Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rethinking the Mirage

The first two or three times I played at the Mirage, I found the games surprisingly tough to beat, with smart, aggressive players. This was a few years ago, when I was new in town. Because of that early experience, I've mostly avoided playing there. In my mind I grouped it with the Wynn and Red Rock as being one of the few most challenging poker rooms in which to make money, and therefore didn't visit much.

Still, once in a while I would decide to test it out again, or there would be a private tournament there that I was going to be in, and I'd play a cash game before or after it, or a friend from out of town would want to play there and I'd go along.

My recent experience has been far different from my early experience. Maybe I've gotten better, or maybe the games have gotten softer there, or maybe my first couple of times were just a statistical anomaly, and nothing has really changed. Whatever the explanation, my last handful of visits there have been not just profitable, but easy as well, with high hourly win rates--including a quick $122 uptick in just under an hour this afternoon.

It is certainly plausible that the player mix has changed rather dramatically. A new poker room manager, Chis Coffin (who I like a lot) took over a year or two ago, and he has instituted major changes. I have not talked to him about this, but I'm making inferences from his actions. Mirage had long kind of coasted on its past glory as the central hub of Vegas poker, and continued trying to be one of the "big boys," competing with Bellagio, Wynn, Venetian, Aria, etc. As such, the poker room refused to implement such "tawdry" player perks as a comp-tracking system and jackpots/bonuses. Those were pooh-poohed as being what the trailer-park poker rooms did to bring in the riff-raff.

Mr. Coffin seems to have taken the logical approach and bowed to reality. The room was much bigger than could profitably be supported, so he cut tables and dealers. They were losing business to other rooms that provided the perks that create low-stakes player loyalty (food comps, bad-beat jackpots, and high-hand bonuses), so he implemented them. They had a lousy, unreliable system of communication between the desk and tables, so he has recently had the Genesis Bravo system installed.

I'm not sure whether these changes are what has turned a difficult, marginally profitable room for me into one that now appears to be soft and juicy, but I'm feeling inclined to start spending more time at the Mirage than I have in the past.

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