shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

I have talked a lot about the NL game at Foxwoods. I have gone back and forth about whether or not their NL games are run well enough to be worth playing. I once claimed that I would never play in the $1/$2 NL game again. Although I can't seem to find the post in my archives (perhaps it was said in a comment), I have also seen bizarre rebuy rules enforced at the $2/$5 game, where a floor person told me I could not top off to a $500 (maximum buy-in) stack until I was below the $200 minimum. I've since gotten around the rule by being a bit more sly about it, but as far as I know, it's still in place.

I went yesterday with two NYC Players (Dawn of I Had Outs) and Alceste) to Foxwoods. I warned them about everything I knew and felt about the NL HE games at Foxwoods, but they wanted to see the place for themselves, and I looked forward to showing what was once my home poker room to some fellow NY players.

I mostly played limit for the day, but I spent a good amount of time taking breaks and looking at what was going on at the NL HE tables. I kept a close eye on the $2/$5 tables and didn't really see any particular reason that I should be jumping to them. Sure, the games seemed generally beatable, but I didn't see anything to indicate that a good score could be made. Most of the players seemed somewhat tight, so I could imagine a strategy of trying to run over the table would be profitable, but not greatly so.

Based on my limited observations, what I believe has happened in the $2/$5 NL game is that it has become much like the $10/$20 limit games at Foxwoods. All the Foxwoods limit regulars have known for years that the $10/$20 limit HE game is the toughest game at Foxwoods. Sure, it's beatable, but it's where you run into the best players. This is because there is little reason for the small stakes gambler to jump up from the $5/$10, because with the kill it plays almost as $10/$20 in an action game. Meanwhile, the bigger gamblers go for $20/$40, because it has the draw of being the biggest regularly running limit HE game. Everyone I know who plays serious limit HE (such as [ profile] roryk, [ profile] reddogace, and good old F.D. who started at the $2/$4 tables with me, play almost exclusively that game when at Foxwoods).

What I see at $2/$5 is the people who have learned some things about NL HE but haven't built their bankroll up for the $5/$10 or $10/$20 game. I'm about in that category, so I'm likely to find settling in at $2/$5 players about at my skill level. So, with a huge time charge, I'm going to rate to lose in that game because I'm sitting with relatively evenly matched players; the low stakes gamblers will prefer to make ten rebuys and goof off at $1/$2 and the serious ones are going to try the $5/$10 or $10/20 blind game.

I was actually one of the first six people who were dealt the first hand ever of the $1/$2 NL game at Foxwoods, which was on Saturday 1 May 2004, as I sat in the game the first time they called (with the goal of learning more NL). Foxwoods realized the popularity of this game quickly and it grew. Their goal, however, has always been not to design a game that the regulars would like, but rather build one that would draw the maximum number of people from other parts of the casino. In other words, their goal (not surprisingly) is to maximize the number of people in the casino they could get to pay exorbitant time charges.

Now, I realized and posted a long time ago that the math of the NL game doesn't work out well. An entire buy-in leaves the table every hour, so you have to move chips early to build a stack that can be used to get people's chips before they are lost to the house. One of the tools you can use is the $40/$100 rebuy trick, whereby you pay a blind from a minimum $40 buy-in, and then rebuy to make your stack $138. This helps a little, as long as you can double up quickly.

The other system I use in this (and all capped buy-in games) is to always pay the time charge and dealer gratuities out of my pocket. This is very important, because if you waste your stack of a limited buy-in with time charges, that $10 in the first hour you pay is actually $20 of from your stack, because you can't use it for a double up. Over a few hours, you've paid $30 or $40 in time charges, and imagine how much double-up and redouble-up money you've lost! Thus, I have tipped and payed time out of chips in my pocket for years at the Foxwoods NL HE games. At times, some people at the table asked if this was allowed, and the floor people always said it was no problem.

However, sometime in the last six months, they have made yet another bad rule change. In addition to not being able to rebuy in an NL game until you are below the minimum buy-in, players at Foxwoods NL HE games can no longer pay time out of their pocket. I spoke with a floor person at length about this, and he was completely unable to come up with a good argument. At first he said they didn't want the confusion of people taking chips in and out of pockets, making it more difficult to watch if money was taken south. But, I asked him, are you still allowed to tip dealers from your pocket?, and he said yes. I therefore maintained that his argument was flawed, because if one can take a chip from the pocket to the table in that case, how is taking time the same way any different?

His next piece of sophistry was even more bizarre. He claimed that since some players might not have adequate bankroll to take time from their pocket (i.e., their case money is on the table), that players taking time payments from their pockets was a violation of table stakes rules, because the player that pays time from his pocket is gaining the advantage of keeping that amount of money in his stack. Of course, this is patently silly. The idea that one can take incidental expenses from the pocket or from the stack has been a long-standing rule in poker, and the time charge should be treated no different than any other incidental expense. In addition, how is this any different from my ability to buy into a game for the maximum while someone else can buy in only for the minimum? That gives me an advantage, of course, but that's just poker.

Both his arguments twist a long-standing permission for players and turn it strangely into a requirement. It's always been the case that if some players choose to pay their incidental expenses (time charges and gratuities) from their stack, that's a prerogative that they are granted by the “incidental expenses during a poker game may leave the table” rule. Making that prerogative into mandate is completely silly.

Foxwoods could make a consistent argument here, saying that the confusion of people going into pockets for chips is too likely to allow people to hide that they've “gone south” (a poker slang term for taking money that is in play in a game from the table). If they wished to make this argument, they would have to mandate that a player may not be possession of any Foxwoods chips except those that are on the table, and that they may not pull gratuities from their pocket under any circumstances. Even more, they could remove the (already annoying) “cash plays as chips” rule of Foxwoods, and they could even say that you can tip in cash but not chips.

But, the truth is that Foxwoods has no interest in making the rules consistent. Indeed, they have no interest in making rules that help regular players. They have no interest in making it so someone can take full advantage in a NL HE game. The truth is, they are a limit club, and they know their regulars are only going to play limit anyway. If they keep the limit players happy, they will have their regular daily client base. Meanwhile, they know that the tourists will want to find NL HE games that don't scare them. At each stakes level, they don't want the tourist intimidated by the big stack. They tolerate the players who stay and build a stack, but that's not really the clientele they want or care about. They want the games to play small to keep people buying in one-buy-in-at-a-time and losing it, all the while throwing their time right from that stack into Foxwoods coffers. They want them lose a moderate amount on the trip, and come back six months later and do it again.

In other words, they don't care about the poker community, or running games that serve that community. What they care about is their own internal competition with the blackjack pits, the craps pits, and the roulette wheels. It's well-known that the Foxwoods poker room has long been treated with contempt by dealers and floor people from other parts of the casino. They don't make as much money, and because of the requirement that all dealers throughout the casino pool all tips, everyone feels that the poker room free-rides on the huge tips received at the high-limit gambling games elsewhere in the facility.

Foxwoods is just a poorly run poker room. They are the poker monopoly of New England, and therefore have no reason to change their terrible policies. I still enjoy the place, because it has special meaning to me. My weekly bus trips there taught me how to win at poker beyond pennies on a dining room table. But, tradition can only hold one for so long when a place is run so poorly.

It's not to say that the games aren't beatable. It's not to say they aren't relaxing. I enjoy going there for the limit games from time to time, because the resort as a whole is nice and when going with a group who aren't poker players, there are opportunities for everyone to do something they enjoy. But, I think my Foxwoods days are done beyond that. I'm going to write a letter to the poker room manager and explain my reasoning, and perhaps there might be some hope of getting a reasonable response.

Anyway, thanks, Foxwoods, for helping me build my bankroll so I'm well beyond the $2/$4 limit games where I started, but I think you don't have much to offer a poker player anymore. Especially if your goal is to make up silly rules that help you only in the short run. I gave you more chances to improve than I really should have. Shame on me for actually thinking you were trying to make the place better.

shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

I am off to Foxwoods tomorrow with Dawn and others. I am of course not going to make a final decision about what to play, but I am deciding between seeing what the $2/$5 NL games are like on the weekends (I haven't played them on a weekend in years), and doing a full day of limit HE.

My idea for limit HE is to buy in for 30 big bets into the $4/$8 game, and move up every time I have 50 big bets for the game above me, and see what limit I hit. I thought that would be a fun and amusing experiment. I play this game of “how quickly can you move up?” all the time.

My goal in going is not to maximize EV, but to amuse myself a lot while keeping my EV reasonable. This is why I'm leaning toward the limit thing, but am open-minded. Let me know what you think, if you can do so before 08:30 tomorrow morning. :)

[Poll #807027]

Good Hand?

Saturday, 11 February 2006 20:00
shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2005-08)

I heard this quote from one of two friends, sitting in a $4/$8 limit HE game at Foxwoods, who had got involved heads-up pot. Poker players have a strange tendency to state the obvious, as if it makes a profound statement about life, the universe and everything. Usually, it's a simple fact that anyone just learning the game knows. As the one friend had just reraised the other on turn after a cap on the flop, the other friend said:

I know you have a good hand. It's just that I don't know how good.

To the tables' credit, nearly everyone burst out laughing. One fellow nearby them responded: I think you've just made the fundamental point of poker.

shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

After my phone post from Foxwoods, [ profile] nick_marden joined me for a day to enjoy the Foxwoods local aquatic life-forms. We played the $2/$5 blind NL HE with a $500 maximum buy-in. I have railed against this game in the past, because they used to have a silly rebuy rule, wherein you couldn't top off your stack until you were below $150(!).

This silly rule has been eradicated, or, at least, it wasn't being enforced in the five hours I sat in the game. I topped off back to $500 about four times, until I was able to build a stack well above it.

The key hand that built the stack was against a bizarre maniac/calling-station hybrid. He turned out to be relatively easy to read, as he had a Caro-classic stare-down tendency when bluffing. He came over the top of me a number of times when I myself lacked a hand strong enough to call with, but finally I decided to make a stand with 87o on a 7-3-2-5 board. He bet all-in at me on the turn, and it was clear he had no pair, after I had already built a strong feeling on from his flop check-call that he had merely overcards. I got worried when the Jd fell. He was ready to muck, and I felt a bit better; I said "I called you" and waited to see his ATo before showing my cards.

When I made the call (a call of a $200 or so overbet into a $180 pot), it didn't seem that big of a deal, but jaws dropped a bit around the table. [ profile] nick_marden told me later that he wasn't surprised I called, just that I had done so quickly, pointing out that 4-6 or A-4 was just the kind of hand and just the kind of draw that this fellow had been playing, and I should have considered it longer. Yet, all the pieces -- (a) betting out instead of slow-playing on the turn, (b) the classic Caro tells, (c) the way he called on the flop that seemed to scream "pair draw two times" -- just added up to a clear call for me. As it was happening, it actually seemed rather textbook to me, so that means either I'm over-confident or getting pretty good at this game of NL HE.

Limit HE, however, is a bit of another story. I'm getting convinced that the variance in limit HE is actually more than NL. The problem is you can read people right and they can still get very lucky for single bets and cost you huge pots. I played a lot of $10/$20 at Foxwoods, and was up only for a brief time. The games were beautiful: 4 or 5 people taking each flop, usually going three-handed to the river. But, that's a spot for lots of variance, and I suffered quite a bit.

I just can't give up limit poker though; it feels so less stressful and relaxing. And, it's not to say NL/PL doesn't have its variance as well. More on that soon.


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