Vegas recap

I’ll post the third day wrapup later, but the upshot on Vegas is that I made a total net of $544 on tournament wins, and I lost net $158 on the cash games I played waiting for tournaments to start, or waiting for Tim or Katie to finish a tourney they were in.  Those are really good results for a trip where I was planning on losing money.  Here’s a chart.

This is part of an overall trend where my cash game is in freefall and I’m not sure what to do about it.  I’m basically net zero for the year.  Over and over again in Vegas people (not just Tim and Katie, but others) kept telling me I was a good tournament player.

The truth is I’m a better tournament player than people who don’t have much experience or skill.  This includes all tourists, anyone who doesn’t catch cards, anyone who doesn’t know how to play a short stack, and people who play a lot but don’t study their play and make changes and improvements.  That’s a lot of people, and as you can see, when I run into them or I catch a few cards I can be dangerous.  There’s a classic poker archetype of the retiree who plays poker for fun and whose game never changes.  I often played circles around them, though they probably play tournaments twice a week.

But up against real competition, which of all places was most fierce at the Treasure Island 10pm tournament, I’m an underdog.

And so I think the smart thing to do is start changing my poker night and my poker time allocation to include time for tournaments.  I find that I can spend more time analyzing the hand rationally when the tournament chips are in fact not real money and I know the blinds are increasing.  I can happily avoid a confrontation with a difficult decision knowing that when we get into a clutch situation and the blinds get high, I can put my opponent to a more difficult decision earlier in the hand. 

That doesn’t mean I can’t play deep stack tournaments.  I think I found that in the deep stack tourneys I played at the Rio that my amateur opponents made more mistakes the longer they had for levels.  As it started I explained to Tim and Katie my theory on it and I ended up being right as I exploited players who seemed willing to push all their chips in with KK in the first two hours.

The one overarching lesson I learned was that generally you are your own worst enemy in a poker tournament.  You put yourself out, rarely does somebody else.  Every confrontation you find yourself in is one of your own making.  Only you can put your chips in the pot, and while I got put out of one tournament with a 20 to 1 longshot by my opponents, it’s still the exception rather than the rule.

It’s also true that you can mentally put yourself out.  Both Tim and I watched opponents who wanted to be somewhere else simply implode at the final table, either through lack of confidence or patience.

And finally a note on Vegas: I spent a lot of time in close proximity to locals either at the poker table or speaking to the dealers.  I had the overwhelming feeling of being around a lot of carnies.  The atmosphere of Vegas certainly is carnival-like with it’s amusements, but that’s not what I mean.  It’s like being around a set of people who have their own code and traditions and don’t take well to outsiders.  None of the Vegas locals who work in the casino industry seemed to have anything but tolerance for the tourists, and quite a few had difficulty hiding their disdain.  After three very long days in Vegas I felt literally like a mark, waiting to be seperated from my money.  I never felt this as much as I did at the Treasure Island tournament which was populated with locals just getting off work at 10pm.

I also noticed this playing at the MGM Grand a few years ago with Katie.  All the off duty dealers would sit and play poker together with their friends who were on duty, and at some point it was palpable that there was a cameraderie you weren’t part of.  Subtle forms of cheating in that situation from "checking it down with your friends" to "raising the monkey/tourist in the middle" are indetectable by the outsider.

It’s not a feeling I enjoyed, and I’m not sure how to get rid of it.