Wildhorse Casino: Poker Training

April 30, 2012

“It’s humbling, isn’t it?”

That’s what one of the regulars at my local casino said to me upon my return from the Spring Round Up at the Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t right. This was my third trip to Pendleton and my third time coming home a loser. It doesn’t feel good and it proves I still have a long way to go as a poker player. I often get asked when I’m going to Vegas or if I’ll play the Main Event and my answer is: Let me conquer Pendleton first.

It’s not like I’m completely out of my league; there are plenty of pros that go for the series, but there are also plenty of fish and tons of money to be made in the live games. Plus, even pros are prone to making mistakes and everybody has leaks…you just have to find them and figure out how to exploit them.

My biggest problem is the kinds and sizes of the games they spread. When it comes to limit hold em–my area of expertise–the only limit they spread regularly is $4-$8, which is the exact same game I play every day back home. Whoopty doo, Basil! The most popular game at Wildhorse is the $2-$5 no limit hold em game. While I fancy myself a solid no limit player, my experience in live cash games is limited and $2-$5 plays way above my current bankroll. I’ve felt like I’ve held my own in this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m often the least experienced player at the table and have felt out of my comfort zone at times. I’m confident I can beat the game, but I can’t play it to my full ability because I’m absolutely not willing to lose a chunky portion of my bankroll playing in it. I take pride in the fact that I protect my bankroll and don’t take risky gambles with it. I am now gambling for a living–comfortably–while more accomplished players are broke, working day jobs, and advising me to take shots. “Why aren’t you playing the no limit game?” “Why are you selling your action?” Because I don’t ever want to work again in my life… that’s why.

All that said I did play 21 hours in the $2-$5 game and only lost $115 overall… But I did have the displeasure of running KK into AA for a $1200+ pot and I did turn a couple solid wins into losing sessions, which I feel reflects my inexperience as a no limit player more than a run of bad luck. The biggest thing I noticed was that I had a much tougher time the better the other players in the game were. When I was at a table of weak tight or inexperienced players, I could run over the table with little worry of anyone challenging my alpha male status or putting serious pressure on me… But I think the tougher players could sense my inexperience and continually put me in spots where I had to make difficult decisions. I wish they had a smaller no limit game that I could play in, but I suppose I just have to hope I have a bigger bankroll to work with on my next visit or maybe I will have someone back me in the cash games.

The biggest reason I had a losing trip was my first session of $4-$8 limit hold em I played. I was playing in the game with my buddy Vince and somehow we convinced the table to agree to an automatic straddle, which means that whoever was first to act after the blinds had to raise to $8 without looking at their hand… Or in the case of a kill pot, raise to $16 blind. Needless to say, it was a highly volatile game with lots of action and we were playing short-handed most of the night, which can dramatically increase short term variance. Well, I went three and a half hours in this game without winning a single pot. Unlike the no limit games where I can admit I may have been outmatched, these players sucked and were just getting continually lucky all night long while I was running incredibly bad. I saw a dude put in 4 bets on an all broadway flop with nothing but a back door flush draw and take the pot down with running sevens. It was sick. Everyone was playing so bad and I couldn’t get ANY of it! What it amounted to was the worst $4-$8 session of my life…or at least since I’ve been sober. Maybe I should have called it a night after four or five racks, but when you see everyone at the table playing so poorly, it’s tough to let them keep it. Luck has to even out in the long run, right? Well, it didn’t that night and I lost over nine racks. The good news is I made six and a half of those racks back in the $4-$8 games the rest of he trip… But damn, that loss stung and it put me in a pretty poor state of mind to start my trip.

The good news is that I cashed in two of the six tournaments I played and had a winning series for my backers. Unfortunately, I bubbled the final table in one of the events and neither of my cashes were too meaningful. I felt like I was playing good, deep stack tournament poker in four of the six tournaments I played. I played the limit hold em event on my own tab and on absolutely zero sleep. It was a bad idea. I suppose the lesson there is: just because you can’t sleep doesn’t mean you should go gamble. I’ve come to find out that one of the bigger leaks in my poker game is restlessness and playing when I’m tired or grumpy can be detrimental to my win rate. While I’m able to overcome these mental handicaps at times (when I’m running good), there are times when I’m clearly off my A game and losing more money than I need to be (when I’m bad).

I’m looking forward to the Fall Round Up and having my first winning trip to Pendleton. Hopefully my bankroll will be in even better shape and I’ll have much more no limit cash game experience by then. Also, I’m going to open up my action to more people and sell it at premium, so there’s less pressure on myself and my few backers to perform well. At times, especially deep in tournaments, I’m hesitant to make what I feel is the right play, because doing so and being wrong might cost me my tournament. But I have a pretty good feel for this game and going with my gut is usually correct and people invest in me because they trust my abilities. Next trip, it’s time to stop trying to cash and bring home a big prize. I got you guys.

One comment

  1. vegas baby. 1/2 NL at the venetian. 1/2 NL at ph after 1am. perfect size for you. and ive had +1200 sessions playing these games.

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