Monday, July 6, 2009

Poker at South Point: The Normal (VegasSummer 09, gambling)

I stayed at the South Point Hotel and Casino for my first 6 nights in Vegas. It's off the strip and was the best value that I found on Hotwire. I will write a more detailed post about the hotel and casino later. The poker room at the South Point was a small area, perhaps able to fit 11 tables at the most. During the 6 nights I was there, there were at most 3 1/2NL tables going and only once did they get a 2/5NL table going. Most of the players were locals, about 60% I would say. Not local pros, but rather just locals and local dealers who wanted to play without dealing with the strip traffic.

The floor staff was friendly and most of them as well as some dealers knew me by sight by the third night. Unlike poker rooms on the east coast, most of Vegas seems to rake rather than count time. At the South Point, there was a high hand jackpot. This is hit when you use both cards in your hand (must have pair for quads) and hit quads, a straight flush, or a royal flush. These were then divided into suits or which quads you hit (2-A). The hand did not need to reach showdown, but there needs to be $10 in the pot to qualify (of which $1 went to the jackpot). During the time I was there, the diamond royal flush was the biggest draw, having reached over $6k from not having been hit for over a month. The comp system was time-based, with $1.5/hr for the first 4 hours, then $.75/hr after that, with a $9 cap per 24 hours. By the time I left I had $30 in comps (still there I never took them), and that didn't even include the times when I forgot to clock in or out. So you can imagine how much time I spent in that poker room.

Most of the tables were friendly, and whenever possible I tried to get onto a friendly table. There were players who were pretty blatant about their tendencies. One old asian woman, who seemed to be a regular, regularly overbet her top pair while check-calling her draws. For example, if there were 5 limpers to the flop and she hit her top pair of Qs, she'd bet 25 into an 8 pot (1 for rake, 1 for jackpot). She even bet like this when she hit the nut flush on the flop! One of my friends said that 1/2NL in Vegas during the WSOP was probably more like .25/.5 online. One of the ways in which this was true was that preflop raises were all over the place. Raises of 12/15/20 were very common with a wide variety of hands and had a wide variety of hands call these big preflop raises.

In the end, the one tendency that really seemed to matter was an analysis of continuation bet patterns. The key things to know seem to be how often people continuation bet, how many more shots they were going to continue to stab at it, and how often they would call a raise of the continuation bet with two overs that missed the flop. I found that if you were playing against people who can play a little, clearly have read a book or two, you were better raising the continuation bet if you had a piece of the flop. On the other hand, playing against the cowboy or the truck driver, you were better placed to just call the bet.

Below are some hands and plays I made that I found interesting. Hope you do too. For all of these, I played 1/2NL and bought in for 300.

Hand 1.

Holding KK in the cutoff, I raise it to 12. Button calls, and flop comes ♠Q ♠5 2

I bet 20, button raises 20 more.

At this point I want to see where I'm at, so I raise it 30 more. I'm in no hurry to raise it too much. I find that especially on the flop, noone ever feels priced out to chase in a raised pot. But if I run into a monster, I'm willing to let go of it without committing too much. After considerable thought, she mucks her hand. If she had raised again after that length of thought, I would have folded easily. After I showed her my K's she said she had AA. From her tight play that I observed afterward, it would not surprise me at all if she did have AA.

Hand 2.

Holding J7 in late position, I call an early position raise to 7. Heads up, the flop comes T 7 2 rainbow. Preflop raiser checks to me and I check. I'm not in a tournament trying to amass chips to survive blinds, so I don't feel a need to bet here. If it's clear he caught up by the turn, I can let this go. If not, I feel that I am vulnerable to a wide variety of plays back at me and dangerous turn cards if my flop bet doesn't get him to go away. The turn is another rainbow 5 and it's checked to me again. This time I'm fairly confident I'm ahead and bet 10. The guy now check raises 10 more. I'm still not convinced that his hand suddenly got better or that he'd been slowplaying the whole time, so I call to get more information. The river came a K. This is a very dangerous card. If he had just been making a play back at me with AK, KQ, KJ, he will have caught up. He bet 25. However, there was a wonderful tell that I caught here, something that you won't get online. He reached for his chips to bet BEFORE the K hit on the river and his motion did not slow or change in any way as the K hit the felt. This felt to me like he considered his hand purely a bluff and the river not to have mattered, so I called. He mucked his hand, saying, "You call, you win."

Hand 3

Holding J8 on the button I call a raise to 12 from UTG. The flop comes Q T ♠3

The preflop raiser bets 20, and I did not sense a lot of confidence. I decided to raise here to 50 on the sense of weakness, knowing that I'm ok to call if we do get our chips in the middle. The preflop raiser thinks for a while then pushes all in for 100 more. I call and he flips up JJ. Unless he was very confident he was pushing me off the hand, his play was pretty atrocious. He's drawing extremely thin if I have a Q, and even on this hand that he caught me with, he's no better than 53% to win the hand. One extra inference, is that if I had AK or KJ or even AJ I was not likely to want to chase him off the hand, to get my chance at $6k high hand jackpot. I think this makes his play even worse. Of course I missed and he won the hand.

Hand 4

This hand caused a lot of laughs at the table and perhaps even made its way into someone else's story about playing poker in Vegas. I was bored and straddled to 4. A solid player raised it to 20 from early middle position and another called on the button and it was to me. The preflop raiser was not a random and so I put him on a range of 99 to JJ. I looked down at my cards and the first card I saw was ♠A. Well, I thought, this seems like a great time to make a squeeze play. As long as my read was right, even if I couldn't get the raiser to lay it down preflop, I still had a chance to hit my A. So I raised it 60 more. The preflop raiser thought for a while, tried to get some information by looking at me, and then decided to just make the call. I was pretty sure I could get him off the hand when all of a sudden, the button caller now went all in! To make it worse, his raise was only 25 more, so I didn't get another move. The flop came 853 with two hearts, and I decided that it must be easier to try to beat one person than two, so I pushed all in for 200 more. After much hemming and hawing, the preflop raiser mucked QQ face up. Everyone at the table was sure I had KK or AA. The turn and river came 7 and 2, so I was pretty sure I lost either way. The all-in guy turned up AK! I think that's an atrocious play for a cash game, so I wasn't really expecting it. So I look at my cards and turn over... ♠A♠2. Pair of deuces takes the pot! Everyone had a good laugh about it, and everyone else at the table still swore they thought I had KK or AA. Even the AK guy realized that if I hadn't made my play, he wouldn't even have had a chance to win against the other guy's QQ, so he took it in stride. Besides, the flop gave me a gutshot draw so it wasn't as horrible a beat as it might have seemed at first.

And yes, even that hand was still part of "the normal". In the next post, we'll get to "the weird".

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