trip reports

Bright Days of Vegas, Part I

It would have been a better choice, to walk toward the Sands Convention Center and then through the Wynn. Instead, I decided to take what looked like a more direct route on Desert Inn to the Encore’s new poker room, promised to be near the entrance of the secondary but still lovely hotel.  Along the way, guided by grey columns of the monorail, I sought the slim paths of shade offered by motels and discount hovels.

It was just after check-out, heat already expanding furiously into the lungs and eyes. Families, led by tired fat husbands in stretched out t-shirts and cracking sandals, were gathering and departing in their station wagons, each vehicle pressed just feet away from their street-level rooms. Wives were already exhausted and slumped, as much by the sun as their bumptious sons, but the children were curious about me and my own version of indifference to the weather. Why are you walking? Where is your family? Their eyes asked many questions. Well, I’ve never made a good choice in my life, boys and girls, and it’s a long story, anyway. Too long for one twelve and rising.

And besides, when is it not long? This trip, upon reflection, began a long time ago, before I started this strange life, long before the last Red Chip gathering. When I was last in Vegas, in the dark and cold, when she seemed to be someone else, to belong to no one and to repulse all who would enjoy her. Now, I hoped, in the celebratory summer, the high time of tourism and the World Series of Poker, there was a place for me, even at her most luxurious and warm honey trap, Steve Wynn’s pink, perfumed twins. All in good time, of course: As the businesses disappeared, and only the near end of the monorail the green and lush golf course of the Wynn, soon to be completely transformed into an epic artificial beach resort, called to me, padlocked, moist, impenetrable.

As Jesus said in New York: I like this city.

I had been ready for a trip, to get away. During my crisis of Spring, when I was so depressed I went months without playing, hiding in movie theaters, the back of bars, and my impossibly comfortable bed, custom made in brighter, more optimistic days and crowned with one of those ridiculously expensive mattresses they only hope to sell you, I did not know if I would have it in me. The plane. The people. And that was just Vegas: committing to go to on Live at the Bike, having to overcome claustrophobia in the limo and the breaking of my favored anonymity on set was a lot to ask someone who could barely go outside without sedatives.

I had worked my way toward it. I deliberately shook up my life. I spoke or tried to speak to people I had not in years. I saw my old boss; we smoked once again, this time on my fire escape, and reflected on the past, its meaninglessness, and the treachery of people.

I was looking for the in, or the out: the edge of the mental door I could not seem to pry open in my mind.

Then I went through the fighting phase. I found ways around my issues. I cheated with stimulants and depressives. I forced myself to play while feeling nauseous at the idea. I returned to tango, trying, flailing, failing to rediscover old passions. I spent time with family and friends. I saw a therapist for the first time in my life, who intrigued me by telling me that he “didn’t really want to talk about my problems.” How did I find this one? My usual luck.

Meanwhile, I prepared carefully for Live at the Bike, in defiance of my instinct to hide. I went over the arguments with myself about why I was even doing this. I dug out a wig, left over from some party, and found sunglasses for a complete disguise, should I not be completely ready.

Maybe all this helped, or maybe it was just the time. However, when I got off the plane and stepped into the evening warmth of Vegas, directly onto the tarmac from the short Portland flight in a turboprop, I felt almost good. The familiar stuffiness of the air was not wearing, but comfortable.

I was glad.

Many good memories had taken place here, I realized, and I was suddenly eager to repeat them, to take part in them again, if I could. I didn’t want to hurry things up or rush into the games which were ahead. I remembered that at the beginning of my best and most memorable trip, I had walked from McCarran to the strip. I’d walked past some suspicious hippies that were even more surprised at what I was doing, found a promising path and some empty fields, located the strip by sight, and sat straight down at Bally’s, going on to the most profitable week I’d ever had in poker. I’d played in the biggest game I’d ever played, with an amused and scary pro (“You guys are so good at poker!” he had sneered at our bumbling overcalls) and a fumbling, high out of his mind dude who still managed to win, despite a complete inability to use his hands, eventually carted off by security and medical staff. I’d even started some of the notes that were the precursor to this blog, a travel journal I intended to share with my family, a sort of tribute to my father who once did the same thing while on a distant vacation, which at the time was a complete and utter shock to everyone who knew him as a man who never read anything that wasn’t on newsprint or wrote anything that wasn’t a shopping list or an engineering schematic.

So I decided to kick things off right, and walked straight out of the terminal, past the endless line of cabs you’ve probably never seen, parked on the side of sizzling ingress, and their surprised, grim drivers. They had nothing to say, though, having seen it all. As I walked past them all, I saw the vision of immigrant American: East Africans and Middle Easterners and South Americans seemed numerous in this trade on this day.Las Vegas from McCarran

I got a little lost this time, however. The older I get, the more my memory seems to fail me, although I think in truth it is the toxicity as much as my brain that is the problem. I remembered passing through a field and under a small overpass the first time. Now, after going over a fence, clutzing over the strangely light, triangular, and brick sized moon rocks that fill the dead spaces, like an alien beach, between access roads, and then through a park, I ended up in what can only be described as a Shitty Neighborhood. It was houses and a few apartments. Cars without wheels. Lots without grass. Syringes and cans. Above all, dust. The streets were empty, except one old couple, the woman covered in green and fading tattoos like crusted-over slime, in straightened circumstances and who seemed to be on the losing end of some business deal gone wrong. She pleaded on the phone while he stood mute and helpless, emasculated by age and poverty. I walked on, knowing I did not want to be here and feeling a little foolish for my exuberance in commencing this little stroll, which was partially, in the park. Ha. But enough foolishness: I noticed my wallet, packed with Benjamins for the games, bulging out of my front pocket. Come hither.

So when I started to hear the music, the music of voraciousness and anger and heat and sex, and see the decrepit, souped up cars of the hombres around the corner, I realized it was too late to go back. It was certainly too late to put this ridiculous sack of hundreds somewhere discreet.

I ambled on. Inevitably, I locked eyes with one of the hermanos who was not on the steps smoking. This one was deep in his lawn chair, barely dressed, in only those giant shorts that are supposed to imply action and indifference at once, his impressive tattoos like a body wreath from his shoulder to his stomach to the other shoulder. The fresh, stunning version of what marred the old woman. (Tattoos are supposed to be permanent but in the end only remind us of our transitory nature.) He was a third world at the heart of the first world version of the young dad on the sofa, trapped by family and kids and choices. More importantly, the look of another angry young man was familiar: no trapping or styling could ever change that. I nodded to him and moved on. He only stared, an alpha animal in his zone. Where did it extend to exactly? No one knows. Now, I was not going to surrender my money if pressed; I had decided long ago how I want to handle muggings, but I didn’t think it would come to that. I had inertia, his and mine, on my side, as well as a very logical thought:

No one is going to believe some dumb tourist with loads of cash is going to walk from the Airport through a near slum.

I made it to Paradise Road and UNLV. The endless walk to buildings that looked so close began. This was the longest and most tiresome part of the journey. I saw, after passing an entrance to the airport, that I had taken a much faster route the time before, recognizing the intersection.


More ahead. Now people, too. When you meet others on the sidewalk that no one is supposed to be on, they give you a strangeSkors look of comradeship and threat, like an encounter in the desert. Well, I guess that makes sense.

When I finally made it to where I was staying, after following a group of Caesars Properties dealers leaving their giant employee center, like a lost fish in the wrong school, I met up with Skors, a Red Chipper who was putting up for a night before my lodgings were available, at the Linq. I knew this newer hotel was supposed to be a mid-grade choice, but I liked immediately, especially the lounge we were to meet at. I sat in a chair and unwound from the two hour journey, then hit their bar, which I loved. It was a circle around a plaster oval which spread upward, illuminated by laser light to give the effect of colored tiling, of Italian decadence and leanness at once. I sucked down a few soda waters, and Skors told me about poker while I enjoyed what to me, perhaps only for the moment, was the best bar in the world. Skors talked on, and had been running…

I briefly closed my eyes. I was ready for poker talk, and the world never quits, but something else was going on. I had a room to stay in, the game I love, and two weeks ahead.

I was content.


Next in Part II: More Poker, Less Walking!


  1. “Wives were already exhausted and slumped, as much by the sun as their bumptious sons…” <- That's some purdy wordin' you done there, sir. And the rest of it ain't too shabby either.

    I'm curious about your plan for how to handle muggings but I'm afraid to ask. Anyway, glad you are feeling better these days.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.