Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New poker room at the Riviera

I played at the Riviera tonight. It's way down low on my list of preferred rooms, but I heard that they had moved the room recently, and wanted to see the new digs.

There's not a lot interesting to report. Same old tables, same old chairs, same staff, same chips. It's now at the base of the escalator that goes up to the theaters, and adjacent to the entrance to the main-floor theater where they have the Rat Pack show.

There is markedly less foot traffic in the new place. I spoke to the shift manager about it for a minute as I was cashing out. He pointed out that the old location was very near the elevators to the guest rooms, so they would get a lot of people returning from the Strip (often drunk). They'd pass the poker room as they were heading to their rooms to crash, and decide to engage in a little late-night poker as a nightcap. That doesn't happen now, because the room is well off the beaten path.

They are phasing out the high-hand jackpots as each one is hit for the last time, and substituting a splash-pot promotion. At hourly intervals (or so it seemed tonight), a player is chosen at random to spin this wheel for the table:

The amount indicated is put into the pot at the beginning of the next hand, and goes to whoever wins the pot.

I was there for two of these spins tonight; both happened to be for $100. The first one played out in a straightforward manner. The second, though, was kind of interesting. Almost everybody limped in. (I can't say "everybody," because we had some players who had no concept of poker math, and failed to realize that any two cards were worth at least the $2 big blind for a chance to win $100.) I joined them from the cutoff position with K-3 offsuit, hoping for a cheap flop.

The guy in the small blind was the only other smart, thinking player at the table. When it was his turn, he moved all-in for $101. Everybody folded around to me. This was an intriguing situation. If I were that guy, I might be inclined to do that move with any two cards, after the table had all limped, showing weakness. It would seem to have very high fold equity, and hence a high expectation to win $100 without even having to sweat a five-card board.

He was the only player at the table capable of figuring out that that was likely a profitable move, no matter what he held. He knew that essentially every other player was a complete or near novice to the game. They were having trouble just with knowing what the bet was, whose turn it was, how to protect their cards, etc. They were utterly ABC, playing the strength of their own hands with no grasp of how to gauge what others held, and with not a lick of deception among them. (Well, except for when they failed to grasp how strong a particular hand was--e.g., I saw one of them just call on the river with the stone cold nuts, for no apparent reason.) He would know that their limps were not setting a trap for somebody who would try to raise big with air to steal the pot; a $2 call meant that they didn't want to put in more than $2.

All of which meant that he was the one player whose shove could not command much respect from me.

So I called. He flipped over 10-10--a better hand than I had given him credit for. But at least I had an overcard. Sure enough, the flop came K-Q-9, and he bricked out on the turn and river. I suspect that's the first time I've won a $300+ pot with K-3 offsuit.

My opponent did not take it well. "K-3? You've got to be effin' kidding me! WTF were you doing calling there?" Etc. In short, hilarity ensued--at least briefly, before he stomped off.

Had I been able to see his cards, would a call be correct there? I actually don't know the answer as I type this, but let's work it out. PokerStove tells me that I win against T-T 27.9% of the time, while he wins 72.1%, or 2.58:1. I had to call an additional $99 to win a pot that was about $220 after the rake, so pot odds of 2.22:1. That means that my call was slightly -EV, had I known what he held.

However, if we look at his whole range, things look better for me. I have no way of knowing exactly what range of cards he would make this push with, but let's assume that it's any pocket pair and any two Broadway cards. Then he's 65.4% to my 34.6%, or 1.80:1, making the call mathematically correct. My guess is that that is his minimum range for that situation, and it might well be much broader. Or maybe this is all just self-serving justification. I don't claim to know for sure.

Anyway, the structure of this promotion is kind of interesting. One strategy might be to keep one's stack at the bare minimum, buying a few chips at a time, but never going entirely broke (which then triggers the minimum buy-in requirement of $50). Ideally, you'd have just $2 left when it was time for the splash-pot, because you're eligible to win the entire amount that the poker room puts in the pot before the hand begins with that minimal investment. Of course, you can't win more than an additional $2 from any other player, but spending $2 to have a 10% or more shot at $100 is a nice bargain. Obviously, some of the slots on the wheel are much less than than, but others are more. Also obviously, it costs you something to stick around, which complicates the risk/reward calculation.

One of the big drawbacks, it seems to me, is that they announce in advance when the splash-pot will occur, which will give all the local jackpot-hunting jackal nits plenty of incentive to occupy a seat for about two hands per hour, and do something else the rest of the time while leaving the game short-handed and putting no chips at risk--and they'll do it with the minimum buy-in. They could quickly kill the game if they start acting as I predict they will. (A side note: If I can figure out how the scummy angle-shooters will try to game the system, why can't the poker room managers who devise them?)

It won't matter much to me. I only visit the Riviera a few times a year, mostly when there is a billiard or archery tournament going on there. My guess is that this promotion will have run its course by the time I'm back.


Carl said...

Being able (and willing) to truly think like someone else thinks is not a particularly common talent, and one I suspect more poker players have than poker room managers.

It's also a talent that no politicians seem to have, but that's another story.

Anonymous said...

I see this sort of thing fairly often -- that is, a good player (you) makes a reasonable decision based mostly on math and party on some logic/read. The player who loses (the guy with pocket 10s) then berates the smart guy for what he perceives as idiocy.

I always respond to this situation the same way when I win. I say, "I'm an idiot."

It seems to defuse the situation, and confirm their (false) suspicion.

Apollo said...

"In short, hilarity ensued--at least briefly, before he stomped off."

Splash pots are a horrible type of promo. They drive players away, typically angry, exactly like this. Had the table been even a teeny bit intelligent, there would have been a 5-way all-in preflop with at least all the shortstacks in, and 4 people would likely have stormed away angry.

Splash pots are BAD for a poker room.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree that Splash pots are bad for poker.

About 3 years ago I was playing at Monte Carlo and they had the same thing. Most of the people were drinking-as was I- and having a good time.

They had the drawing, picked our table, and I picked the card that had the most money, $100.

I said, "Hey guys- Let me take the pot and I will give everyone $10". We were all at the table for some length of time, everyone (I thought) was friendly, and I thought I had the agreement of everyone.

I moved all in (about $400), and everyone folded- most didn't even look at their cards. Except the last guy- some young kid with glasses. He asked me "Did you look?", I said, "No- I'm going to split the $100 and everyone get's $10".

At that point he called. He had A-Q, I looked at my cards and had 7-9 (which at least was live).

Things looked good on the 7 high flop, but a Q on the turn and I was done.

I couldn't believe it- and yes, I was livid. The rest of the table called him an asshole for me, but it doesn't change the fact I lost $400.

Lesson learned.

-JP from Philly