A Rough First Week

Posted by Expired Potato On May 09, 2017 1 comments

Getting Settled In

Wasn't the smoothest journey getting here. Flight to Dallas from Toronto got delayed and they were missing my gate info on the ticket for the connecting flight to Vegas. Me being a total amateur when it comes to traveling I didn't even know that your luggage is automatically moved to your connecting flight and you don't need to move it yourself. So I'm standing for like ten minutes at baggage claim with the clock ticking since there was only half an hour between landing and takeoff. Finally I do what I always do when I don't know what to do, which is ask stupid questions. I find out that my luggage is taken care of, then I sprint to the nearest ticket counter to ask which gate I'm supposed to be at. The lady has a very thick Southern accent and is very amused.

"You're telling me you ran through security just to ask me which gate?"
"It's C [whatever number]. You better run!"
"Thanks I'll sprint."

I sprinted so fast with my carry on. Usain Bolt would've been proud. The only thought going through my mind was I'M NOT GETTING STUCK IN DALLAS! Made it with a few minutes to spare. Looks like that tiny bit of cardio I've been doing lately is paying off. I even got blessed with a window seat. This is the view landing in Vegas apparently filmed with a calculator.

I was planning on playing poker til dawn then getting a few hours of sleep. But I listened to my body's exhaustion complaints, checked in to Harrah's and called it a night. Alarm went off at 10:15. The room was pitch black. I was thinking wow it's must be super overcast in the desert today. Walked over to open the curtains and was greeted by that! Those were some really good curtains. No wonder I got such solid sleep. Tried to shower. The knob was BROKEN! It was kinda funny, in an irritating type of way. I called the front desk and they said I could use the spa which is normally extra. That worked out well! They had a hot tub with coffee as well as lemon scented towels. It was nice. They even had a gym right beside the spa but I made sure to get one last lift in before flying out so I gotta have that rest day.

I noticed quickly that Spanish is very popular here. I called a Lyft to get from Harrah's to my Airbnb and my driver was Cuban. He spoke very little English. I speak very little Spanish. We had a nice broken conversation in Spanish with a bit of English slipped in here and there. Necesito practicar mas apparently. I get to the Airbnb expecting it to be kind of sketchy despite the pictures cause it's so cheap. It was not false advertised at all. It's a nice, gated townhouse complex. This is basically my backyard for the next three weeks.


23 nights for only around $40 CAD a night. Hopefully I'll be this lucky playing poker tonight. There's even a very nice grocery store in a plaza not even a five minute walk away. Groceries here are cheap as expected even with the conversion rate taken into account. Fish filet for as little as $2.99/lb, marinated skinless chicken thighs for $2.49/lb. It almost seems unfair how much we pay in Canada. Cooked my first meal here. It's nothing special, just some beans, chicken and veggies but it feels good finally eating something healthy after eating unhealthy for almost a week.

Right Down to Business 

After getting settled in, it was time to take care of business. I didn't know that business would take care of me but I'll get to that later. Hopped in a Lyft and headed to Bally's. I later realized there are way better rooms to play in and after I get my 45 hours in and qualify for the freeroll with a $24000 prize pool I'm probably not playing there again. But Bally's will always have a special place in my heart for taking my Vegas poker virginity.

And Bally was not gentle. I shoulda lubed up cause I sat in the game dropped $500 so fast I couldn't believe it. Nothing was working for me. My bluffs weren't getting through and I couldn't make a draw or even a pair to save my life. I finally flopped a set with 77 on a J87 flop hoping to get paid. Fuck yeah! Or fuck no? Turn was a 4 I got check raised and called it in position. River was a K that completed the backdoor flush. He shoved I folded. He's never bluffing or playing two pair that way it's a higher set, straight or flush always. It was late and I was almost gonna leave but the guy that made me fold the set of sevens was just so loose and bad and I had position on him (as in I'm sitting on his left so I will be in position versus him after the flop most of the time) so I stayed. Took a long time but when he finally left and I could go home and sleep I had managed to grind my way back to even.

Here's the place Matt Damon was talking about 20 years ago in Rounders. "Vegas and the fucking Mirage". The outside was absolutely gorgeous, but from what I've heard from the locals the poker room inside had been going downhill for years and they were of course right. For a Friday evening it was dead. Uneventful session not too much action up $250 down $200. I'll probably play there again though cause the rake (how much the house takes from the pot) is capped at $4/hand, the comps are $2/hr (meaning I get $2/hr just for playing poker). And the guy I was waiting for a table with was some rich tourist from "Philly" who played just about every hand and gave me a "don't care" wave when I yelled "you forgot your beer" as he got up and left after donating several hundred to the table. A good sign.

The Venetian though...what a beautiful gem! It's basically a palace with centuries-old architecture fused with the 21st century. The poker room was the fanciest and BIGGEST poker room I've ever seen. This picture isn't even the whole room I'm missing quite a bit! 

And look at this view from the outside at night. I can see why it attracts tourists like myself. I got plenty of action there. I had a nice conversation with a software guy from Cali about the job market. It sounded good. Then I sent him back to his hotel. I reraised AQ. He calls. Flop is Q62 with two spades. I bet and he shoves for $250. Interesting play by him but I doubt he has a set cause I made it $50 preflop no way he calls 22, maybe not even 66, two queens left in the deck so QQ is very unlikely and also people love slowplaying sets especially on flops with very few draws like Q62. I have an ace so he is 50% less likely to have AA, and the vast majority of players are straightforward and play AA/KK aggressively preflop. Easy call. He has QJss. I gotta dodge a jack and spades! Turn is safe. River is a picture card which scared me a little but it was a queen. Whew! Another hand I reraised AKdd, flopped three diamonds my opponent was silly enough to check blind to me on the flop turn AND river (check before the community cards are revealed so the player in position acts first; a stupid thing to do usually). OK then. Bet, bet, I'm all in. He snap calls the river. No full house I'm good! I didn't play super amazing or anything but I played OK, got lucky in those spots and got paid. For sure playing there again.

Played Sunday and Monday again. Got fucked. 

Salsa and Lifting

Was looking for places to work on that salsa. Asides from this place called Firefly which has a no cover Latin night on their patio Friday night, every other place that's not a million miles from The Strip seems to charge an absurd amount for cover. I want to dance salsa, but not for THAT much cmon now. Went to Firefly and had a good time practicing the moves. There's this weird kind of Cuban salsa that's popular around here. Interesting. I might just have to pay cover on a less profitable night for poker cause having to stop playing poker Fridays at 11 pm just to dance salsa seems like a lost opportunity to make a lot of money.

I got a gym membership finally! It's at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). The gym there is amazing. It's a four level facility with a weight room, cardio room, swimming pool, track and sports facilities. All that for just $20 initiation and $25 a month. Score! They also have group classes which is a good way to meet more locals and I'd like to take boxing or some kind of martial art.

Weekly Hand Analysis

There was an interesting hand involving a grinder who openly talks about playing for a living. As a quick aside, that is something a grinder should NEVER be doing. If I'm a recreational player there to chase flush draws and have a good time and you're telling me that people like me pay your bills, I'm getting a table change. I hate lying but whenever​ someone asks me why I'm in Vegas the answer is always "I'm here to escape" or "I'm here to be irresponsible".

Anyways let's get to it. I raised $6 on the button with JT, the grinder calls in the small blind, and the big blind folds. I have about a $400 stack and the grinder has me covered (as in he has more, so we are effectively $400 deep). The flop is Q83 with the 3 being a diamond. He checks to me, I bet $8 and he raises to $25. It's $17 to call a pot of $47. My immediate odds of hitting the 9 to make a straight don't justify a call, but the fact that I'm in position, an ace or king improves my draw and I have the potential to win $400 if I do make a straight justifies a call. I call, the dealer rakes $6 and the turn is the king of diamonds.

He checks to me. Now I picked up four more outs. An ace or a 9 will give me a straight. He could have assumed I bet the flop too much and check raised me with a wide range consisting of mostly bluffs, some of which now have to fold. Also I didn't call with jack high to play it passively in position and hope to get lucky. So I bet $30 into the $58 pot and to my surprise he raises to $65. Not only is the double check raise super non-standard the sizing is weird too. Gives my draws a great price to see the river for cheap. So I call. 

River is the ace of diamonds. Bink! He checks again to me. There is a possible flush out there with that third diamond but it is highly unlikely that he has it since he didn't bet which allows me to check back the river for a free showdown. This is a clear value bet. The question is how much? The pot is almost $200. I can bet small and give him a good price to call, or I can bet big and make it look like I'm either bluffing or super strong. I went with somewhere in the middle. I slide forward a stack of 24 reds ($120). He snap folded KQ face up. Interesting flop check raise and tiny turn check raise with that.

He then says I can't be bluffing in that spot at all given how the board ran out. And I realized...holy shit he's right. If I'm betting the river I have AK for top two pair, sets, JT for a straight and also diamond flushes. What possible hand can I be bluffing with? The only way I can be bluffing is if I called his turn check raise with J9 or T9 which would've been bad calls since those hands only have four outs to hit a straight instead of eight. Had I bet $50 instead of $120 I might have gotten a "fuck it" call out of him. But more importantly, I realized that if I'm in a spot where my opponent thinks I'm never bluffing based on the board, I can just value bet small to get a "fuck it" call and bet big as a bluff. And I would be able to always get away with it! My perceived range and my actual range are two different things and I just learned a new way to exploit that difference.

Also this is why you shouldn't talk strategy at the table. I just became a better poker player from that one conversation. It's in his best interest to talk about something else or just to shut up.

Girl Shits On Professional Poker Player

This hand was awesome! I didn't win, but it was hilarious to watch and tilted the shit out of that grinder from the hand above. I raised $12 with AK. The grinder reraises to $40 in the small blind. A girl (omg a girl at the table :O) calls the extra $38 in the big blind with only $2 invested. Interesting. I call and take a flop in position. Flop is T95. Grinder bets out, girl calls and I obviously have to fold. Turn is an ace. Oh well. A good fold is a good fold. The grinder checks and the girl checks it back. River is a jack. The grinder checks again. The girl bets and the grinder is in a world of PAIN. He groans and moans, counts out his chips, groans and moans some more and folds.

What happened next was crazy! The girl proudly flips over 77! The entire table starts ROARING! OOOHHHHHHH! OOOHHHHHHHHH! The grinder is PISSED! He did not expect her to have a hand as weak as 77 and clearly he folded KK or QQ which would have been the winner. To be fair, being in the hand with 77 in the first place was bad. Calling the flop multi-way is also bad, although I get her logic, however flawed - he could have AK and my 77 could be ahead. Let's just not care what the Asian guy who I'm out of position against could have. When the ace fell on the turn and the grinder gave up the betting lead, it's either cause he's setting a trap or cause he's scared of the ace. When the grinder checked again on the river giving the girl the option of a free showdown, it's obvious that the grinder is scared of the ace and has a hand that an ace can beat, so almost always KK or QQ. The girl figured that out and redeemed her poor play by reading him like a book and outplaying the fuck out of him on the river. And he would not shut up about it for the longest time. It was so funny. He even said to the dealer "hey man if you double me up through her you're getting a $50 tip". He was dead serious. Never underestimate a girl at the table boys. Their milkshake will bring you to the yard and it'll be an expensive yard.

In terms of poker strategy though, it's good to review other people's plays even if you're not in the hand, so you can learn from their mistakes instead of learning from your own which can be expensive. The lesson I learned here is to continue the aggression on the turn despite the ace which is a scare card. Although she could have had AK, it's unlikely and she's way more likely to have a pair he's beating or a draw. Betting would have protected him from getting bluffed out as he did and also allows him to get value from hands he's beating. By giving up the betting lead and checking both the turn and river, his hand is basically face up and she can play perfectly against him. Analyzing this spot also made me realize that giving up the betting lead out of position on the turn in general might be a bad idea in a wide range of boards. This actually makes me feel more confident now about my own game despite my shitty results this first week, just because of the fact that I'm learning.

Sustainability and Mindset

I've been living like a king. And it feels great. The place I'm staying at feels and looks like paradise. This whole city feels and looks like paradise. I pull out my phone, press a few buttons and people rush to drive me places. I spend money on food/drinks when out and don't really worry. The customer service here is great compared to Canada. Every casino I walk into I'm treated like royalty by super friendly staff. It's like they actually care about you having a good experience, or they're excellent at acting. Money talks and everything else walks here. I've been poor most of my life so this new kind of lifestyle is so different it actually feels a little weird. The big question is can I actually sustain this? Yes I can. But I'm gonna have to work for it. Actually, I'm gonna have to FIGHT for it.

Let's break down how much money I'm spending a month. I lucked out on rent for this month and it's gonna average around $800. I'm gonna be conservative and say that for June and July with rising Airbnb prices it'll be way more expensive, say $1500/month. Groceries here are cheap and I generally don't eat dinner at home so I'll call it $250. Phone is $35. Uber/Lyft will be $20/day and I don't see myself ever NOT going out and sitting at home all day here cause it would feel like such a waste. So a conservative cost estimate here is $600. Gym is $20 initiation plus $25 a month. With comps a lot of dinners will be either free or very cheap. Entertainment will probably be about $600. Holding my breath while I add up these scary numbers in my head, I see that the total is over $3000 USD for a conservative estimate and I'm guessing anywhere up to a grand cheaper if I'm more careful with my money and look harder for a cheaper Airbnb. So let's meet in the middle and call it $2500.

A solid live poker player can expect to win 10 bb/hr (big blinds an hour) long term, and arguably more at small stakes with good table and seat selection. At 1/2 that's $20/hr. That would require 125 hours/month which is less than a 9-5 and not really work cause it's fun. But I don't consider myself a solid poker player. I have probably only 500 hours live lifetime and I have leaks such as tilting, not exploiting every player's weaknesses to the max, and probably bluffing the wrong type of player too often. I do consider myself a decent poker player though so $15/hr seems perfectly achievable at 1/2. That's 167 hours which is a bit more than a 9-5 but definitely still nothing if I'm on The Strip 6 or 7 days a week. If I don't play my A game 90% of the time my win rate will probably be a measly $10/hr. That's 250 hours which would require 10 hour sessions 25 days a month, which although is not impossible is definitely a LOT of grinding and although I cannot control the results, I don't plan on playing that shitty.

Once I get a good rhythm going and if I don't run bad I'll sit in some 1/3 games. But I won't sit at 2/5 until the WSOP (World Series of Poker) starts in June and the games get softer. My first five days playing 1/2 I was down $500, up $1400 and then down another $1400 and now I'm actually down $500 overall. The swings at 2/5 will be way too violent for me to stomach at this point in time. In fact I met some random former professional poker player at a bar. He told me to "just make it to the WSOP cause your win rate will triple". By that he meant don't do stupid shit like take a shot at 5/10 and go broke. I doubt my win rate would actually triple. Double probably. But I'll take his advice. Wouldn't want to end up like this guy.

Here's the problem. Win rates are long term expected results. Short term variance is absolutely brutal. Poker is definitely mostly luck in the short term. From what I've heard you need 500 hours at the tables for your results to even BEGIN to be statistically significant. A single big pot can be the difference between a winning night and a break even night or a mediocre night and a losing night. I don't believe in destiny, but you can play perfect poker and some nights you are actually destined to get robbed. You're in all preflop with AA against KK and the river is a K. Nothing you can do. You flop middle set and get it in against top set. Nothing you can do. You flop an open ended straight flush draw and get it in as a 55% favourite against queens. Queens hold. Nothing you can do. If you can't smile and genuinely say "nice hand" when a $600 pot you're in slides the other way, you will likely fail. If you play with the mentality that every session has to be a winning session and being "stuck" is a horrible humiliating thing because the fish are winning and you aren't, you will fail. If you can't shrug off dropping $1500 in a week (or sometimes a night at 2/5), you will fail. If you can't walk away when you're down and tilting cause you need to be even, you will DEFINITELY fail.

Poker is a beautiful thing and I have a ton of fun playing poker - whether it's the rush of being in a big pot, playing mind games with certain opponents or just random conversations with strangers in between hands. However, I approach poker with a business mentality. It's not just a game. It's just a game for the fish (mostly tourists in this case), and I want my summer to be paid for by them instead of myself.

In order to do that I must have a winning mindset. I must be willing to accept the fact that I will be brutally knocked down repeatedly and forced to get back up. I must be willing to constantly study my game, think about ways I could have played a hand better or specific things like what kind of flops and turns I can bluff profitably with certain hands. I must be willing to be disciplined and put in the hours, as well as being disciplined and knowing when to walk away. I must be willing to accept that I might fail. But while I'm breathing, I'm gonna try. The wise words from the dude at the bar resonate in my head.

"Just make it to the WSOP".


1 Response to "A Rough First Week"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic blog, I'm rooting for you to have a big summer in Vegas!

    --TJ Eckleburg12

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