Festival of Nits, the Tourist Factor, and Swallowing Your Pride

Late-night lessons from the Trop

by , Mar 8, 2012 | 7:37 pm

I think I was in Los Angeles at the end of last summer. Somewhat amazingly, that was the last time I was outside of the desert. I did go to Palm Springs with my girlfriend and met some family there for Thanksgiving … but that’s still in the desert. I didn’t go home this past Christmas for the first time ever in my life, and I haven’t left Vegas once in 2012. This can’t be healthy. I need to get out for a while.


    This was THE nit festival of all nit festivals. Your normal hourly rate simply does not translate when you remove the fun-loving, didn’t-come-to-fold tourist factor and replace it with the game-has-obv-passed-me-by-but-I’ll-still-sit-here-and-fold-for-$10/hr-zomg-dreams-do-come-true jaded older Vegas reg. I mean, it was truly miserable.

Las Vegas is awesome. We all know about the availability of booze and gambling 24/7, and the ability to keep whatever sleep schedule you desire. As cash game poker players, we never have to endure the pain of an alarm clock’s rouse, as Vegas embraces daywalkers and nightowls alike. The cost of living is relatively low, especially considering the quantity and quality of entertainment options available as compared to other cities with similar offerings, such as LA, San Francisco, Miami. If outdoor adventure is your thing, you can find plenty of that at places like Red Rock Canyon; hikes such as the Gold Strike near Hoover Dam, which takes you all the way down into the Colorado River; and weird natural beauty like the Valley of Fire. And for those less willing to leave Clark County, there’s the peaceful Summerlin suburbs, and the increasingly interesting downtown Vegas scene.

But as much as I love Las Vegas and as great a fit certain aspects of this city are for my personality, I can only go so long before an excursion out of town becomes necessary. I’ll be heading to California for a good couple of weeks and am really looking forward to it. As a low stakes grinder I can’t really afford to just take an entire month off from playing. Well, maybe I could, but it would be a guaranteed whack to my bankroll and I don’t think I need a vacation that much. I just want a change of scenery for a bit … so San Diego and Los Angeles, here I come. I’ll be doing more of the ChipTracker session reports while in CA and should have plenty to write about from the LA cardrooms.

As for my poker results since my last full blog post, I can happily report that things took a nice turn for the better around the middle of January. The night that I wrote that update was definitely a low point. Seeing as such, I decided to change my gameplan, which at the time was (as it is now) to play cash games wherever I felt like playing that particular day. I took a day off to make sure I was composed mentally, and then, at 11am the following day, parked myself in what I would discover were the most miserable $1/2NL games I’ve ever played in: the Tropicana day shift.

You may have heard about a few of the poker rooms around Las Vegas that have started offering cash back to players who play a certain number of hours per day or per week. At the time the Trop was giving $10/hr if you played all 8 hours between 11am and 7pm. When you’re losing every single day for almost two weeks straight, this seems like a fantastic deal. I knew I was running bad, but I still had a decent hourly rate overall and figured if I added $80 per day, well hell, how could I go wrong? The problem is that these games take away the number one weapon a professional poker player living in Las Vegas has in their arsenal, in my opinion, and that is game selection. This was THE nit festival of all nit festivals. Your normal hourly rate simply does not translate when you remove the fun-loving, didn’t-come-to-fold tourist factor and replace it with the game-has-obv-passed-me-by-but-I’ll-still-sit-here-and-fold-for-$10/hr-zomg-dreams-do-come-true jaded older Vegas reg. I mean, it was truly miserable.

However, there was one very important lesson that I needed to be reminded of while grinding out the Tropicana games. It was that I’m not doing this to make fancy plays to keep myself entertained at the table, or because it’s some glamorous job like a lot of people who don’t play poker might be led to believe. It’s to sit down and grind out a paycheck at the end of the day, so that I can drop it into my bank account, so that I can pay my bills. And that’s done by playing solid, don’t-get-out-of-line poker. I played a handful of days at the Trop booking very modest wins, but more importantly, tightening up some screws in my game that were coming loose. I branched back out and into my other regular rooms around town and from the middle of January and for at least a month straight, keeping that lesson in mind every single day, it resulted in booking a solid win at the tables almost every single day. Yes I was definitely running better but I was playing much more disciplined poker–the kind that keeps variance minimized and decision-making simpler. I put together a great string of wins and moved back up to $2/$5NL at the Bellagio, where I continued my rungood for a few sessions.

Unfortunately, over the last week or so, my upswing has hit the breaks somewhat. But it has to be expected at some point I suppose. Even though I think I have less ego than a lot of other full-time players, it’s always tough to go back down to smaller limits. It makes it twice as hard to stay disciplined when you’re playing for about half the stakes, but it’s always vital because the lower you are on the ladder, the more important it is to just play an ABC-style game. It is what it is though. Once I string together a few wins at $1/$3NL I’ll take another shot at the next level. Hopefully I’ll find that next uptrend in California.


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