I started at the Venetian last night. The older man to my right was having a bad time of it. Well, it was mostly his own fault, because he was a classic loose-weak player. Anyway, he finally made a full house and won a big pot, which happened to include a $100 bill in addition to the chips. He folded the C-note and put it in his pocket. This is a common thing for tourists to do, when they don't understand the rules of table stakes. Another player gently pointed out the problem, and the dealer, who hadn't noticed the action, confirmed that the money had to be left in play.
The gentleman replaced the note, and said, "OK, but it doesn't matter. Nobody's getting this from me anyway." I knew what he meant--he was going to be playing what Phil Laak calls "lock-down poker" from then on. I smiled at him and said, "The bill isn't going in unless you have the nuts, right?"
He said, "Not even then. I'd have to have the nuts, the screws, and a few washers, too!"
After locking up a nice little "W" at the Venetian, I went across the street to the Mirage and bought in for my usual $100. On my second hand, I had A-K in the small blind. Several people limped in, but the button raised it to $15. He struck me as an aggressive type, and of course he doesn't need much of a hand to try to steal in that situation. But since I was out of position and completely unfamiliar with my opponents, I decided to play it conservatively by just calling, with further decisions to depend on the flop. The big blind called, too.
Flop was K-Q-J, which I simultaneously loved and hated. Top pair/top kicker is nice, but it would be all too easy for either of my opponents to have made two pair, a set, or a straight here. I checked. The big blind bet $30. The button moved all in for something like $300. I was thinking about what to do and leaning toward a call, when the big blind said, "OK, I call," and flipped up his cards: K-Q. He was so eager to get his money in that he didn't bother looking to see if it was his turn.
The dealer indicated that the action was still on me. I turned my cards up and said, "Thanks. You made this decision a lot easier. I fold."
Good thing, too. The button had A-A. I would have been drawing about as thin as one can get: a 10 for half of the pot was my only salvation--and it didn't come. The turn and river were blanks, so the K-Q held up.
Just to rub it in a bit, I told the big blind that I was definitely going to call, and he had saved me $85. In truth, I was undecided. I was leaning that way, but I was having an internal argument, because I knew how potentially dangerous the situation was. So maybe I would have made the smart fold anyway. I honestly don't know.
Moral of the story: When you act out of turn, you often cost yourself money.
It is often difficult to look around a poker room and decide which of the games at one's chosen stakes is the best one to be playing in. But in Las Vegas, for about two weeks in December, during the National Finals Rodeo, which completely takes over the city, the Good Lord has seen fit to make that analysis relatively straightforward: (1) Count the number of cowboy hats at each table. (2) Move to the game with the most of them.
My Mirage table had a dismal Cowboy Hat Index of zero. I couldn't move at first, because we were the short-handed table. But as soon as we filled up, I changed to one with a CHI of three. The decision was sweetened by seeing that the table also included this guy wearing reindeer antlers on his head:
Yep, he was drunk, and getting drunker by the minute. So was his pal, two seats to his right. They ended up being the main sources of income for the rest of the table.
Within a few hands, I knew I had done the right thing by moving.
I was in the big blind and folded to a small raise, because I had something atrocious like 8-3. A guy across the table had apparently expected me to call, and said, pointing at me, "This guy's so tight, I think he only plays aces." The person next to him said, "He's been playing that way all weekend."
This was a little after midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning. I had not played poker at all on Friday. I had only been at the Mirage for maybe half an hour at that point, and at this table for four or five hands. I had never seen this man before, to the best of my recollection. He apparently hadn't noticed that a new player had come into that seat, which was especially remarkable given that the previous occupant of that spot had been a woman in her late 40s with long blond hair--not exactly my doppelganger.
Excellent observational skills, sir!