While playing at Imperial Palace last week, one of the dealers, who also works at Bill's, mentioned that the latter has changed its standard game to $1-$2 no-limit hold'em. Previously it had had the peculiar single $1 blind. As you can see from the game plaque above, however, the buy-in has remained at the citywide low of a mere $20. It's very strange to have a no-limit game with a min buy-in of only 10 big blinds, but, hey, that's their claim to fame: the lowest buy-in no-limit game in town. It definitely does encourage people to sit down who have never played poker before, who were not planning to play, who have no idea how to play, who didn't even know there was a poker room at Bill's, and who would be intimidated if they had to put more money at risk. I welcome these people with open arms, even if it is for only $20 at a time.
So I had to check it out. I couldn't tell that it changed the game in any significant way, nor did I think that it would. Maybe there's a little less limping than before, but raise amounts haven't changed much, nor have average pot sizes, from what I can tell after a single session.
The game remains one of the softest you'll find anywhere. Example: Last night I joined a bunch of limpers from the big blind with the two red 9s. Flop 9-5-4, with two clubs. I bet small, about half the pot, hoping to keep many customers (which occurred) and/or look weak so that somebody would be tempted to raise me (which did not occur).
The turn was an offsuit 5. I had the second nuts, losing only if somebody happened to have pocket 5s for quads. I bet small again, same motivations.
Donkey #1 on my left shoves all-in. Donkey #2 across the table does likewise. All others fold. I think long and hard (not!) and call. Sadly, I have them both covered. D #1 has a naked flush draw. D #2 has top pair, bad kicker. They are both drawing stone-cold dead when the money goes in.
There is definitely a more consistent mix of a few predator species at the table than was the case when Bill's first opened its poker room last year, but you will still find a steady supply of clueless fish like these.
Last night's win rate: $165/hour.
The legendary Bellagio finally started spreading a $1-$2 NLHE game late last year, apparently the first week of December, as far as I can tell. (Previously the lowest game was $2-$5.) However, I somehow missed hearing about it until last week. So today I went to check it out.
As you can see from the photo, I went fully prepared to do battle in Bobby's Room, but Doyle, Phil, Daniel, Jennifer, Eli, Sammy, and the rest of the gang didn't show. They stood me up! The nerve! Well, can't really blame them for being afraid, when surely there are easier pickings if they wait for a day when I'm not around.
So I played out in the main room instead. I didn't recognize any opponents, but two of them (both Asian women, by coincidence) struck me as having all the markings of local grinders. The rest of the table consisted of quite a mix--couple of weak calling stations, couple of hyperaggo LAGgers, couple of typical tourists. Play unquestionably involved a higher level of thought than Bill's, but I could not tell that overall it was significantly different than a typical table at Venetian or Caesars or Treasure Island or Mirage.
Early on, I slow-played pocket aces from the big blind when I was up against a player in the small blind that I was sure would be pushing too hard with what I thought was only a medium-strength hand. I was right; I got him pot-committed before shoving, and more than doubled up. That's a move I would virtually never try at Bill's, where there is usually so much passive calling that it's more profitable to bet, bet, bet your strong hands, and you can't count on somebody else doing the betting for you.
Maybe 15 minutes later I had pocket kings and did the opposite--overbetting the pot on every street, counting on the players having taken note of how I played the aces, so that this action would look desperate. Sure enough, I got called down. (Had to check the river, though, because by then I was looking at a four-straight and a three-flush, so the payoff wasn't as full.) Again, playing at Bill's I would never count on the opposition observing play style and making inferences when it changes in a way that I can exploit. It's strictly A-B-C there.
Win rate: $132/hour. (Both rates are anomalously high for me, so the difference between them is almost surely meaningless, especially on a sample as absurdly small as one session apiece.)
Everybody and their brother has done a room review of Bellagio, and I usually do the full panoply of observations only when there's a new room opening, or a place I haven't been before. (I had played at the Bellagio once before, in October, 2006--the $2-$5 game, hit and run, because I was scared money back then.) I'll just say this: The most common complaints that you read about the Bellagio poker room at, e.g., allvegaspoker.com (see here) all seem to be true. These include wearing out chairs, overcrowding, employees that are unfamiliar with the concept of customer service to the point of bordering on actual contempt for the patrons, mostly excellent dealers, average drink service, long waiting times, hopelessly primitive list management, etc. I'll also add that I find it difficult to get into the place (seems one always has to wait through about five red lights just to turn right into the driveway), and it's too long a walk from the parking garage to the poker room. Boo hoo.
Nevertheless, now that I know that my preferred game is to be found there on a consistent basis, I will definitely be making the Bellagio a more regular stop than it has been before.