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Poker in Vegas: You Learn From Experience

| by Sports Nickel

I’m reporting this week from the city I would love to die in, and that is Las Vegas. The World Series of Poker is in full bloom at the Rio, and there are more poker players in this city than there is the rest of the year combined. Well, to be honest, there are more people that think they are poker players in this city, and that means it can be a very profitable opportunity for the careful player.


Yesterday I set out to prove that theory, by playing a cash game in on of my favorite poker rooms; the MGM Casino. I sat down at a $1/$2 no limit hold em table with $300 and a solid game plan. I intended on playing what they call “nit” poker. I was going to wait for solid hands in any position, and solid drawing hands in late position. I was not going to make any unnecessary bluffs or draw to what I knew were losing hands. In other words, I was fully intending on playing simple, solid, foundational poker. “By the book”, for lack of a better term.

How did it work out? Within two hours I had doubled up my buy in and cashed out for over $600. In other words, I had earned $150 an hour playing simple, solid poker without risking great portions of my chip stack on less than desirable hands.

I returned to the poker room later that evening with my friend, who I know to be a really good player. My game plan for the evening session was exactly the opposite from the afternoon’s. I planned to mix it up, throw some chips around, make “hero” calls against people when I thought there was a chance they were bluffing, and overall just try to win by luck rather than skill.

So, how did this work out? I lost $200 over several hours of play. At one point I lost the entire $300 initial buy in, and did a rebuy for $100, and played back with my solid style of play and doubled that up to $200 before cashing out $200 down for the night. Meanwhile my partner, playing a normal solid style of play, turned a $300 buy in into over $700.

The point of this story is simple. Simple, foundational poker works every time it is utilized. Poker is not luck. The player that has a goal of mixing it up and seeing some flops will lose money the vast majority of the time they play. Meanwhile, the player that sits down with the intention of playing good hands for optimal value will win money the vast majority of the time. Sure, the good player will occasionally lose hands to the bad player. That is simply explained by variance. But overall, the good player will come out ahead most of the time.

As far as the World Series of Poker, I still love going over and just walking around the floor seeing the players take their chances in the biggest tournament in the world. Last night I got to watch some of the $10,000 No Limit Heads Up Championship, and all the big names were there. Daniel Negreanu, Eric Siedel, Barry Greenstein, Gavin Smith, Gabe Kaplan, Phil Ivey, Vannesa Rousso and David Williams were all mixing it up at the tables. It is always so fun to watch great players prove that their skill will normally overcome the terrible play of most of the players at the World Series of Poker.