Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is It Possible To Make Money at a Casino 3-6 Hold'em Game?

The vast majority of poker blogs start out when a relatively new player decides to track his progress from a couple hundred dollar bankroll up to the thousands. He may get lucky at the start and go on a nice run, but invariably the blog devolves into a rant about how "rigged" online poker is or how he needs to play in higher games where the donkeys won't call his raises with 7-4 offsuit. Eventually he goes broke and the blog is never heard from again.

So far I have resisted this urge as my bankroll has careened down out of control from a high of $5,500 to $100. I do not believe online poker is rigged even though I feel the main problem I have had is negative variance. Yes I play bad from time to time, but I don't think it was -$5,400 bad.

Last Wednesday night, my normal poker tournament was canceled and I decided to meet Rob and Carlo out at the Gila River. They mentioned that they were running an "Aces cracked wins a rack" promotion and that we might be able to get in on it. The promotion was not running until 10 and I was there at 6:30 PM so I figured I would just play a solid game of 3-6.

I won a couple of hands early at my first table and then I noticed Carlo had sat down at another game. Even though my table was pretty juicy, my main concern that night was to have a good time, so I racked up my chips and took a seat at Carlo's table. Besides, Carlo can be easy money sometimes too.

Carlo did not last long with his initial $40 and went outside to call Rob who was MIA. Carlo never returned and I was by myself for the remainder of the night.

It was at this time when I went on a horrendous run of bad luck. I played at least 10 hands where I was ahead before the flop and after the flop, but someone hit their draw on the turn or the river. The converse was true as well that on the few hands I went in as a dog with a draw, the card I needed never came. I proceeded to lose $190 in 5 hours of play.

I might have over called the river in a couple of spots out of frustration, but for the most part I felt like I played pretty well. What struck me as strange was at 11:00 PM I looked around the table to figure out who was winning all the money at the table. Every stack at the table looked smaller than $100! Some of the real fish like to buy in short for $30-$50, but nobody looked like they were winning. Most of these players had been there for at least 2 hours if not more.

While driving home I started to do the math in my head. Let's say we play 40 hands in an hour. There is $1 taken from every pot for the bad beat jackpot. The rake is capped at $3 so they probably average about $2 in a 3-6 game. Plus the dealer usually receives at least $1 for every pot as a tip. That means that $4 x 40 hands = $160 disappearing from the table every hour. So if I played 5 hours the other night, then the casino took $800 off of the table during the course of my session.

One argument against this theory is that the rake is only paid by the winners, so you are not necessarily losing money. If you are a good player, you play less hands than everyone else and bigger pots, so as a percentage, you would pay less to the casino than the others.

I have a proven track record of winning at 9 handed limit games online. Usually I was winning 1.5-2.5 big bets per 100 hands. The rake schedule for Full Tilt at 3-6 for 9 players is $1 for every $20 in the pot, with a max of $3. The live game schedule at Gila River is $1 for every $10 with a max of $3. So obviously the rake is much less at the Online Poker sites plus you do not feel compelled to tip the faceless computer.

The easy answer is to play higher limits live, because the rake is still capped at $3 even if the pots are in the hundreds instead of the teens. You would assume that the players are better at that level. I have played as high as 10-20 and the players were slightly better. I did not find anyone who I felt really outclassed playing against, but I have not played enough hands to give it a fair chance.

I think one of these days I will go to the casino and track how many hands are dealt in one hour, how much they collect in rake, bad beat, and tips and how much did I pay out of my own pots. I think it may be enlightening.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thoughts on the New WSOP champ and my bankroll

My wife was coming home from the hospital yesterday so I had a convenient excuse to leave work early and watch the WSOP final table. I ordered it through Cox and per usual, it did not work. It took them over 4 hours to get the broadcast up and running.

In the mean time, I went to the ESPN website and ordered it there for another $20. That worked great but the picture quality was not very good. The one bonus was that I discovered that I can plug my laptop into my TV and watch it on a bigger screen. Maybe I'll try playing poker on the big screen once my wireless mouse arrives.

Jerry Yang won the title coming back from a short stack with an incredible rush of cards in the first 2 hours of the final table. He went from approximately 8 MM at the start to over $70 MM before he calmed down and started playing patiently. The top two chip leaders at the start were the first players to bust. That had to hurt.

They showed an interview where Jerry said on day two he was getting short stacked. He was in the big blind and there was a raise and a reraise in front of him. He figured he better move now, so he moved all in with A-5 suited. I remember that one player turned over pocket Kings. Anyways he hit a miracle 4 on the river to give him a straight and almost triple up.

That hand was a great example of how bad Jerry's playing strategy was when it came to deciding whether to call big bets. Jerry could possibly be the worst poker player to ever win the Main Event.

Unlike last year where I was able to study how a great poker player like Allen Cunningham plays, I was unable to do any studying. The picture quality was not good enough to try and pick up any tells and the play was so slow that I was often losing interest while someone thought about a decision for 5 minutes.

The best part of the broadcasts were when Phil Gordon and Ali Nejad would have a guest poker player in the studio. Phil made it a point to ask the players what their strategy would be in different situations in the tournament. Phil tends to catch a lot of crap on the message boards, but I really like him and I think he does a great job on these broadcasts.

As for my bankroll, it is sucking even worse. After the burglary last week that made my stash of $80 disappear, my roll is around $200. I swear I am playing better than I was a few months ago. I even have a new desire to play more limit poker after reading Howard Lederer's chapter in the Full Tilt strategy book. I realize it was written more for tournaments but I think a lot of what he said in there will apply to cash games as well.

I am trying not to break down and add money to the accounts. I did make a promise to Michele a long time ago that if I ever lost that money, I would quit. That was an easy promise to make when I had $3,000-$5,000. I can definitely afford to add to the account without any crimp in my lifestyle. I keep thinking about Chris Ferguson's quest to turn $1 into $10,000. He did it once and he has been trying it again for the last few months. The big problem for me would be that I don't play enough to reach that goal within 5 years.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Long Time No Post

I guess it's been close to a month now since I posted last. There's been a lot going on, including some poker but I've been too busy to post.

I took a vacation to Wyoming with my wife and 8 month old son to visit her folks and attend a family reunion in South Dakota. I had a great time until the housekeeper called while we were in Yellowstone Park. In her broken english she explained that our house had been broken into on the one day when we did not have the alarm set. They took our stereo, 32" LCD TV, our computer monitors, some cash and jewelry. They also took the garage door opener and both sets of my BMW keys, but left the car. I guess if they were smart, they wouldn't be criminals.

While on vacation I was able to visit the imfamous Deadwood, South Dakota from the HBO series fame. It's claim to fame is that Wild Bill Hickock was killed there while holding Aces & Eights. I even got to play a little poker while I was there. Just a little 3-6 limit. The first hand I sat in had 9 callers so as you can see, it was loose. I lost $50 since I did not catch enough hands to call bets all the way to the river.

One of the books I was reading during my trip was "Read'em and Reap" by Joe Narvarro. It's a new book on tells and it was very enlightening. I was able to implement some of the tips while observing the other players while I was not involved in the hand. My weakness is that when I am in a hand, I don't stop and think about watching for these tells. I try to put my opponent on a hand, but sometimes I don't observe my surroundings and take in the big picture. I made one bad read where I had seen the player in the 1 seat pick up both his cards in one hand and move them forward a little when he had a good hand. I had a weak Ace preflop and an Ace hit on the flop. I was in early position so I checked to see what would happen. This player made the same move with his cards when he bet and I folded. I asked him how big his kicker was and he said he did not have an Ace. I guess I believe him.

I was a little frustrated because reading most of these players was really easy, but you still had to have cards because even if you knew they were weak, they would still call you to the end. I saw one player make a raise and he looked really confident. He leaned forward and was anxiously watching the flop. I immediately put him on Aces or Kings. The flop came with an Ace and he quickly leanded back from the table and made a sour face. Obviously the Ace did not help him. Now if I am in the hand (I folded preflop and was just observing), I would probably bet until he folded. That's what the guy with the weak Ace did. Even a King hit on the river and the man with Pocket Queens held on to the end. So even if you made a good read and read his hand exactly, it would be tough to fold these donkeys.

The real strategy would be if you called out his hand to him and freaked him out a little. Would he fold then, or would he be smart enough to figure out that you were trying to scare him out of calling?

I am also reading the new Full Tilt Tournament Strategy Guide by Michael Craig. So far I am really impressed. I plan on analyzing this book a little more in future posts.

I replaced my stolen monitor with a new 20" wide screen monitor so now I can fit 4 tables on one screen easily. Too bad I am never left alone long enough to really utilize it with a baby and all.

The Main Event of the World Series is in Day 4 and it looks like it will be pretty tough for a big name pro to make it to the final table this year. Gus Hansen has the best chance as he's in the top ten with about 400 left. I am ordering the Pay Per View again this year and I am hoping to have a TV to watch it on. I even invited some of my poker buddies to watch it with me, but I think I may be too much of a degenerate. Nobody wants to watch without the hole cards except for me.