Let’s Play Razz!

Today was my last day of rest for quite some time. I didn’t really rest, you never do what you work for yourself, but I didn’t play poker. I did walk through a few card rooms to confirm that things hadn’t changed significantly since I was in Vegas in the spring, and things seem to be about the same as they are every year at this time when it comes to cash games.

Tomorrow I play the WSoP Razz event. I made a significant portion of my living playing Razz and mixed games that included it online for years, and feel very good about my game. In fact I think I’ve run some numbers on Razz that no one else has ever seen. It could be that someone figured the same things out and never told anyone about them – I certainly haven’t shared what I’ve learned about the game very much – but when the game was popular there wasn’t a lot of computing power available.

The Razz event is always fun. Celebrity filled tables and a very relaxed setting. Many of the bigger names play the Razz event because they think the game is simple (in many ways they are right) or because the field is fairly small and they think it’s a good shot at a bracelet, which makes the field quite soft for a strong player.

I won’t name names, but I have played with quite a number of bigger names that are very strong players when it comes to no-limit holdem, but who really don’t play Razz very well. Between the players who are strong in other games but just don’t know Razz very well, and the new players giving it a shot for fun, the field is really much softer and more fun than most WSoP events. Not that it’s easy, just not quite as tough as some of the other mixed or alternate game events.

Some quick thoughts on cash games, which I will expand over the coming weeks.

If you are coming to Vegas to play cash, think about what kind of game you want to play in and why you play the game. If you just thought “I play for the money Fox” then you need to do some thinking, because very few people play for the money. There are easier ways to make more money in less time than trying to grind it out at the tables.

The reason you need to think about what kind of game you want to play in is because the games differ so much from one room to the next. I’ll give you a few rooms as examples.

In the spring the Tropicana was running a special that paid $80 for eight hours of play or $144 for twelve hours of play. A pretty good return for grinding a $1/2 no-limit game. The problem was that the game was mostly filled with bonus whores* who were looking to grind out their $144 and go home without losing too much while getting their hours in. The game was tight and passive, mostly older men who didn’t want to gamble it up. It was certainly possible to scratch out another $10 or $15 an hour above the $12 an hour the bonus paid, but it would require patience and listening to a lot of grumpy old men tell bad beat stories.

At the other end of the spectrum on that trip was Planet Hollywood. I played some $1/2 there while waiting for my room to be ready. It was March Madness, and there were tons of sports bettors in town, so the action was amazing. You need a big bankroll to start playing $500 pots every third hand, but the income potential was huge. Finding the rooms with a party feel and gamblers in them is not as simple as just walking down to the Venetian, Bellagio, or Wynn like so many people do. And the games at the Rio aren’t always the best in town either. Speaking of the Venetian.

I also went to the Venetian and played some $1/2 while I was on the waiting list for a $2/5 game on that same trip. The Venetian charged a lower rake than some other rooms at the time, so many of the local grinders were playing there. I don’t know why saving $3 or $4 an hour was enough to get them to all play in the rotten games they created by flocking to the place, but it was. The games were definitely beatable, but they were almost as swingy as the games at Planet Hollywood, and as tight as the games as Tropicana.

Across the street at Caesars, where the rake was $1 higher, the room was nearly empty. But the games that were running were great. Bachelor parties, people from the club next door, and hotel guests filled almost every seat. Not a single local grinder to bother me. There’s no status in grinding cash at Caesars in the middle of March, and you won’t run into a lot of poker celebrities, but if you really were playing the game for money, then it was the place to be.

If you are looking for soft games during the day, then hotels with lots of conventions and non-gaming business are great. Of the big hotels, the Wynn is typically the best because so many business people will drop by and play $2/5 no-limit without a clue how to play the game. In the evenings most games are good, and the very softest games are often at out of the way places with only a few tables. It’s not cool to play at Harrah’s all day, or walk down to the Riviera, but the money will probably be better. Except during double points times at the Riviera when the bonus whores will flock to the tables and grind out their bonuses, which will definitely change the dynamic of the games.

I urge you to check out the hotels near where you are staying, playing a little in each room and assessing the games around you. Look for laughter and happy people, not somber old men and silent poker pros with their ipods on.

Games are often fairly good at the Rio if you are in town for the WSoP, but some tables can be terrible. Many players think that big action equals a good game, but sometimes that action comes from good aggressive players. Just because you don’t understand why they are doing something doesn’t mean they are clueless fish. Not to mention the poor service, crowded environment, and sometimes long waiting lists.

I’ll probably be at The Wynn when I play cash games unless there is a good mixed game at Bellagio or Aria. Wynn has good food in the poker room, excellent service, and usually good games. Hopefully I won’t be there for a few days as I’m planning another deep run in the Razz event.

And congratulations to fellow PokerXFactor pro Amanda Musumeci who took second place in a $1500 event yesterday for nearly half a million dollars. Way to go Mander!

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