Monday, July 30, 2007

Poker at the Commerce Casino

While I was at the WPT Ca$h Camp this weekend, I had a chance to play at the tables. I did two different things while I was there: I played two sessions at the $1/$2 NL ($40 buy-in cap) game, and I played 5 $34/$6 SnG tournaments. Each deserves some mention for different reasons:

First, the SnGs. These are played on a special table they call "Lightning Poker." It is the size of a normal table, but embedded in the top is one large LCD screen in the center and 10 smaller screens around the periphery. The small screens are touch sensitive and have a small slot for a special mag-stripe ID card. You take your card to the cashier's booth to cash it up, more or less just like online play. The card has a PIN to make sure it can't be used if it's lost or stolen.

While the novelty of the SnGs was cool, I didn't like them for a few important reasons:

1. The house took a $6 rake off each $40 buy-in. That's a hell of a lot. Easily triple what the same tournament rake would be online.

2. They only paid two places. The same SnGs online pay 3 places.

3. Each player starts with a paltry $500 in tournament chips. With the starting blinds at $10/$20, that makes everybody a short stack. If your first move doesn't work out (standard raise plus a continuation bet), you've probably lost half your stack. Your next hand is all-in, and if you lose that you're done. That's a pretty harsh tournament.

I wound up chopping one out of the 5 tourneys I played, for $170 (the computer doesn't know how to chop them, so once the players agree, they simply go all-in in the dark until it's over, then the winner gives the 2nd place player $34 from the $204 first prize). So net loss of $30. But I don't feel too bad about it. The first two I played I lost because of a 2-outer and 3-outer suck-out, respectively. The third I chopped, then in the 4th I lost a race and in the 5th I wound up all-in with an under-pair to an over-pair. I still think that the crowd was pretty soft, but at the same time, the conditions sort of set you up for higher variance, which doesn't favor good players.

I had two sessions of no-limit. These had a $40 buy-in cap to play $1/$2 NL. That also makes the stacks a bit shorter than they ought to be. One of the things I learned at camp was that the correct buy-in for NL cash is 100x the big blind. That said, we should be starting $1/$2 with $200 stacks. Being so short, it plays a bit more like a tournament, with normal moves resulting in people being pot committed and then all-in.

The first session was a beautiful thing. I wound up winning $20 in a half hour before breakfast. The crowd was quite soft. The second session, I also found myself up $20 and almost stood up and left with it, but decided I wasn't done. I then lost all that and another $20 behind. Bummer. So total for the weekend in cash: down $40.

I'll write more about the camp later.

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