trip reports

Bright Days of Vegas, Part III

The Golden Nugget is the premier low stakes cash location in Las Vegas. Naturally, I love the Wynn and recommend it. Of course. Who would turn down perfect décor, Fiji water, and the city’s most attractive servers? And the Aria? It’s a beautiful place to play our game. Its comfortable chairs (when you can get one), four star lounginess, and dramatic table lighting seems to make every game and player feel important: you’re the star, playing 1/3 cap. Even the new Caesar’s room is a great improvement on the old conventioneer’s space (they could have handed out name badges) and I was happy to be in it for the Red Chip game.

However, like all of the Strip and new Vegas, these Great Casinos have left something behind in their desire to bring poker into the suite tourist attractions.

Most of us don’t care about this missing thing. Why should we, the poker community as a whole, care? After all, in many respects we are here, every June and July, to celebrate its loss. We gather in Vegas, each year at this time, in one sense, to formalize the end of the hustle and to mark the cleaned-up age of poker: the Tournament Years. The Television years. The Horrified by Scandals years. The Poker as Jigsaw Puzzle for Trustifarians years.

The Safe Space for Poker Players years.

Here in Old but still Tourist Vegas, a glimmer of the past exists and reminds us why we play and why there is any game at all.

Renovated and up to tourist snuff, the GN still has a sheen of that different kind of comfort, the one Americans wanted well into the post-war years. Where everything is a little bigger but still within reach. Where the same sort of food is cooked, just a little better, and where we aren’t, for once, in our own kitchen or that same dining room. Where we see the people we won’t see anywhere else or ever again but have not broken the bank to pretend we are something we are not.gnug

Fremont itself is where all those who couldn’t afford the outlandishness and were too smart to buy a discounted peep of it. It’s where Irv and Joyce from Chicago come, where Uncle Bill and Aunt Suzy show up, where blue-collar Europeans arrive to spend their long vacation and see what it’s all about while still affording the three weeks in South Africa at the same time. It’s that and more… including where the outer rungs of Vegas, a snippet of the true Third World heart of our nation touches the bloom of success and the pollen of crooked aspiration. And if they are true tourists, the good kind, they might just wander north past an invisible boundary and see what lumber is propped up behind the tall facades (or perhaps, as we shall see, it may come directly to you.)

The Golden Nugget cools in the faint shadow of the American Dream.

The Strip, on the other hand, is something else entirely. It’s the hydra, the multi-mouthed consumerist horror, the monster in the mirror of the foolishly unsatisfied. It’s everything people complain about and salivate after simultaneously. You can’t get anywhere fast while everyone is selling you something you don’t want as hard as possible. Pop Star MILFs are taking their clothes off for television addicts in need of a bigger unreality. Six-hundred calorie coffee drinks to help get you between “Buffet of Buffets” Fluffered bottom-shelf rap spikes the air, eulogizing streets that have no name you’d want to remember, memories that never happened but which the performers are paid to forget. You can visit couture shops at City Center that actually charge more than they would in the cosmopolitan capitals that inspire them and give their beauty purpose. Faggy desserts, giant butterflies, and Willy Wonka flowerscapes scented with dementia compete to awe the begadgeted out of their Pokémon daze. You can get a “Kobe” beef hamburger for $55 and then attempt to debauch yourself, bathetically, in a Dayclub, whatever the hell that is. (I assume it’s not that classy and a lot of gas is secretly being passed, based on advertised liquor, food, and drug consumption.) And just where do all those hopeful harlots in crappy, gathered prom dresses come from? There is a special place in hell for the purveyors of bad fashion, and it would be just if it were called Henderson.

I didn’t come here for all that fuss.

The Poker Room at the Nugget is no stress. It’s luxurious, or more precisely, nearing luxurious, in all the ways that actually matter. The tables are absolutely giant, unlike the ones at home or anywhere else: sized for ten but run nine handed. The room is dark but individual tables are well lit, making each table is its own ecosystem, far from being a joke stuck between slot machines and blackjack at PH. You won’t get complimentary champagne here but the service is always prompt; I never get thirsty or lack anything. The floor is courteous and personable, as he has just enough to manage and not too much, with no level or different sections to capture or divert his attention; even as a short-timer he remembered me from night to night, comping me missed hours and setting up a separate game for my friends. Because the Nugget Poker room is not on Bravo, it is not overrun with the dull Backpack Kids and their snotty approach to a culture they partake of but never understand, tourists of their own nation.

However, none of that is really why the Nugget is the nuts. The reason is, we play affordable stakes as deep as we want. That’s right, no cap. We don’t wait for a fun, deep game… we just walk in and create one.

One more thing: your cash plays. And that, as the morons like to say, is poker.

Still, you look nonplussed. You’re not quite sure you want to hop on the The Deuce or really even give a deuce yet. Ok, you say, but Persuadeo, it’s all small man. I’m a 3/5 playyyaah. I can’t do one-two, bro!

Well, for one thing, one possible future of the pokerz is this: incredibly deep, if slightly smaller blind games. The reason is obvious, but I’ll explain some other time.

Then, what’s more, consider this: the sickest game I saw in Vegas was at the Nugget, an ante’d cash game with a mandatory 5x straddle. Yup, eighty dead pre, in a game listed a 5/5 and with seats available. There was so much cash on the table the only thing missing was a mirror and lines of coke. Well, except there wasn’t really room for such accoutrement.

We’ll also talk about all that later, because for now, I don’t want to give off the wrong idea. Our contemporary culture has so much in its favor – I’m not all gloom, not in the least. In fact, one of the many and best things you can enjoy now that you never would, back when cream cheese was something to look forward to, is the Majesty of Selection, and it would help make this trip marvelous.

And by that, I mean, among other things, like today’s television, trains, planes, and automobiles, is Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is the Jetsons. It is time travel. And no one could have imagined it so soon, this Paradise Near You.

Certainly not ChipXtractor, it turns out.

In any case, after another short session of Big O at the Rio, gathering more winning momentum, I make my first foray into the 5/5. I start by slowplaying QQ for a moderate pot, not letting my opponent off his button range, but then more effectively making 63hh sing (this exact hand will become a strange leitmotiv for the trip). Here I open from UTG, pick up a caller, and then see a small three bet from a thin older man in glasses. I examine his actions and his behavior, and deduce that from his sizing that he is not entirely sure what he is doing, or in other words, he feels like he has a hand that he should raise, that he must raise, but does not know why he, personally must raise it.

He’s conflicted. Now what hand is this? I don’t think he has the heart to do it with less than AQs. A pair of tens? A small range of hands indeed to invoke this feeling from this man in this room at this time.

Since I call most three bets (I don’t open to fold, silly), especially online, where I defend about 90% of my initial raises, I’m comfortable with the six and three of hearts. As it happens, I hit a great flop featuring a six.

That’s a pair, son.

The pre flop raiser now taps the table. When the PFR checks in a three bet pot, it’s David Lynch hour, weird time. All equity is incentivized to showdown… yet he declines both value and protection. Why so coy? He’s not checking to fold, obviously. I bet out one third pot, confusing him, and dragging along his entire range.

On a blank turn I check behind. I now rep air. I will pass on your “protection” bets, sir! I have something else in mind.

Which explains the river, another low blank. Thin Man now turns his hand into a bluff by betting in response to my line. I merge my range and ship everything in.

He announces ace high and folds. The table is extremely discontent and several players agree that it was a strangely played hand… I don’t think so. However, all that matters to me is that I got two streets out of ace high from a conservative player.

Nevertheless, it’s time to gather up the chips and to run and follow ChipXtractor, not exactly fresh from the airport and a quick run to the Rio, back to the new pad. It’s a long trip from Long Island; it takes dedication to drive for hours and know that the journey has only just begun. Fortunately, there is a palace of solace awaiting him (and I):

The Club de Soleil. What words could say more? Private room? Private bath? Full kitchen? Private patio? Free of charge? I don’t know, you tell me what you need to be happy in Vegas.

In the morning, fully refreshed, it’s go time, however. I find ChipXtractor already awake, taking inventory of the living space, and determined: go shopping time, it is. That kitchen, stocked with cooking gadgets and space to work, seems to call to ChipXtractor’s domestic needs: he wants groceries for our week at de Soleil. I happen to remember Whole Foods from my prep for last year’s Colossus, and in minutes we are following the GPS angel to the promised land.

From the moment we step into the cool cornucopia, ChipXtractor is in awe. He is not much of a shopper these days, it turns out. Married and childless, his wife takes care of him fully: he has apparently not seen the inside of a grocery store in years. We might have started off a little more slowly. Maybe find an Albertson’s, or a minimart, or something more along the lines of Provisions, rather than Food, because, within twenty minutes, amazed at the Godly plenitude of quality and quantity that is WF, he has entire grocery cart full of food including:

A week of instant dinners,

Dessert multiplicities,

A week of cold cuts,

Enough condiments for the whole Red Chip meetup

Several strains of organic crunchies,

A couple six packs of beer, and

Nifty napkins made from tree bark.

chip 10I don’t know exactly what people scavenge for on Long Island, but ChipXtractor seems to have lost control. Or maybe my empty refridgerator is a bad model for behavior.

However, it’s no matter. In fact, it’s a good thing that he is in cuisine Disneyland. He’s on vacation and clearly enjoying himself, as he should. A whole week of poker, cigars, tv dinners, and, uh, popsicles from the low calorie umpaqua fruit or whatever they are, lay ahead for my amiable host.

However, we’re not through… because Chip discovers the Hot and Cold Foods bar, where for about $7 a pound you can partake of an infinity of enticing yet healthy prepared dishes. It is impressive, after all. In fact, it is, ironically, the real “Buffet of Buffets” in Las Vegas, and even stranger, considering this amazing chain’s reputation, one of its best deals.

Is this the American Dream as well?

ChipXtractor slowly wanders the aisles in amazement. There’s short ribs and barbeque chicken, a whole Indian section, and salad for a thousand epicurean rabbits. (Cold, crisp peas never looked so good or so green, seconds from stifling heat.) We have to go -the felt awaits- but Chip looks regretful for a moment, and then speaks, for the first time that I’ve heard, definitively:

“We’re coming back here.”

It’s a command.


Next! It’s past noon- Le Soto will see you now.


  1. I’m enjoying the Vegas tales! If you don’t mind my asking, how deep were you in the 63hh hand to open that hand from UTG?

  2. As one of the younger men in my games, your advice rings in my ears constantly — don’t be the angry pineapple. Engage the other humans from time to time. Etc. I’ve even stopped putting in headphones, as much as I often want to escape the asinine chip chatter surrounding me on all sides.

  3. Well, take it all with a grain of salt – gotta be yourself above all. But yes, the friendlier the game, the more the game is likely to sustain itself and gather new players.

  4. “pollen of crooked aspiration” and “… cools in the faint shadow of the American Dream” brings Fitzgerald to mind. Good work.

  5. my favorite room — in vegas that is. i only wish theyd fix the tables the chargers dont work, ive blogged about playing here often. its so nice to not have to be forced to act first in the small blind when the button straddles here. wish all rooms did it their way.

Leave a Reply

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.