Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Opposite of Wynn-ing

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of my most recent Vegas trip, I decided to play some poker in a big room that I’d only played once before.  For my duties at both AllVegasPoker  and Ante Up Magazine, it’s good for me to get out and play in some rooms (especially big rooms), that I don’t normally find myself in, in order to keep a better eye on the Vegas poker scene.
So during a rather bad run of poker, I went over to the Wynn Poker Room on a late Sunday afternoon.  I had played there once many years ago, back when I was just a fairly novice 2/4 limit player.  I had to get out of my comfort zone in order in order to step up to 4/8 limit.  Once I figured out that I liked poker, I wanted to play in all the “big” rooms at least once, even if it meant stepping up in limits.  I was still a long way from trying No Limit.
I remember being nervous as hell because I think it was the first time I’d ever played those “big limits.”  I had played 1/2 limit in L.A. clubs, and 2/4 in Vegas, and maybe once or twice I had tried 3/6 limit.  This was really a big step for me.  I don’t think I’d even been playing poker a year at this point, and I wasn’t  playing nearly as often as I do now, so it was scary.
As I recall, I did ok.  I don’t think I made one raise.  I know the biggest hand I had was when I had pocket Aces.  I think I called a preflop raise (no way I was three-betting--$12 bucks on a poker hand, are you kidding?) and called bets on each street.  I don’t recall the details, but I took the pot from a guy I think had top pair and a good kicker.  My naked Aces were good. 
As I was stacking my chips, the guy I beat congratulated me on playing the hand so well and so sneakily.  I totally fooled him.  He thought I had been slow-playing intentionally and it had paid off.  Little did he know I was just too nervous to bet.
Of course, at Wynn, the NL game is 1/3, not 1/2 as I’m more used to.  No problem, I play 2/3 at the Bike here in L.A., and on my previous trip had some good success playing 1/3 at Aria (hopefully I will have a blog post or two about those sessions in the near future).  I figured my luck had been so bad at my normal game and my normal hangouts, perhaps a change of scenery and a slightly different game would be just what the doctor ordered.
You see, in three of the last four days, I flopped sets only to lose to straights.  The first two times it happened in cash games, the straights were also flopped, and I lost my stacks.  The third time it was in a tournament and the straight came on the turn and I only lost a lot of chips.  But that’s how my luck had been running when I entered the Wynn.
I bought in for $300, (100 BB’s, same as I would at a 1/2 game).  I laid low for awhile and tried to get a feel for the players and the table.  The most notable thing about the table was that there was a lot more chatter and it was a lot friendlier than the average NL game.  Not much talk about the hands, just general life stuff.  I was playing tight, even by my standards, trying to pick up some reads on any of the players.
I was still studying when I was dealt Queen-9 offsuit in the big blind.  OK, I either see the flop for free or I fold.  Only a couple of limpers and no one raised, so I hoped for the miracle flop.
With so many flopped straights against me this visit, could I get one?  No.  But still, it wasn’t bad.  K-9-9, two of a suit.  The small blind, a middle aged Asian woman, checked.  I bet out about the size of the pot.  Folded to the small blind.  She called.
The turn was another King.  No flush yet but ugh.  I mean ugh.  Small blind checks and I bet out, about ½  the pot.  I’m not gonna play scared.  So, that nice, middle aged Asian lady in the small blind check raises me, three times the size of my bet.
I guess I’m supposed to fold there.  Right?  The check raise means she’s got a King, right?  The thing is, I hadn’t been there long enough to be sure.  She could have been bluffing.  She could have been something less than my now 9’s full of Kings.  I called.  I’m not sure why.  I’m further not sure why I called her river bet of about $100 when a meaningless little card hit the river.  But I did.
Of course she had King-garbage for a bigger boat than mine.  I cursed my luck, then cursed my play.  I know it’s hard to fold a full house, but sometimes, you have to, and this would have been a pretty good time. 
To make matters worse, the hand reminded the woman of a similar hand she had from the same dealer about a year ago, and she was only too eager to remind the dealer of it.  He said he remembered, whether he did or not.  There was one difference with the hand she was reminding the dealer about, however.  On that hand, her opponent hit his one-outer on the river to beat her boat with quads.  So she kept telling the dealer she was so afraid that he was going to do that to her again.    Yeah, that would have been awful, wouldn’t it have?
I was licking my wounds for a few hands, trying to clear my head, and looking at my stack that was now less than $130.  I thought about adding to it but decided to wait a few more hands.  So, in early position I found myself looking at pocket Queens.  First in the pot, I made it $10 (which was what the standard raise was at this table).  Three players came along.
The details of the flop aren’t really important—trust me—but it was low, there was two to a flush and a possible straight was possible if you had really crappy cards.  I bet $25 and only one person called.  The caller, a youngish woman, had just made an impression on me with what I thought was a weak call a hand or two before.  I hadn’t been able to follow all the betting because I had just gotten my drink and was looking for a cart to put it on, but on the river, with a board of 2-3-4-5 and I think a 10, she was faced with an all-in bet of about $100 and a call of that all-in.  There had been no preflop raise but there was some nice betting on the flop and the turn.  The girl in question called.  The other two players chopped the pot, each having a “6” and worried that someone had 6-7.  The girl flipped over Ace-King.  OK, true, she had a straight too, but she had to think that one of the other two had at least a 6, right?  Plus she didn’t raise pre-flop with the Ace-King.
The not raising with Ace-King didn’t mean much to me.  I’ve seen lots of players limp with that.  In fact, I recently read a strategy article in a poker magazine (that was not Ante Up) giving advice for players transitioning from limit to No Limit.  He said one of the biggest mistakes players make in that transition is overvaluing Ace-King.  He recommended just limping with it most of the time.  Hmm……I don’t get paid to write strategy articles (obviously) , but in my mind, that’s somewhat backwards.  I think Ace-King is a much better hand in No Limit than limit; low limit, anyway.
Anyway, back to the girl.  That hand I just described made me think of her as a calling station, and while I knew she could have a good draw, I still thought I was ahead.
The turn put four to a straight out there, and I thought I might be in trouble, but she would have had to have had low cards to make that straight.  Which I knew was possible.  Still, with what I’d already put in the pot, and what I had left,  I thought I had some fold equity there—maybe she would think I had the straight if she didn’t have it, and I still thought my Queens might be good.  So I just shoved.
She asked for a count and took awhile deciding whether to call.  That was a good sign for me, made me think I had a good chance to win even if she did call.
So she called and I showed my ladies……and she flipped over the dreaded pocket Kings!
Yikes.  Anything but that!  So she had played those Kings almost as timidly as this lady.  Well not quite, but it was interesting that she didn’t three-bet me with them.  Or think of raising my flop or turn bets. 
And that was that.  After two big beats, and having lost my entire buy-in, my experience at the Wynn was over for this visit.  I don’t blame the Wynn of course, it seems like a fine poker room for the five minutes or so I played there.  But I was rather distressed by how fast I went through a $300 buy-in.  Lost it mostly in two hands and I never won a pot.
Poker is a cruel game.  And by the time I left, I didn't even have one of these to my name:


  1. I'll bet a pound to the dollar that Asian Lady was the one who has given me two lessons on two separate occasions I've been in the Wynn from the UK. Both times got to a boat to beat my flopped straight. Grrrr.

    1. Oh wow, that would be something, wouldn't it? I'm hoping the bloke she kept talking about--the guy who hit his one-outer for quads in a similar situation to ours--reads my blog and can tell his story! Would give me some solace, anyway.

      Thanks for the comment, Mrben!

  2. Rob,

    First, wanted to say how much I love your blog. I stumbled upon it about a month or two ago and really appreciate the stories, humor and trip reports. I've found myself laughing out loud on many occasions while at work thanks to your blog. Keep it up!

    Second, as for your full house hand, there has been a couple concepts in NL that has taken me a year or two to finally grasp, both of which I think applied to your hand. One concept is the focus on large vs. small pots. The other concept is avoiding paying off large turn and river bets.

    In your hand, it was a small pot. Guessing that by the turn card, the pot was between $16-$22? With the second King out there, my guess is that your turn bet is only going to be called by (1) the bigger full house; (2) flush draw; or (3) maybe just Ace high. Thus, I do not think there was a lot of value putting in your turn bet with such a small pot.

    After the check raise, I think it was even more clear what you were facing. And yes, you do have to consider a check-raise bluff there, but in my experience I try to avoid calling these large turn or river bets UNLESS I've seen that player make such bluffs before. I've tried more to silence the voice inside my head saying "HEY, I DON'T WANT TO BE BLUFFED OFF MY HAND." But more times than not at the 1-2, and 1-3 levels, aggression with a large bet at the turn and river means a strong hand.

    Just my 2cents. Good luck out there!

    1. Wow, thanks for the very kind words, Lawzag, they are much appreciated. Glad you found the blog and like it.

      Regarding the hand, I think you make excellent points. There's one early concept I learned in NL (limit too, for that matter)....never give a free card. I think I learned that all too well and it cost me here. Sometimes giving that free card can save you a lot of money.

      That was my thinking too on the famous hand vs. Grump, and it appears now that even he thinks I should have checked the turn and given him that free card.

      Clearly, I've got much to learn at this poker thing.

    2. Your welcome. And don't let the bad results deter your away from the Wynn. I mean how can you honestly "avoid" those cocktail waitresses?

    3. Giving a free card? On a board of K-9-9-K, and you with a full house, what free card are you afraid of? All draws are drawing dead (except the extraordinarily unlikely gutterball straight flush draw), and if you're honestly worried about AA/QQ/JJ/TT catching a two-outer for a bigger boat then you have monsters under the bed syndrome.

      Betting the turn set you up for the check-raise, whether for value or as a bluff. You gave yourself a tough decision, and set up a tougher river decision. Check behind on the turn with a way ahead / way behind hand for pot control. Then call a reasonable river bet; often a check behind on the turn screams weakness and induces river bluffs from hands that would fold to a turn bet.

      As played, fold the turn. Chasing with an underfull on a double-paired board (or a tripped board: e.g., J-J-J on board with a middle pocket pair) is purely an exercise in bluff catching. Or, if you can't fold an underfull, please take up Omaha and play at my table. :-)

    4. @Lawzag: OK, I didn't mention this in my post, but I'm well aware of the reputation that the Wynn cocktail waitresses have. In fact, one time in another room, I was told that the waitresses there are all super-model quality and that they sign "model contracts" so that they have to keep up their appearance. If they go up a dress size, they can lose their job.

      So I have to say, I was kind of disappointed. Not that the girls weren't attractive (and I saw some waitresses outside the poker room), but they really didn't wow me as I would have expected. I can think of a locals casino (mentioned in a three part post I recently did), where the waitresses are a lot hotter, or at least used to be. Haven't been there much lately.

      Maybe I should try again in the evening, perhaps Sunday afternoon isn't the best time for that sort of thing.

    5. @Michael M: Thanks Grange, I know I butchered that hand. I guess I was really on auto-pilot there, a costly mistake. You know, "Oh, I've got trips, I've got to bet. Oh, I've got a full house, I've got to bet." Need to work on that.

      I don't play Omaha, but when I do, I fold unless I not flop the nuts, and by that I mean a hand that no two cards could ruin.

  3. Lawzag, Rob has a gift for seeing significance in situations that none of the rest of us even notice. Rob will frequently go out to dinner with my wife and me and tell one after another excellent anecdotes. Often the most obscure anecdote that Rob tells will stick in my brain, for YEARS! I find myself telling Rob, "Make sure you blog THAT story! Wow.."

    Rob recently told us that Prudence's husband commented on some hooker hustling Rob for $200. (services) Prudence's husband told Prudence to tell Rob that he should have negotiated for $100. and claimed that he had just lost on the tables.

    Unfortunately, I find that comment amusing and as such, I will remember it forever! Oy

    As always, please keep up the good work Rob. And get back to Vegas for new anecdotes!

    1. OK, Woody, I'll be sure you get your agent's 10% fee this month. :)

      Regarding the couple a hundred dollar hooker, having heard me say that I had lost all my money, and having her already have offered her services for $200 (if that's what she meant), it was suggested I tell her, "Look, I've lost everything but my last 100 bucks, that's all of I've got. Can you accept that?"

      Of course, I wasn't interested in her services, so I never thought of that.

  4. Played my home game last night and made the mistake of allowing a free card (I was ALMOST certain the guy was going to raise and I was going to checkraise him all-in). He hit a three-outer gutshot on the turn and I lost half my stack. Later that night, I got trips on the turn and boated up on the river. Lost to a higher boat. Rest of chips gone.

    Poker is a cruel game sometimes.

    1. Yeah, when you don't get the card you want, it can really kinda suck.

  5. Rob.

    I feel you TBC'd the 9's full hand. Afraid to be bluffed so you lost a big pot with a marginal hand.
    Just let it go, curse your luck and move on!

    1. Thanks, grrouch, always appreciate the comparison!

    2. i dont see myself ever betting the turn there

    3. I got a tremendous laugh from that!

      I won't elaborate, but it was an audible belly chuckle!!!

      thanks Tony

  6. so a magazine you did not mention has a strategy article explaining you should limp with AK in no limit? Good think you didn't mention it. I bet that article was NITtastic!

    Good analysis by Grange as usual.

    1. I didn't mention the name of magazine since it is a competitor to Ante Up, who I work for. No sense given them free publicity. Tho I suppose a case could be made for publicizing them as a mag that gives bad strategy advice, so you you should read Ante Up instead.

      I only read the article because by chance I found myself playing at the same table with the author the night before. He was a better player than his column would indicate.