The PKR pro was in Las Vegas for six weeks this summer and he’s got plenty of solid advice if you’re thinking of lighting up the World Series of Poker in 2016…
I’m no expert on history, but I would bet my left chestnut that the term ‘Vegas baby’ didn’t come from nowhere. Vegas is unlike any other place on earth. I’ve been here for six weeks this trip alone, and can safely say I haven’t seen it all – not by a long shot. I thought I had, but then I was run over by a disabled DJ racing around on a beat-propelled mobility scooter and I had to re-evaluate. Thankfully though, my sides were split as much as my shins. Vegas baby.
Objection! This is a poker article, how dare I waste valuable column space with my holiday adventures? Well, firstly, because everyone on earth needs to know about this quite living legend (I mean he took ‘dropping a beat on the street’ to a whole new level), but mainly because this random, idiosyncratic lunacy spreads to the poker tables. Let me sum it up in one hand for you…
It’s level two of the $1,111 Little One for One Drop, and a fellow Brit makes it 2,000 at 50/100 from UTG (misclick alert!). Surprisingly, he gets two callers, one in the cut-off and the other on the button. They see a 3-4-7 rainbow flop, and my English compadre c-bets for 1,800. The Italian cut-off quickly grunt-folds before the American wizard on the button moves all in for around 10,000 total. He takes down the pot, fist-pump slamming 6-3o face-up in the process. Cue table-gasp-frenzy and tumble-weed!
Yes, Vegas is in an entirely different beast, the games are unlike anywhere I’ve ever experienced, and as a consequence, you have to approach them as such.
One of the things I’ve noticed most out here relates to game-flow. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, or maybe it stems from an impatience caused by the snail-pace of live games coupled with the absence of ample online poker in the States, but I noticed a potent results orientation among the largely American-based fields of Las Vegas.
Illogically, players become super-attached to previous hands, and I saw several players visibly tilted at something as basic as folding 9-3o UTG, if they ‘would have flopped a full house.’ I learned this the hard way in the WSOP Extended Play event, where I made a 17bb cut-off shove with K-Js, and bust to a small blind calling from a 25bb stack with K-9s, after he’d missed an opportunity to make a flush with it an orbit or two ago.
Anyway, just on the off chance that you’re one of these guys, it’s worth remembering that most of us non-lunatics fold far more hands than we play, which means that we will fold a lot of winners. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, that’s just the way it is (man, I love that song). Take flushes for example – unless you play more than half of your suited combinations, you’re simply going to fold more flushes than you make, just as you would probably throw fewer bullseyes if you threw one dart at a dartboard than you would if you threw a thousand (though in both cases I’d probably throw zero!).
Simply put, the WSOP is exciting: card rooms buzz, corridors buzz, the beers flow, rooms in the Rio are an impossibility, and the potential of sitting next to an idol or top pro lures players of varying abilities and mind frames from all over the globe.
Not only is this one of the beauties of the World Series, it’s also one of the main sources of its value, since it generally means the games are much softer than those of equivalent stake levels elsewhere. It does lead to some fireworks though, as the gulf in player ability can give some spots a real sense of Jekyll and Hyde, making them a little trickier than usual.
In my mind, the key is to throw balance out of the window and be really elastic with your bet sizing. There’s nothing wrong with using transparent bet sizing against people that literally don’t care, so when you are in pots with weaker players, target them with wider value ranges and huge value bets, whilst sticking to a more balanced style against the stronger players. A hand like K-J on K-Q-6-8-3 can easily be good for three decent streets of value in some spots. Remember, it’s a long way to Vegas, and most people don’t travel halfway across the world to fold, just ask our 6-3o hero from the previous example – sometimes they just gotta see three!
Similarly, since literally nobody seems to want to fold In Vegas, it’s also better to tighten your stealing frequencies from later position if you have a 15-18bb stack since you will often be committing chunks of your stack with little to no fold equity. Instead, I recommend sticking to unexploitable shoves when you have station-happy tunas in the blinds, not only because it removes their desire to defend, since live players hate to ‘play bingo’, but also because the antes at the WSOP can cushion your stack beautifully as they are pretty damn huge during some levels.
Just as there are tables on which no one folds in Vegas, there are also an abundance of passive tables where no one squeezes or three-bets light. In these situations, I think you can get away with tweaking your early position limping range, adding some small suited Aces and small pairs that you would normally either raise, or just fold in the earlier stages of the tournaments.
Not only is limping contagious, the weaker fields mean that you will rarely get squeezed out of the pot, which is great since set mining and flush fantasising (I’m coining that one) are great when pots are multi-way and stacks are deep; limping simply enables you to keep both of these boxes ticked more easily. Additionally, since I’ve already mentioned how the average WSOP player loves to call you down regardless of sizing, you can exploit them with large bets to extract a load of value when you flop well, even in a limped pot.
I strongly believe the key is elasticity and discipline. Bad habits are as contagious as limping and it’s easy to let the nightlife interfere. I partied way too hard this trip and it hindered my profitability, not because I feel I played particularly badly, because I genuinely don’t think I did, but because I missed out on so many good value spots at the cash tables because Captain Morgan and Mr Grey Goose had condemned me to a day in bed the night before.
If you want to maximise your profitability at the WSOP, you must stay focused and consider everything. The best piece of advice I have been given in quite a while is ‘don’t do what the fish do’, which, despite being patronisingly obvious, is worth reminding yourself of in games where everyone is splashing around. Emotions are high at the WSOP and, for the most part, expectations are low, so pay particular attention to each opponent because attacking the wrong player in the right spot can be fatally WSOPainful.
Dan ‘danshreddies’ O’Callaghan is a member of Team PKR Pro. Play with him in 2D or 3D at PKR.com.
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