trip reports

Bright Days of Vegas, Part II

Directly outside the main entrance to the World Series of Poker at the Rio, the smokers are given a little circus tent to parade their disability under, shaded from the sun but not the passer byes. They shuffle and bend and stare. A few heavy duffel bags lay comatose and slack jawed in the brutal heat. There are no ashtrays, but the barrels that hold down the poles do have little crevices and nooks where the tobacco remains rest in peace. A lone garbage can loiters by the rough cream wall, next to grey metal door lacking graffiti. Somehow the concrete stays clean, too, and the wall is only pocked by a few black circles. No one has the energy to fuck anything up in one hundred degrees.

Sometimes it is nearly empty, our thoughtful patio of disease and relaxation. I can’t smoke anywhere around my apartment these days, with officiousness gaining a surprising upper hand on incompetence, but they can’t take the fumes out of poker, at least here, completely. It’s in all those photos, you know the ones, the glorious black and whites where Doyle and Puggy and Sailor and Jack and all those guys are gathered around some table of fat men and one hard as the open road woman, as drawn in by their friends as the gravity of the chips. Money satellites, poker players. The history of lighting up, allied with counting and ease and the post-adrenal refraction, is too close to poker’s own, and as anesthetized as tournaments are from the grit of real poker, we’re not completely politically correct yet.

outsideSometimes when I go out a tourney or sit and go is on break. The tent fills and the pool mills. Just like at the table, I am friendly. I trap myself, like checking top pair on the flop in a three bet pot, into getting felted by endless conversation. One guy won’t give up.

“The property was listed at $410,000. I’d been watching it for a long time. See it was right close to my property here… let me get you the picture, ok wait, how do I use this? Ok, there we go, yeah that’s my plot. You see that tree by that mound by river? That where his plot begins, you see? So I was watching the paper and the signs every day and that’s when it happened. Bam! Right there, $410,000 on the market for just a few days. I went over to the guy and he gave me an amazing price, just $360,000 but I had to get him the money in cash because he wanted to move right away. See, he was lawyer in L.A. and his son had family down there, so he wants to get out of town. He’s retired and can do whatever he wants. Great guy. I think I have a photo. See, look what he did with the…”

I start feeling for the lighter in my front pocket and put down my bag. I will never, ever be able to quit in this town.

There are better addictions, right inside, though. The cash tables are near the entrance, specifically the mixed games. One that I am partial to, five card pot limit high low, a hold’em variant that self-selects for gamblers. My first hand of poker in Vegas was at Planet Hollywood, where Skors and I went late into the night in a three handed 1/2/10 game, ending with villain handing his stack over to my host, but my first hand at the WSOP is here, in this game.

It’s always a bit nervy sitting down for the first time with players who you think are going to know what they are doing. Everyone’s here, and everyone knows how to play. Why do we do it to each other? Just the mere complete love of the game, of course, nevertheless, I want to start easy. I don’t even want to play the legendarily soft NLHE games. I don’t want to spew off in the morning and ruin the whole day on one misstep or hopeful move. Planet Hollywood is one thing, but I feel like playing in the Rio with my peers means my trip has officially started.

So I want an easy game where no one knows what they are doing. Why, hello Big O, how nice to see you!

I take my rack over to my assigned table and flip the table assignment over to the dealer, only to see a familiar figure in the one hole, directly to my right. It is James Sweeney, aging sweeney 2the Red Chip coach and owner. His disguise as a Russian Orthodox monk on sabbatical for marathon training is completely successful. In fact, he has a pretty sweet gig lined up for himself, being a technical player in a slow, technical game and needing to run the Red Chip booth. He stacks chips and gets “come help me” texts when the book sales get too hot for the interns running the counter. No chant CDs available, though.

I don’t think I had to sit long before I made a call of one of James’ early position opens with a speculative hand with nut low and straight potential, a one flush non-premium. I had observed that three betting was docile so far and was ready to see my first flop.

It was a miracle that it did not go seven way, and with James and I and maybe one behind me, we saw a 972 flop. James led out, which got my attention because of the board. The deuce is a funny card, because if he has the hand he is supposed to have, based on his frequency and position, he should be unhappy fairly often. He shouldn’t have the middle straight cards, and with no flushes available, his opening range will miss this board fairly often, or more precisely, hit the deuce in a disappointing way. I had a gutter and nothing else, but range advantage works in all community card games, and I decided he had made a mistake.

I potted my piece of cheese, knowing that the kinds of hands that will call in my position should have secondary low draws that like the deuce and can be straightening two ways now. I in fact had no high and could be drawing near dead, but the positional dynamic and the board heavily favored me. After the remaining player surrendered, James went only briefly in the tank before folding what he claimed was a set. Without a real low, it’s not a great play to rip in against two way draws, and a technician can smartly lay this down.

You can only bluff good players, they say.

So there was my Red Chip subscription rebate, and a fine start to my session.

I took two more great spots before it was time to mill about and say hello to others. In the first I took a very aggressive back raise opportunity versus a player whose haughtiness gave me the idea he was making a predictable button raise. He instantly went to felt with me, and despite my having equity edge, a common chop emerged.

Then I got my profit moment. A, well, complete sea creature sat down who had to be reminded we were not playing PLO, the high only version that has experienced such phenomenal growth in the past few years, even at the lowest stakes. He was another cocky New Yorker, but this Vinny from 37th had not earned his arrogance. I ended up potting into him, basically for his stack, in a multiway bloated pot where I had flopped the nut low and second nut high draw.

For some reason, despite clearly being weak, he would not give me credit, and soon he explained why.

“I couldn’t put you on hearts. I’ve got the ace of the hearts, so you just can’t have it.” Vinny decides to hero me with what I think is pure air and some back doors on J83hh. Somehow I completely brick both ways and the dealer pushes him the pot, drawing about as thin as you can in a five card game, getting it in ahead but behind.

You can only bluff good players, they say.

Big fanUnfortunately, Vinny takes stock of the situation. He continues to explain himself and then trails off. I think he’s recognizing his fortunes aren’t going to hold in this game… perhaps from all the stares and interest he is picking up from the table. He’s like someone who has sneezed in a dark hallway on The Walking Dead. He racks up and leaves, deciding he’ll hold out for his PLO table in a more congenial waiting room environment.

At first I’m a little confused myself, and I can’t even figure out what he made the call with originally, although I recognize I ended up with pure air, but James kindly confirms that he did call with a pair of sixes.


My profit is gone but the morning is not ruined. I’ll be back for several more Big O sessions which will ensure I am playing with their money the rest of the trip. My plan to walk from McCarran and feel good is so far working out. James goes back to his yeoman’s work.

It’s good to meet some Red Chip folks and put faces to the names, or uh, at least I did at the time. I see Doug once again, and meet his girlfriend Miranda; apparently she is the hard working intern at the counter.

I head outside to hand with my other people, the smokers. Relaxed, I’m ready to get started. Soon, ChipXtractor will be here, and will open the door to the prize he has nabbed: a complementary week at the Club de Soleil, a vacation rental only minutes away. I’m extraordinarily grateful for this not inconsiderable hospitality.

Everything in Vegas is rake. There is not one thing I can think of that isn’t a gouge. At one point I pay six fifty for a glass of soda water. So if you can swing low cost digs – never mind free ones- you are already fifteen miles ahead of the enemy.

In the old days, I’d stay with the priests at the Dominican house. That was a substantial savings, and a pleasure, in a way, too. I miss those guys, dedicated old brothers and priests. Their great work is the HIV outreach center in Henderson. They do it right, providing complete service to a very needy and distraught segment of the population in a tough town. I toured the facility once and was not surprised at its efficiency and excellence. I left offerings from my poker winnings in thanks.

At the end of the day, I would meet up with Br. Frederick, an ancient one indeed. He and I would smoke under the canopy by their unused pool. He told me the story of how a particularly dedicated official of theirs insist they fill it with concrete. We laughed because it might as well be filled with concrete, for all the use those old men got out of it.

I don’t think I go back, unfortunately, having lost ties. It would be taking advantage of their hospitality, and there are some more personal reasons as well.

But I have this little canopy, this little tent at the WSOP, to share a smoke with some of the fellow spiritualists of my new religion.

However, there’s not much time to ponder such stuff. The trip has begun in earnest.

There is poker to be played.


Coming next: The Sun of de Soleil, the Happiness of Whole Foods, and the Bowels of the Nugget!


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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.