July 22nd, 2006

Normalcy in Las Vegas

I think a lot of people who live part but not all of the year here in Las Vegas -- like the hundreds of players who are here for the WSOP and will return to their homes after it -- spend a lot of time searching for normalcy. As WSOP players our world is especially weird. We spend thousands of dollars playing tournaments a few times a week. We lend hundreds or thousands of dollars to friends who need it, or back them for similar amounts, or get lent or get backed.[*] Those who enjoy such things, go to nightclubs and buy $1000 bottles of champagne, or blow off similar money to get dances from naked girls. And then there is just being in and around the casinos. Where the WSOP is held, cocktail waitresses will occasionally jump on top of slot machines and start dancing. Down the street, volcanoes are erupting and mermaids are boarding a pirate ship. Traffic along that street averages about 8 mph, but no one seems to mind; in fact, they're enjoying every minute of it.

It's almost a cliché to hear the Vegas locals say that they never go to the Strip. But I can certainly believe it. Don't get me wrong; I love the Strip. I love Las Vegas. I love the gaudiness, the lights, the energy, the fun, the gambling, the amazing architecture, the luxurious amenities, all of it. But since Jacqueline left, all I've done in my life other than play poker was to strive for some normalcy in this crazy city. Even though the Extended Stay America where we stayed was mostly acceptable, I moved into an actual apartment, partly just so that life could seem a little more normal. I'm only here for another month, but it's nice just to have a real place to live in. I'm trying to go to BJJ whenever I can. Today I went to the grocery store, bought a bunch of stuff, and enjoyed it. I think Las Vegas is the only place that I actually enjoy going grocery shopping, just because of the feeling of normalcy it provides.

This was all brought on just now after going out for late-night Chinese food with Rich Korbin and thomaskoo. We went to some standard Chinese restaurant that's open until 4am, located on Sahara and about Valley View, for those who know the area. It's pretty standard food, acceptable but nothing special. Thomas brought up the Palms, which got me to thinking that the Chinese food in the coffee shop at the Palms is actually much better than this place. And yet, even though I like hanging out with Rich and Thomas, had they said they were just going to the Palms for food, I'm not sure if I'd have gone. But going to a somewhat average, late-night Chinese food place 5 minutes away from the Strip with two friends gives me a lot of normalcy. It's something that I could do in any city, at any time. There's no reminder of the craziness that is going on all around me.

So it's weird. I like Las Vegas. I like casinos. But I'm probably reaching a saturation point, at least with the latter. I don't think I have any beef with Las Vegas (other than this ridiculous heat). I could probably live here; it seems like a good city with some nice areas and all the big-city things that I like. And I love being in town during the WSOP and seeing all my friends. But I am kinda glad the WSOP is only 7 weeks long.

* As hgfalling said to me when I handed him two $5000 chips for a 10% share in his WSOP, "you're giving me these two pieces of plastic. I could take these two pieces of plastic and turn them into like, a car. And all you're getting for it is like, my word that I will pay you some unknown amount of money in seven weeks." To which I responded, "yeah, and you could take those two pieces of plastic, worth a car, and conceivably return some more pieces of plastic to me with which I could buy like, a house."

WSOP Event #32 - $5000 PLHE

First off, holy crap. 1084 different people have visited this page in the last 21 hours? I really can't be that interesting. I wish I had the site meter on the first day of the spotlight (and before it as well).

Today was the $5000 PLHE. This was one of the ones I was looking forward to. Pot-limit with deep stacks is an interesting game. Pot-limit with short stacks is also an interesting game, but in a more annoying way. More on that later.

I thought this was going to be a fun tournament, but the poker gods only allowed me to have fun for about two hours, then put me through four hours of massive boredom. I picked up the vast majority of my playable hands/flops in the first two levels.

My starting table was quite tough. For the first time in all the full-table events, there is no pure donator/awful player at my starting table. Everyone seemed to be competent and no one did anything that I thought was obscenely bad.

Things start off kinda badly for me though. Blinds 25-25, first guy to enter the pot throws in a black chip without saying anything. I can tell by his facial reaction (and the fact he had plenty of green chips) that he meant to raise and realized his screwup. Two other people call, I call with QcJc, blinds check. Flop comes Qd-Tc-7c. Blinds check, guy who meant to raise bets 125, folded to me, I raise to 325, SB raises to 800, original bettor folds. So a set or two pair is what we're looking at here. Turn is a dud. He bets 1200. I think for a while and call. This in retrospect is a bad call. My reasoning at the time is that I may have enough outs against two pair, but really that would only be T7. I don't have the odds to call against QT, Q7 or a set unless he absolutely will pay off if I make a flush. Anyway the river is another ten, he bets and I fold.

I get it some of it back a little later. Few limpers to me, I limp along on the button with 55. Flop A54, checked to me, I bet 100, SB calls, Alex Balandin calls. The turn comes a 7. SB checks, Alex bets 300. I raise to 800, SB thinks for a while and folds, Alex calls. River comes a 3. I have only about 2000 left. Alex looks at my stack and checks. To me this means it's safe to bet without having to worry about a 2 or 6, so I go ahead and bet 1200. Alex thinks for a long while then decides to call, and mucks when I show.

More good flops. There is a limper in the field, I raise to 100 with AK in the SB, the BB calls, limper calls. Flop comes A24 with two diamonds. I bet 125, BB raises to 425, limper folds and I call. Turn is a rag and it goes check-check. River is another rag, I bet 500, he calls and shows AQ; I win.

Two hands then occur where I make runner-runner flushes. I don't remember the details of the first, but it's a SB/BB battle where I raise preflop, I bet the flop, the turn goes check-check and I bet on the river and get called. The second hand I defend my BB against a cutoff raiser and button cold-caller with Kc4c. The flop comes K-high, I check-call the cutoff (button folds), turn goes check-check, and I bet the river when the flush gets in and get paid off. So after the fiasco of the first hand I'm up to about 6000.

I peak at about 8500 or so in the 25-50 round.

Then comes another questionable hand, probably my last hand of any real interest for the whole day. In the 50-100 round, a player open-limps, I raise two seats behind to 400, and he folds. The very next hand, he again open-limps, and again I raise to 400, this time with KQs. It's folded back around to him but this time he limp-reraises to 1200 leaving 2000 behind. This player is new to the table (actually we blinded off his stack for almost two full levels, as he slept in) and lost a minor pot, but I have little information about him. My effective odds are basically that I'm putting in 2800 to win 3750 (about 1.33:1). It's really not that attractive. I really don't know what to make of his range. If it's like {77+,ATs+,KJs+,QJs,AJo+,KQo}, then I'm 3:2 against and should fold. If he's a bit more out of line like {55+,A9s+,KTs+,QTs+,JTs,A9o+,KQo} then I should call. But I'm a calling station, so I call. He turns over AK, which for all I know might have been the worst hand in his distribution. I thought there was a possibility that he was just sick of me raising my limps and was planning to re-raise with anything he limped with (like the second range). But maybe he thought one step ahead after seeing his AK and was thinking that after lamely limping and folding the previous hand someone (not necessarily me) might try the same tactic. Anyway I suppose I should have folded since even I'm not making much money calling even against the "optimistic" range. But what can I say, I'm a calling station.

I play some not-so-interesting pots in the 100-200 round that must have gone well since I finished the second break around 8000. But after that round I went as card-dead as I have probably been in any event. I was folding, folding, folding. It was bad. I started falling asleep between hands. The pot-limit structure is very slow, as well. The first six levels of the $5000 NL tournaments are 25-50, 50-100, 100-200, 100-200/25, 150-300/25, 200-400/50. This tournament went 25-25, 25-50, 50-100, 75-150, 100-200, 150-300. The sixth level of a $5000 NL tournament has T1050 to see the pot; the sixth level of the PL has just T450! This is of course a great thing for the players (or the good ones, anyway), but the absence of antes really makes a big difference. I seemed to be picking up a bunch of hands that would be clear-cut raises in NL but were probably safe folds in PL. I'd occasionally get to steal the blinds, but then two orbits would go by before I'd be able to do it again. Without ever putting more than 2000 in a pot, I found myself down to my original 5100 at the dinner break.

At dinner I was thinking and talking with Jerrod about the weird stuff that goes on when you are playing a small stack in PL. Normally at 200-400 you would be playing push/fold with a stack of 5100. Of course in PL you can't do that; the most you can make an opening raise is 1400, and that gives your opponent the opportunity to move *you* all-in. So I decided that if I was going to play a hand with this size stack, I was going to open for 800, regardless of what hand I held. This still isn't perfect, as supposing the BB calls, that creates a pot of 1800 with 4300 left in my stack. Now his check and my bet still allows him to be the one to push. But it does allow me to get away preflop when I'm reraised with a bad hand, or get all the money in when I have a good hand. OTOH, the situation where I defend the BB is easier to play. There's lots more weird stuff that goes on here that was running through my head but I won't detail it all. None of it came into play anyway, as I was able to steal the blinds once but then folded three orbits and completed two SBs, taking me down to 3500. I decide to take a stand 3-off with AT by raising the pot and cry-calling the reraise behind me (note that raising to 800 and folding is no longer an option with my current stack size). He has AK, I don't improve and that's the game.

Tomorrow: $1k rebuy. I've gotten the "what's your rebuy strategy" question a dozen or so times in the last week, but I've written a lot already so I'll save it for tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now that I am a strong believer in the linear value of chips. Draw your conclusions from there if you can't wait until tomorrow.