned in that post I had been eyeing a few other tournaments to play in.  One of them was a three-day, two starting flight tourney at Venetian.  The first of the two starting flights was that very Tuesday and I originally wanted to play the first starting flight if I didn't run late into the evening at Aria the night before.

Well, I didn't last long enough at Aria to stop me from playing the next day at the V, but I managed to oversleep the next morning, had trouble getting going and ended up deciding to skip Tuesday and see if I could get moving earlier Wednesday to make the second (and last) starting flight.  So I was free for a cash game Tuesday night.  BTW, I'll give you all the details about the Venetian tourney in some future post, but it's a long story.

With the day free, I arranged to meet my buddy Don for dinner.  Don and I go back to the old AVP forum days and he's been featured in a bunch of posts (like here).  Although a recreational player like me, Don is a real student of the game and probably thinks about poker at a higher level than I do.  We had a great discussion over dinner about all things poker, and I was really impressed the way he talked about the game. It was almost like getting a free poker lesson.

Dinner turned out to be at the Shake Shack at NYNY.  The burgers there are good but a little bit pricey for what you get—even considering the place is on the Strip.  When we were finally ready to leave, it turned out that Don wasn't going to be pokering this night, I was on my own.  Under normal circumstances, the easiest thing to do from there would have been to walk across the pedestrian bridge to the MGM, a room I have some familiarity with.  However, the bridge has been closed as part of an upgrade projection since the last few days of my summer trip.  So now it seemed that MGM was actually the least convenient poker room to where we were.  I could have hopped in my car and gone anywhere but I decided as long as I was in the neighborhood, I'd try a room I rarely play in—The Excalibur. After all, it's the favorite poker room of both Mr. Ben and Pete Peters. The bridge from NYNY to Excalibur was open. 

When I first checked Bravo, about an hour before this decision was made, they had two 1/2 NL games going with a couple of folks on the waitlist.  When I checked back as we left Shake Shack, my phone was somehow incapable of loading the Bravo app, but Don checked his and he said they had one game going with a five person waiting list.  OK, I figured I'd give it a try.  If the game was bad or short or whatever, maybe I'd take the tram to Mandalay Bay.

Don had some time to kill so he accompanied me to Excal and continued our chat en route. When we got there, there was just one game going and no list, in fact there was a seat open.  I took the seat.  Don pulled up a chair behind me to observe and keep our conversation going while I played. And it turned out to be great that he did that because he was able to give me some much needed kicks in the ass when I needed them.

I probably should have checked out the game more closely before I took the seat.  There was one huge stack at the table.  By buying in for $200 I immediately became the second biggest stack in the game.

Early on I was the big blind with 5-3 offsuit.  There were a few limpers, no one raised and we saw a flop of 9-5-3.  The small blind led out for $4.  This guy looked like he was auditioning for the part of "Vegas grinder" in a new film.  Hoody and baseball cap, headphones, etc.  He was bundled up and covered almost completely.  It was like he was wearing a burka. 

I called.  Why did I just call instead of raise?  I don't have a good excuse at all.  I'll just say that I was playing my first orbit and I have this weird issue with being aggressive when I first sit down.  I try to avoid it, even when it is called for and certainly to my detriment.  No one else called and the turn was a Jack.  This time the "grinder" bet $10 and I finally found the raise button, bumping it to $25.  He tanked for awhile, muttered something about "two pair" in a very low tone that I don't think I was supposed to hear, and also muttered something like he should have shoved the flop....and then he finally called.  The river was a blank and after he checked I bet enough to put him all-in, something like $40 or so.  He thought for a bit and folded.

Don hadn't seen my cards but he was able to read my notes as I entered them into the phone.  And he whispered to me how bad a play that was, just calling with two low pair.  He reminded me that it would have been so easy for someone to get those two pair cracked with two more cards to come. Of course I knew I was right.  I just basically told him what I wrote above, about being uncomfortable being aggressive so early in my session.  He said, "Get over it," or something to that effect.

Next orbit, when the small blind came around to me, I had Queen-10 off.  I completed and it was another limped pot with 4 or 5 limpers.  The flop was Ace-10-x, I checked and then called $5 and it was four-way. 

The turn was another 10.  I led out with for $25.  The guy who lead out for $5 on the flop put some chips out in front of him.  But it wasn't a call, and it wasn't a raise.  It looked like about $40. The way he did it, I had no idea if he meant to call or if he meant to raise.  The dealer told him he had to make it $50 for the raise.  I didn't get the impression the way he reacted that he meant to raise, but I wasn't sure.  He kind of shrugged and muttered "Oh....ok," and put out enough chips to make it $50.  It folded back to me.  I guess I was confused by what he intended so I only called.  Not really a good excuse I know.   Then to continue my bad play I checked a blank river.  He tanked for a bit then put all his chips in—a bit less than $50.  I called and he turned over 10-9 or 10-8.  I had him outkicked and took the pot.

Don of course saw my hand when I showed it to win the pot, and of course he gave me another kick in the pants.  "You should have shoved on the turn....what if a scare card comes on the river?  And you were real lucky to get all his chips after you checked the river, you should have bet the river."  I just made some vague comment about being confused about whether or not he meant to raise.  Don noticed his strange bet on the turn too, but of course it shouldn't have prevented me from making the right play.

Still it was a nice pot.

Don was also telling me to leave the game.  There was just the one big stack (other than mine, though the other stack was much bigger) and as he said, "Look around the table. Who are you gonna get money from?"

I was definitely thinking the same thing, but I had barely settled in and I seemed to be running pretty good.  So I stuck around a little longer.

Then I got Ace-3 of clubs.  I raised to $10 after a limper and it was three-way.  The flop was 4-4-3.  One of the 4's was a club.  The first player bet $5—but that put him all in.  The big stack called and I called.  The turn was the 2 of clubs.  The big stack bet $30 and I called with my nut flush draw and gut shot.  The river was the 6 of clubs. Damn, if only it had been the 5 of clubs, I would have had the steel wheel, won a high hand bonus and also wouldn't have had to worry about a full house beating me.  So with the nut flush on a paired board, the big stack bet $40 and I just called.

He had a straight, my flush was good.  I dragged the pot, and turned to Don and said, "OK, give me shit for not raising the river."  But he said, "No, no, you played that perfectly." 

I said, "Really?"

"Yeah...what is he gonna call you with?  Aside from a boat, which beats you, is he gonna call you with a straight?  Is he gonna call you with a lesser flush?  Maybe.  But he's probably not gonna call you unless he has you beat."

Well at least I played one hand ok.  Just a hand or two later, the big stack racked up and left.  And Don had to take off.  But as he left, he once again urged me to move on to another game (which meant another room, this was the only game going at Excal).  I said I would probably leave soon.

There was only thing keeping me there for even a few more hands—I was running well.  Really well.  Winning three decent pots, making hands like I was, that's not very common.  And when I'm running well naturally my inclination is to stick around to see if the rungood continues.  Aren't all poker players superstitious? 

But I was contemplating leaving and then the decision was made easier for me.  A few other players took off, and there were no players to replace them.  A table full of short stacks is bad enough, but a short-handed table full of short stacks is really terrible.  So, when the big blind came around, I racked up and left.  I had only played 45 minutes and booked a $235 win.  Thus, my hourly rate for that session was $313, if your scoring at home. So obviously that's my hourly at Excal over the past two years or so, right?  Man, why do I ever play anywhere else?

My original thought was to take the tram to Mandalay Bay and get in a game there.  But as I reached the front of the Excal, I was thinking that maybe I should just call it an early night, enjoy the thought of a $235 profit for 3/4's an hour work, and be rested for the Venetian tournament I planned to play the next day.  So that's what I did. Definitely the most profitable session on a time basis I've ever had.

I know I didn't deserve to do so well, I played bad.  I'm not going to try to learn from my results but from the free lessons Don gave me.  I'm glad he was around to kick me in the ass over my play so you don't have to.  Although I'm sure you will anyway.  Have at  it.


  1. I certainly didn't find playing at Excalibur this summer to be charming.Filthy chips. Long waits to get a seat. I don't quite like Mandalay Bay much either, but for different reasons.

    1. I should have texted you, you coulda gotten a seat real easy the night I was there. As for the chips...no dirtier than Bally's!

      What's wrong with Mandalay Bay?

  2. Though the Excal poker room has its issues it happens to be where I had the most fun ever playing drunk $2-4 limit poker. So I'm hammered in the SB with a bit north of $100 in my stack (I was hammered how the hell do I know what my chips total up to?) and myself, the BB one EP and the button cap the betting preflop. When the flop comes 2-6-7 three of us flopped sets and the BB had to fold his AK and once again we three cap the betting. The turn was another 2 and only one of use turned quads and that WAS ME. We had yet another round of capped betting. The river was a brick but both of my opponents already had full houses and we did manage another street of capped betting. The betting and reraising on the river involved me slamming 8 chips on the table which bounced the pot and the button was an Asian guy who was at least as hammered as I was also was doing the same. The young lady also involved in the hand called every bet and reraise without saying a word but in the end the full house she held was no good. Of course the Asian guy was asking me if I had quads? Did I have pocket deuces? To which I looked him square in the eye from arm's reach away to my right and replied: "I have a good hand, but not the hand you think I have". So me and the drunkard to my right managed to not get 86'd before the showdown and I rake what was near a $200 pot playing $2-4 limit and I think I also got $222 for the quad deuces. Needless to say the crowd went wild (at least me and my new Asian friend) during that showdown and that hand easily is my favorite/funnest best poker hand EVER for me in Las Vegas.

    1. Great story Lester, thanks for sharing.

      Wow...three sets on the flop, what are the odds. And then bottom set turns quads. If only that had been on TV hand!

    2. No problemo Rob. The next day's hangover was awful. I kinda felt sorry for the quiet young lady in that hand for having to put up with two complete maniacs going at like madmen. Kudos to the Excal staff for cutting us some slack which amped up the fun factor to MAXIMUM on the dial!

    3. Are you sure they didn't kick you out of the place and you were just too drunk to remember? Heh heh.

  3. To be fair you can get away with quite a bit in there, and drunkards are their speciality.

    1. Thanks, Ben. I guess I was there too early for the drunks.