Bellagio Cocktails and Upticks

What is the “long term” in live poker? It isn’t rhetorical… I would seriously like to know your opinion.

The short and medium term has been good to me. Ever since moving up to 2/5 full time, I’ve taken each hand much more seriously than when I was putting in all those hours at 1/3 where both the competition and the stakes made me extremely bored. That, combined with endless hand discussions with friends (more on that later), combined with some good old-fashioned run good has resulted in me having very good months lately, and January was no different.

The Bellagio has been my home base. Despite it’s shortcomings, particularly regarding customer service and especially when compared to other top quality rooms such as Aria and the Wynn, I can’t disregard the results. Since the start of 2013 I’m averaging well over 10bb’s an hour in the Bellagio 2/5NL games, over 476 hours. A lot of those hours (the ~50 earliest) were very poorly played compared to my current game, mainly because I was still making adjustments while trying to move up in stakes. So when I exclude those hours from the stats, the hourly ticks up further.

I’ve been through horrific downswings and written about those. I’ll throw in a #nojinxs hashtag and hope for the best here. But I’m just wondering when this 2/5 hourly rate that currently displays in my Poker Journal app will be considered legit. Wondering when I can breathe a little easier, knowing we aren’t just having a one time menage with the variance mistress and lady luck while both are in a good mood. Keep the Bellagio Cocktails coming.

Made it to two nightclubs in January: Light, to see Dirty South; and XS, to see Zedd. Both performances were each DJ’s residency debut at the respective clubs. A lot of people don’t like nightclubs, and that is completely understandable. They often don’t make it easy to have a good time unless you’re willing to spend quite a lot of money. The main reason I enjoy going is because I can forget about whatever stresses may be in the back of my mind at the time. The music (which I’m a fan of as well) is loud enough and the visuals are stunning, and for the most part the other patrons are all a part of the vibe.

That doesn’t mean I even socialize with any of them while I’m there; on the contrary, I would have no problem going to a club by myself, just to take in the music and zone out for a while, never speaking to anyone other than the bartender to order a couple rounds. I also find it completely fascinating that 1) These artists are making insane money right now, living the dream… the envy of almost every soul in the music industry, and 2) Las Vegas is the epicenter for the “live” performance at the moment. “Live” is in quotes for obvious electronic-music reasons. But I give these guys lots of respect… A lot of them are musical and technical wizards, and while the live show may not be the most impressive of feats, the work they put in in the studio gets rewarded via the club parties.

Busi and I are currently looking at places to move into together. My current apartment, near UNLV, is basically a thousand-dollar-a-month storage unit. And the sooner that we can get some more space so she isn’t tip-toeing in her own home so as to not wake her degenerate night-shift poker-playing fiancé at 2:30pm, the better. We also took in a couple new spots together around town last month. Check out Container Park downtown, and Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at the Cosmopolitan when you get a chance.

Busi at Container Park.
Busi at Container Park.

Previously I mentioned hand histories… That the conversations regarding each interesting battle in the poker war have been a big part in improving my results. I thought I would share one such conversation, so that maybe you can get a sense of how deep a simple hand convo can go, and how important my poker friends are to me. Sometimes, this is what you have to suffer through; even after you win a hand and feel like a boss, maybe you did damn-near-everything wrong.

Direct from the Bellagio 2/5NL streets. Enjoy.


Andrew: 3 limps, I raise 7c8c to 30 from bb, only sb calls. Flop As8s7s, sb leads 150. I have ~500. ?
Adam: [speedboat emoji, to indicate shoving]
Andrew: Lol. Yes, [speedboat emoji]. He folded.
Adam: [bicep emoji]
Scott: Him folding to the ship isn’t a win. It means when we get it in we are owned/crushed.
Andrew: There are too many bad cards that don’t allow me to take control away on the turn though.
Scott: The right answer is not shipping. I’m very sure of that.
Adam: Yes. Are you making it 325?? Nooooo. Are you folding? Noooooo. Answer [4 speedboat emojis]
Scott: But you can be putting in 100bb drawing dead.
Adam: GTFO
Adam: For 100bb it’s not even debatable.
Scott: Didn’t anyone pay attention the one day when I showed how weak bottom 2 pair actually is? It’s even weaker on this board.
Scott: You’re bluffing when you ship.
Adam: No you’re not. Not in this spot. He’ll have Ax with Xs a lot.
Scott: Math and ranges do matter and shipping isn’t founded on either. It’s “I has 2 pair…duh…I’m all in.”
Andrew: So are you folding Scott?
Adam: It is for how this hand was played preflop.
Scott: Axs isn’t that far behind us… do you even read my posts?
Adam: Doesn’t matter. If you’re ahead get it in.
Scott: You’re not ahead of a ton of his hands. A7, A8, 77, 88 yeah all have you drawing dead or almost dead. Think about the entire range you’re facing when called. You’re either a tiny bit ahead or crushed!!!!
Scott: Think. Please.
Adam: I did all that. Still not folding for 100bb.
Scott: And in this case he can have a flush already. The entirety of that range is way ahead of us.
Adam: He’s only leading a baby flush. Others he checks.
Scott: You’re getting it in behind most times.
Andrew: So are you folding Scott?
Scott: 2s3s has us murdered.
Adam: So you’re folding all non sets and flushes and top two pairs?
Scott: This hand is a favorite.

"This hand is a favorite," says Scott.
“This hand is a favorite,” says Scott.





Andrew: So are you folding Scott?
Adam: So, I’m still not folding.
Scott: So wait. You don’t care that you’re making a losing play?
Adam: There is enough money in the pot to make up the difference. So no.
Scott: You’re just not folding because you “has 2 pair?”
Adam: If I raise out of bb after guy limp calls on A78. No I’m not folding in pretty much all scenarios.
Scott: Best case we are a small dog. That means vs his entire range we are a huge dog. We are drawing to 4 outs at best…
Adam: Or he folds to the ship.
Scott: I might fold the flop and might call and see what happens on the turn.
Scott: I’m never even considering shipping because you’re turning your hand into a bluff.
Adam: That’s just bad. Every turn card is bad.
Andrew: If you don’t know which turn cards are bad for you, I think shipping is best. Clearly the guy has a bluffing range that you aren’t including.
Scott: We established he’s not calling with worse, only better. So, when we ship we are only folding out worse. The worse would be AK with no spade type hands that have a 10% chance of hitting the turn and are unlikely to continue betting huge once we call.
Andrew: Yeah I mean, I don’t think either of us doesn’t understand that part.
Andrew: The question is more, how are you playing the rest of the hand.
Scott: Let him bluff then. Your call looks super strong and he’s unlikely to keep firing once you call.
Andrew: How do you know that? You’re just gonna fold on a 2x turn?
Scott: If you call and a spade comes is he really going to bluff it? There’s even a chance you can turn your hand into a bluff later.
Andrew: I don’t like it. I still like jam. He bet 150 into 70. Gimme that motherfuckin’ money.
Scott: This is why you don’t ship. You can keep getting it in murdered but I prefer not to.

"This is why you don't ship," pleads Scott.
“This is why you don’t ship,” pleads Scott.





Scott: I need no more evidence than that. Shipping is burning money.
Andrew: My left pocket says differently.
Andrew: <—bawse
Scott: Big head much?
Andrew: Scott what do you do on an A K Q J T 9 or spade turn and he ships?
Andrew: And no I lost 550 on the night so I’m obviously joking.
Andrew: Even if he has absolutely none of those as outs, there are lots of cards that can come that will still allow him to win.
Andrew: So by shipping we make our decision much easier. And rip that option out of his hands.
Scott: Before I go any further I need someone to tell me how often we need him to fold to our ship to make our 24% equity shove profitable.
Scott: I think folding is better than shipping. And I’d like to see some combinatorics and math that prove me wrong.
Andrew: Well I don’t see us as being crushed when he bets 150 into 70. That seems a little strange to me.
Andrew: It seems like he views that as a scary flop for our bb raising range. And is going to make it difficult on us.
Scott: I’ve seen this be a set and a small flush.
Andrew: Ok well now you’ve seen it neither of those.
Scott: I’d rather ship KKs.
Andrew: Sure we can ship that too.
Scott: We win an average of one quarter of the pot when called…that’s really bad. We need him to fold more than he calls to break even.
Adam: If you raise 78cc out of the bb. You better be prepared to lose some 50bb pots.
Scott: I’m never raising it and I think Andrew is showing a little winners tilt with some of his raises lately. I’m pretty sure this raise is not profitable.
Scott: It’s fun but out of position it’s going to be difficult to show a profit in the long haul.
Adam: 78cc is a little wide pre. But it depends.
Scott: KsQx and KxQs only has 32% equity vs a calling range. Not as good as I expected.
Scott: The thing with these raises is they have to be more profitable than checking. And since checking costs $0 it’s pretty hard to beat.
Andrew: Winners tilt for days.
Andrew: I love you guys. [hearts-for-eyes emoji]
Andrew: I’m gonna write a blog over the next few days. Does anyone mind if I include this HH conversation?
Adam: Fine with me!
Dave: I’m gonna have to read it again?


  • 4 years ago

    I’d like to 2nd everything Scott said. Unless villain has a history of bluffing large, or protecting his hand with huge overbets, it sure seems like 2pair+ is his range.

    You added 5bb in there, just let them go. (without further info, like does villain cover, tendancies, nit? lag? etc)

    Being able to play effectively when raising suited connectors from BB, means being able to let them go when necessary.

    BTW, love seeing these types of discussions. It’s good to think of many angles, because poker players think in lots of different ways, and definitely not all of them profitable.

  • Andrew Ma
    4 years ago

    Yo whattup Drew! Funny as hell HH convo. Bottom Two is a convo that can go on for days. But as for “how long is the long-term,” my answer is:


    2 Months.

    Been in Vegas 4 years. My roommate’s been here for 3. Between the two of us (7 years of Poker Journal app data), we show almost exactly 1 losing month per every 12 months. (This data is predominantly $2/5 and $5/10 stakes) People talk about “running bad for months” but I truly don’t believe that’s very possible if you are playing almost every day. If the run-bad is going on that long, then honestly “run-bad” ain’t the problem.

    Armed with this experience, I don’t even sweat a losing month. It is SUPPOSED to happen. (Once I truly understood that, my occasional mega-tilt problems virtually disappeared.) Were it to go on longer than that, then and only then would I begin to re-evaluate my major and/or minor game-theory principles. (I tweak with finesse stuff everyday, but my major/minor stuff is fairly carved in stone.) And so my “stick-to-my-guns” time limit is officially 2 months. The other reason a downswing doesn’t bum me out too much anymore is because I can’t forget how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living. It’s easy to take for granted something that so many other people struggle with, so I make sure to appreciate it.

    Aside from the statistical speed bumps that have to arise every now and then (avg. 1 month per year) , how long can the good times roll with your nice win rate and all? Homie, I believe sky’s the limit. Forget alllll that peanut gallery chatter about “hold-em’s no good anymore. The game is getting too tough!” Poker is extremely alive and well. I’m personally overdue to start playing $10/20 actually, a situation I intend to address this summer. Best of luck for your series this summer, and nice shutterbug skills man!

  • Andrew Ma
    4 years ago

    To be fair, I didn’t really answer your “long-term” question. I suppose the more accurate answer based on me & my roommate’s careers shoulda been “7 years.” 2 months is actually the short-term window to gauge run-bad vs. play-bad. But you get the idea, lol.

  • Andrew
    3 years ago

    Yo Andrew,

    I somehow never saw your comment here until now, as I’m looking over some old posts. Thanks for the read and for taking the time to give your insight. I’m actually in the midst of my worst month in two years, but if a boss like you can have a losing month, then that makes me feel a little better. 🙂 I also need to remember your words about not taking this life for granted especially during this time because it’s pretty easy to curse anything and everything when it goes badly. It always turns around though and we reach new heights.

    Anyway, cheers again for the comment. Keep posting pics of your travels and inspiring your fellow grinders to enjoy life!

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