Leaving Las Vegas

This blog originally appeared on PokerTips.org.

I’m heading out of Vegas soon on a red eye flight after an 11-night stay for the 2012 WSOP. The timing on the departure feels right; I think if I stayed any longer I’d start to wish I wasn’t here.

In my experience in Vegas, it’s always extra-hard to remain focused. On this trip, I tried really hard to emphasize staying focused on fitness, getting work done, playing my best at the poker table, and avoiding pitfalls like pit games and alcohol. For the most part, I did okay. I’d give myself a B. But I didn’t work out quite as hard or quite as often as I had hoped I would, I didn’t eat particularly well at all, I didn’t get as much non-poker work done as I wish I had, and I wasn’t quite as focused at the table as I promised myself I would be (so easy to get distracted by Twitter/etc while playing live poker).

That’s the thing about Vegas, it’s a very distracting city. And unless you have a home here to make things feel “normal”, there’s a constant struggle to stay focused. There’s only so normal and balanced you can keep your life when you’re living in hotels on the Vegas Strip. I’m enough of a Vegas veteran to handle things decently but I still get distracted pretty easily here.

I had only planned on playing two live tournaments here but since I busted out of the WSOP Main Event on day one, I decided to play a $1k buy-in event at Caesars Palace on Wednesday. It was a really good tournament. There were quite a few fishy players and mistakes being made. The most common mistake I saw was people playing too aggressively before the antes kicked in. It’s so easy to just play tight before you’re paying antes and wait for a good hand but a lot of people had a problem with that and spewed chips in marginal situations.

My bustout hand was fairly interesting, so I’ll share the details.

During 800/1600/200, I opened in mid-position to 3,200 with pocket 4s and a stack of 38,000. A fishy Vegas-degen called on the button. We went heads-up to a flop of 832 with two spades. This was one of the best flops I could hope for in which I didn’t hit a set. I decided to check with the plan to raise. My opponent didn’t comply and checked behind. The turn was another 3. I felt certain that if I checked again he would bet 100% of his range which seemed exploitable to me, so I checked again. As expected, he bet 6,200 and I re-raised all-in.

I talked with some people about this hand and the consensus seems to be that I made a mistake by not betting the flop. Someone made the point that he’s not going to raise me on the flop as a bluff very often, so I don’t have to worry about being pushed off my hand. The reason I played the hand a bit unorthodox is that I really did not want to be put in a position to fold since I didn’t have a ton of chips and felt like my hand was pretty strong in this spot. By attempting to check-raise rather than leading out, I got to guarantee I would be the aggressor putting all of my chips in the pot rather than being put in a situation where I might bet and fold a hand I liked.

It turned out my opponent had Queen-Eight (like I said, fishy) and busted me.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how I played on the whole trip. I was definitely a lot more aggressive than usual. I tried to guard against following my initial urge to just check or call in certain situations where it’s better to make a bet (or a raise). I think if you slow down and really think about a lot of situations you’ll find spots where you realize it’s better to be aggressive than passive. I’m not advocating being a maniac, just to guard against playing too ABC/passive by making sure you mix in aggression when appropriate. You can buy a lot of free cards or even induce your opponents to fold just by being more aggressive in certain spots. I think the way to combat against someone playing aggressive is to go for a lot more check-raises for value and try to take advantage of their tendency to put chips in the pot.

I’m flying to Cincinnati to visit my sister for a week and then will be in Indianapolis for a week or two visiting friends. Then I’ll be in the northeast for a couple of weeks visiting my girlfriend and possibly playing some poker tournaments in Connecticut and/or Philadelphia. I decided to travel for a few weeks around the U.S. visiting friends and family rather than going straight back to Mexico since a.) it’s really hot in Mexico right now and b.) I’m not paying rent there at the moment so I don’t feel priced into being there for any reason.

This is probably the longest stretch of living out of a suitcase I’ve ever attempted but hopefully it’ll be fun and productive. It’s fun to come out to Vegas and take a shot in the WSOP but it definitely starts to take its toll on you. I’m looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine and recharging my batteries. Hopefully I’ll make it back out next year and will get all the money.

2012 WSOP

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