Since I had been in Vegas for a couple of months and I had purposely moved into an apartment two minutes away from the Bellagio, I realized it was a waste for me to never frequent the live cash venue.
I had rarely played cash games live. I knew the games would be easier than online, but I didn't think my approach should change too much. This turned out to be a costly mistake.
I showed up to the Bellagio $10/$20 game every day for about a week and ended up losing a little under $6,000 or so, not too much for a deep-stacked $10/$20 game but certainly not what I had in mind. I realized a few things in that game that I've since adjusted when I go play live.
The main one is that your mistakes are amplified a whole lot more than they are online. For instance, when you bluff you have to be almost positive the guy is folding; you can't just bluff because there's enough money in the pot to make it a good play, which would be the case online.
You have so much more information live than you do online and for my first few months of playing live cash I didn't use this to my advantage. People play so weird that I was just thrown off for the most part.
The other problem I found with the Bellagio game was it was full of people playing deep-stacked and insanely tight post-flop. So what you'd see a lot was five or six players per flop and then only see big pots build between huge hands.
The game becomes very boring because all you can do is wait for huge hands. With six players to the flop your aces are usually going to be beat if you get any kind of action. So after a week of playing that game I decided to not go back - it was too boring, too tight and I'd much rather go home and play six tables.
In the new year, however, I made it a resolution of mine to start playing live more than before. I found a good $5/$10 game in town with no max buy-in and a lot of friendly people. I always hated the boredom of live cash games but I've really come around to loving them lately.
Not only are they much softer than any game you'll find online above the $2/$4 level, but you get a ton of added variables that make it much more exciting to play.
First of all, for now it's fun for me to drive down to the casino, grind out a few thousand and leave at 2 a.m., stop at the bar for a beer or two and come home. It feels like an actual job - a fun job.
Meeting people from all walks of life is also interesting. If I was playing a game that regularly consisted of a bunch of bitter old men, I wouldn't last a week (which is why I couldn't play at Bellagio for more than a week). But a game with interesting talkative people is actually very enjoyable.
I'm a very talkative person for the most part and always enjoy telling stories and listening to someone else's. However, the biggest appeal of playing live cash games is the thrill of the huge fish. I love it.
You don't get this too often online anymore, the late-Friday-night drunk that's going to move all-in every hand. I miss those days.
Live, though, it happens two or three times a day: drunks, rich guys and tourists make the day so much more fun. There's nothing like thinking you're going to play until 2 a.m. and then leaving the poker room at 10 a.m. because the sucker kept reaching into his wallet.
It's like the scene from Rounders - all of a sudden the game becomes a feeding frenzy.
"All the luck in the world isn't gonna change things for these guys. They're simply overmatched. We're not playing together, but we're not playing against each other, either. It's like the Nature Channel. You don't see piranhas eating each other, do you?"
No offense to the regulars at Venetian, but they're far from piranhas. In essence though it's still the same - when a drunk is in the game the game revolves around him or her, and 90% of the time they leave everything they bring to the table with the rest of us.
It sounds a bit malicious, but I guess if you choose to be a poker player you can't be too compassionate. Plus they're usually richer than me, so I don't feel so bad for them.
My only real conflict with playing so much live is that it really ruins any attempt at having a balanced schedule. I don't mind playing at night at all; I like being able to get stuff done during the day and then play at night. But ever since I started playing live my day ends between 4 and 9 in the morning. This results in me waking up at 4 p.m. almost every day.
I've been meaning to go to the bank for about four weeks, and it's just been impossible for me to get there during business hours. Eating healthily becomes an issue too as a result of the crazy hours. When should I eat breakfast? Before I go to bed or when I wake up in the afternoon?
As soon as I figure some of this stuff out I'll be much happier. For now though, I am in for a whole 30 days of complete degeneracy: I'll be spending the month of February at the Commerce Casino for the LAPC. This is the one month out of the year where I lose track of night and day.
It is also the best month of the year for boosting up the bankroll and getting an early start to a huge year. Last year I made about $185k in February even though I had a very realistic shot at $2.4 million in the WPT event.
I fully expect to do better this year than in '07, and come back home with one of those damn horse trophies I want so much!
Wish me luck!