Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poker Season is Almost Here!

That's right boys and girls, poker season is just around the corner.  Soon it will be time for every poker player in the universe to descend on Las Vegas as that game of skill known as poker takes over Sin City.

I know this because I am currently working my fingers to the bone entering all the special summer series tournaments into the PokerAtlas database. And also because the last two columns I wrote for Ante Up consisted almost entirely of previews of all the summer series. Note: Forget about what you learned in school.  Every poker player knows that summer is from end of May to early July.

So since my days are consumed with all the poker series about to commence in Vegas shortly, I thought I'd take some time during my free time to share some thoughts with you.  Hopefully you've already seen part 1 of my summer preview (here).  The second part should be appearing in a couple of weeks, covering Planet Hollywood, Wynn, Binion's and Orleans.

So with all those tournaments to look at as I enter them in the system, I thought I'd talk a bit what events I'm thinking about playing.  Yes, after a long hiatus, I am planning to return to Vegas in June.  But with less enthusiasm than in the past.  As I've explained in multiple posts, I really don't like what they've done to Vegas.  They are doing their best to drive people like me away with skyrocketing room rates, ever increasing resort fees and parking fees and the virtual disappearance of quality (or even decent) low-cost food options.  It's getting to be too damn expensive to go to Vegas, and that's not even considering the possibility of a few bad sessions.  Even the increasing cost of gas makes it pricier for me.  You see, the incompetent morons who run California recently increased our gas taxes 12¢ a gallon.  True, once I get to Vegas I can buy cheaper gas….but it's a bit impractical to drive to Vegas just for a fill up.

Still, I'm not quite ready to completely write off Vegas, and if you're a poker player and you're ever going to go to Vegas, the poker season is when to go.  Even if you didn't ever play a tournament, the cash game action is insane this time of year.

And it sure feels like the poker season this year is the biggest ever—or at least since I've been working in the poker biz.  The WSOP has more bracelet events than ever, and I believe more side events too.  And then there's the Venetian.  Oh, the Venetian.  I hope you read my column just for the section on the Venetian summer series.  Getting that listed on PokerAtlas almost killed me.  They actually have 150 tournaments between mid-May and end of July.  And I had to enter every single one of them into the database.  I just finished on Thursday.  I don't want to say how long it took me but when I started they still had free parking on the Vegas strip. 

Seriously, I'm really looking forward to seeing the set up they have over there.  For most of the series, the events will be held not in the Venetian poker room, but in the Sands Convention Center.  I hear it is going to be a really nice venue, very roomy, a separate food court and who knows what else.  I'd make a point to check it out just to see it even if I wasn’t planning on playing any events.  But I think they have a tournament that has caught my eye and I will take a shot at.  It's the Nightstack, a $400 tourney with a bunch of flights spread out over June on various evenings starting at 6pm. I wrote a bit about it in my column.  It has a $1MM guarantee and each flight is in the money.  The top 10% get paid and the top 5% advance to day 2.  It's actually similar to WSOP's Giant tournament that they debuted last year.  The Nightstack has 30 minute levels all the way through, the Giant has 20-minute levels on day 1.  But the starting stack is bigger for the Giant (25K vs 15k).  Even though it doesn't have a guarantee, the Giant figures to have a lot bigger prize pool (last year's was over $3MM).  And the buy-in is close but the Giant is a bit cheaper at $365.  Giant's payouts probably start sooner although it depends on how many players each flight gets. Giant has a Day 2 and a Day 3, the Nightstack finishes on Day 2.

When I was analyzing the Nightstack and realizing it was similar to the Giant, I checked the dates of each to see if they were competing directly.  Well, none of the Day 1 flights are head-to-head (but even if they were, since there are so many flights, it wouldn't be an issue).  But, it turns out that Nightstack's Day 2 (it's last day) and Giant's Day 3 (it's last day) are on the same day.

When I first saw that, I thought that was too bad that they were competing like that, players would have choose one or the other. But then I thought about it some more and realized it likely wouldn't prevent anyone from entering both events. The Giant starts it's Day 3 (which will very likely just be a final table) at 2pm on 7/1.  Nightstack's Day 2 starts the same day at 5pm.

But there will only be a conflict if you make it to Day 3 of the Giant and Day 2 of the Nightstack.  Otherwise you're fine.  And making it to the final day of both of these tournaments would be a pretty nice problem to have.  I might suggest if you're good enough to make it to the final days of both of these tournaments, you're probably wasting your time playing in events that cost $400 or less!

But think of it.  Players who are in Vegas for most of the summer will be able to play both.  A lot of the Nightstack's dates are the Thursday before a Giant flight (which are all on Friday).  So you play Venetian Thursday and if you don’t survive, you can try the Giant the next night.  A lot of players are probably planning on firing multiple bullets anyway. 

The question is, if you make it to Day 2 in either one of them, do you give up on the idea of playing the other or do you give it a shot anyway?  You are going to be among a very few players to make it to Day 3 of the Giant, and will have survived a huge field.  It will be easier to make it to Day 2 of the Nightstack of course.

What I'm saying is, even if you're Doug Polk (and I'm pretty sure you're not Doug Polk), and you fired every bullet possible in both tournaments, it's still extremely unlikely you'd have your dance card filled with both final days on July 1.

But if somehow you did make it through both?  Well again, a very nice problem to have.  And actually, you'd have three of hours of play at the Giant before the restart over at the Venetian.  I guess your strategy would be based on how deep stacked you were for each event, right?  If you're the short stack at the final table of the Giant (but were deep stacked at the Nightstack), you just keep shoving until you bust the Giant or you get on a roll and can legitimately compete for a bracelet.  Even if you busted the first minute of day 3, you'd be getting a very nice payout.

OTOH, if it was the reverse, and you were the chip leader at the Giant but a shortie at the Nightstack, you play the Giant for as long as you can, and if that short stack at the Nightstack gets blinded off, you can pick up whatever money is coming to you from there at your convenience if you don't make it over there in time to play at all.  Meanwhile, your payout at the Giant would be huge.

The dilemma would be if you were deep stacked at both (and again, a great problem to have).  I suppose at that point you would get out the ICM calculator to help you decide which of the two tournaments you should prioritize.

But of course, it's a real, real long shot that anyone would make it to the final days of both of these tournaments.

Bottom line:  I may just be crazy to fire a bullet in both, and see if I can be that guy with the final day dilemma.  I'm not counting on it, but cashing in both would sure be nice and not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Despite the added bracelet events at the WSOP, nothing new appeals to me, so if I do play the Giant it will be my only bracelet event.  And again, I will keep away from the Daily Deepstacks as I have for the past few years.  The 3pm Deepstack became the 2pm Deepstack a few years back, and now has become the 1pm Deepstack (at a new, slightly higher buy-in, $250).  A few years back they removed the dinner break, which made it quite unappealing to me.  This year they put the dinner break back….but it's not until 9:15pm, too late for me to take advantage of it.  I could work around it I suppose, but when there are other tournaments around town competing with it that are lot more friendly to eating/meds schedule, I see no reason to.

Just last time I wrote about last year's WPT 500 at the Aria (here), and yes, I hope to play it again this year, assuming I still have money left by the time it rolls around in late June.  The $5 increase in the buy-in (to $570) won't keep me away. 

Golden Nugget will once again be running those $150 NLH tourneys most days at 1PM, with a $20K guarantee.  That's the tourney that really appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  I expect to try my luck there a few times.  The Nugget also has a couple of weekends reserved for its $200 Ultimate Re-entry events, with a $250K guarantee. They have 9 starting flights and I can see myself playing in that. All players who make it to Day 2 are in the money.

Planet Hollywood is running some $100 NLH tourneys with $10K guarantees.  I have to consider giving one of those a try, no?  Then they have some $250 "Low Roller" tourneys….multiple starting flights, payouts begin on Day 1, $200K guarantee.  Can I pass that up?   Oh and Orleans has a bunch of $150 NLH tournies with $25K guarantees.  Have to consider those as definitely playable.

Wynn has great tournaments as well, but I think they are a little out of my wheelhouse, buy-in wise.  And Binion's is mostly non-hold'em stuff, as I indicated in my column.

One thing I will point out is that almost all of these venues are using the Big Blind Ante at least to some degree, as I predicted (see here). The exceptions, as far as I can tell, are the Orleans and sorta/kinda Binion's.  I say that about Binion's because for their NLH events, they are going with Button Ante instead of the BB Ante, as I posted on Twitter a few weeks back. Some folks prefer the button ante because then the burden of that inflated ante and the big blind doesn't fall on the same player, it spreads it out better. The issue with that though is that there are sometimes hands where there is no player on the button, whereas there is always a big blind.  Binion's will handle this by having no ante when there is a dead button.  Players interested in that version of the single ante format can try that out and see for themselves if they like it.

But everyone else has at least a few tournaments with the Big Blind Ante, and both Aria and Wynn are exclusively BB Ante for their NLH events.  I think Golden Nugget is only using it for their championship event.  The others are using it for some portion of their events.  Oh and yes, even the WSOP is using it for a few of the bracelet events and some of the daily deepstacks.  By next year I bet it will be close to the standard.

Well that's about it.  I probably won't have the bankroll to play all the events that appeal to me unless I get a few early cashes.  I can dream can't I?  So what events appeal to you?

Note:  My last post was missing my signature gratuitous cheesecake pic.  So to make up for it, I've enhanced this post with a multiple pics of young ladies enjoying the summer.  Happy poker season!  


  1. Back in the day I did really well in Horse tournaments on -line. Going to try to get up to Vegas to play at least one this year. Good-luck to you Rob.

  2. Yeah, the monetization of Vegas is getting out of hand. Was just discussing the new increased “resort fees” the other day with a buddy. Even when we get comped rooms (much rarer these days), we still end up paying $50/day in fees for shit we don’t use. I still enjoy Vegas, but it’s no longer a good value. I’m a guy who can afford the better spots in Vegas, but I’m likely to start moving my vacations to other places if I’m going to pay premium prices.

    1. Yep, I guess their new business model works, but its very different from the old model, when Vegas really was a good model. I dunno how they can say they are comping you a room when they stick it to you with the resort fee.