January 20, 2010

Advanced Poker-Drinking:
Rule IV—Seek Fast Booze & Slow Play

Why just get drunk in Vegas, when you can get paid to get drunk in Vegas?

We rejoin the discussion of poker-drinking, already in progress ...

Rule IV:  The cheaper the poker game, the more money you make. Don’t blow your drinking bankroll on poker.

Many casual poker-drinkers pay little or no attention to game selection. Instead, they just take the first table available, or play the poker game they are most familiar with, without evaluating the costs of that game. This laissez-faire (French for “I don’t giving a flying pig!”) attitude is a major leak for many casual poker-drinkers.

When evaluating your poker costs (PC), keep in mind that there are two factors contributing to the total PC: fixed costs (FC) over which you have no control (e.g., blinds and antes), and betting costs (BC) which are purely voluntary (e.g., your stupid choice to call a raise and a reraise in EP with 7-4 suited, just because they are suited and April 7 is your birthday). For a professional poker-drinker, FC is the most important factor in game selection.

Rule IV(a): Seek poker games where you can maximize your booze-to-blinds ratio.

Presently, the most common poker games spread in Vegas casinos are limit and no-limit Texas Hold’ Em, although Omaha and some mixed games can be found. The exact type of game is, however, irrelevant to the poker drinker—he should be focused solely on the blinds and antes, which represent the FC for the game.

To analyze FC, consider a poker room that offers 1-2 NLHE, 2-4 LHE, 2-5 NLHE, 4-8 LHE, and 6-12 Omaha8 (any games with blind structures above 2-5NL or 8-16L are, by definition, -EDV and should be avoided). The FC per orbit for each game is $3, $3, $7, $6, and $9, respectively. In order to break even at a particular game, assuming you do not play beyond posting your blinds and folding (the “muck and slurp” strategy), you must consume alcohol every orbit that equals or exceeds the FC for the game. Put another way, your VBC / orbit >= FC / orbit. This concept is known as the booze-to-blinds ratio.

Assume you are playing at the MGM poker room, with a maximum drink value of $6 for well drinks or decent beer (we’ll assume you were too drunk and/or hung-over to risk the walk to the Venetian or Aria). You can choose between playing 1-2NLHE, 2-5NLHE, and 4-8LHE. Inexperienced poker-drinkers usually make the mistake of assuming that, because 4-8LHE “plays smaller” in poker terms, it also plays smaller for a poker-drinker. Picking the 4-8LHE game, however, is a significant error. The booze-to-blinds ratios for the three games are 2:1 for the 1-2NLHE game but only 1:1 for the 4-8LHE game (and just slightly worse for the 2-5NLHE game). In other words, the 1-2NLHE game is twice as profitable as the 4-8NLHE game! A poker-drinker who drinks one drink per orbit will make a healthy profit at the 1-2NLHE game, but will only break even at the 4-8LHE game.

Ideally, in order to maximize your booze-to-blinds ratio, you will want to seek out games where high value booze is served, and low limit games are spread. For example, if Aria and the Venetian each serve premium booze, but Aria spreads 1-3NLHE as its smallest game, while the Venetian spreads 1-2NLHE, then the Venetian offers a more profitable drinking opportunity. If a poker room cannot offer you at least a 1:1 booze-to-blinds ratio, then the game simply cannot be beat, and it’s time to find a $5 pai gow table, or a convention or wedding reception with an open bar.

Rule IV(b): Seek poker games where you can maximize your drink-to-orbit ratio.

Because your FC correlates directly with the number of orbits of poker played, you will want to find a game where you can consume the greatest number of drinks in the fewest number of orbits. This concept is known as the drink-to-orbit ratio.

The drink-to-orbit ratio is a corollary to the drinking rate (DR) concept previously discussed. Both concepts focus on how to get the most booze in the least time. For DR, the focus is on increasing the booze delivery rate, while the drink-to-orbit ratio is focused on slowing the rate of payment of the blinds. A lot of factors can affect your drink-to-orbit ratio. Ideally, if you are able to choose between several different games that have the same blinds, you will want to look for the slowest playing table. This requires you to take a moment to read the table texture—the mix of player types at the table that will affect the general tempo of the game, and consequently will dictate the rate at which you will be posting blinds.

Signs of a slow (profitable) table include lots of young players, preferably wearing hoodies, sunglasses, blingy jewelry, iPods, and similar “online player” paraphernalia; these players will contest many pots to the river, with much posturing and numerous unnecessary “thinking” delays, slowing the rate of total hands played. Obvious newbies and conventioneers at a table are great, as they will make many errors that need correction (hopefully even needing a time-consuming floor decision), and will also need to think extensively over every decision. A hot female player at a table is also great, as many of the guys will be distracted from playing by attempting to flirt with her, and may also play more hands in an attempt to impress her (don’t bother with this strategy—she’s probably a better player than you and won’t be impressed by your poker "skillz", not to mention babes interfere with booze consumption). Bachelor parties or groups of fraternity buddies will be both slow and entertaining. Finally, if there appears to be a series of less experienced dealers in line for a table, that table may offer an opportunity for slow deals, slower play, and multiple dealer errors requiring floor rulings.

Signs of a fast (unprofitable) table include lots of old rock types who muck every hand even before getting their last card. Games with no chitchat or laughter, or with everyone wearing an iPod are terrible as well, since serious play is generally fast play. If you get stuck at this type of table, you can slow the pace by taking extra time to make all of your preflop decisions (which should be to fold every time—you’re here to drink, not play poker, remember?).

Rule IV(c): Take advantage of drinking freerolls.

In many poker rooms, poker-drinkers are given opportunities to receive free booze without posting blinds. Taking advantage of these drinking freerolls can pad your drinking bankroll.

For example, many poker rooms require you to post a big blind before beginning to play, or you may wait until the big blind reaches you. Why post a big blind in this situation when you can sit at the table and order drinks for free? Consequently, when sitting down at a new table, sit in the seat furthest from posting the next big blind, then kick back and knock down a free drink or two while waiting for the button to make its way around the table.

Similarly, many poker rooms permit you to be absent from the table for periods up to one hour without posting blinds. Take advantage of this situation by leaving the table just before your big blind hits, but get a free drink before you leave. Come back to the table periodically and get additional free drinks, but do not post back into the game. Instead, indicate you will wait for your blinds, then leave the table just prior to their arrival. Repeat until just prior to the expiration of your allotted absence time, post back into the game, then repeat at the next orbit. You may get some angry comments from the “serious” players, but don’t let those remarks shake you from your rock solid game plan. Plus, since you should be pleasantly schnockered, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Now that you have selected the correct poker game, it's time to address some important advanced poker-drinking techniques that will maximize your profits. Pour a shot of something top shelf, then come back and contemplate our next concept:

Advanced Poker-Drinking: Rule V—Prioritize Booze Over Poker

Stay tuned true believers!

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