The Great Bellagio Experiment
My experiment was based on the Open Internet Challenge on 2+2, combined with a similar live experiment posted on RGP.
I decided to take the minimum buy-in for the 4/8 game to Bellagio, and try to parlay it, working my way up the hold'em games, until I busted out. In some ways, it is like a tournament, because I only had a set number of chips, which were low for the blinds, and I would move up limits every time I had the minimum buy-in for the next level. In other ways, it was more like a Martingale betting system. I certainly was not playing a "real" tournament, as the levels only increased when I had the minimum buy-in, not necessarily every half hour or hour.
When I entered the Bellagio poker room, Thanksgiving (November 27, 2003), I was able to be seated in a 4/8 game immediately. Before I sat down, I asked what the minimum buy-in's were for each hold'em game. I had a list as high as 80/160. Here were the answers:
4/8 $ 40
8/16 $ 100
15/30 $ 150
30/60 $ 500
I wasn't so crazy about the $150 buy-in at 15/30, but had not considered that some of the limits would have an extremely short minimum buy-in, so I had no back-up plan.
I bought in for $40 at the 4/8 game. The game was very passive, but not as loose as I'd come to expect since the poker explosion.
My "clock" started at 6pm.
I had a few great hands. KK, raised before the flop, caught a set. KK again, raised, caught a set. AKo, raised, caught a king. Not bad. Why can't I catch like this at higher limits? LOL.
I was up to about $80, double my buy-in, but still short of my $100 minimum buy-in for the 8/16 game. Then the following hand happened:
I was dealt 99 against several limpers. The flop came down A9x. I bet. I was raised by a middle position limper. A late limper made it three bets. I made it four. This continued through the turn and the river. The late position limper just kept re-raising me, no matter how many times I bet. I couldn't put him on anything better than two pair, maybe a smaller set, because he had limped in late position. I had forgotten that 4/8 players will limp with a lot of hands.
Finally the late position limper went all-in. I raised all-in with my last $8.00. I had $60 in bills under my stack, but twenties don't play at the Bellagio, so I wasn't "forced" to bet them, as I would have been at other casinos. I think the dealer thought I was out of my mind when I kept insisting that they were only twenties, and that I was all-in, and actually seemed happy about it! The mid position limper called my last bet. He mucked when he saw my set, but the late position all-in flipped over pocket aces, for a set.
I lost my buy-in at 6:40pm.
I bought in for another $40, and immediately started catching, once again. This time my hands held up. By 6:50pm, I had been dealt AKo. I raised and was cold called in several places. The flop came Axx. An early position player bet out. I raised. Several other limpers folded. I bet the entire way, to be shown KK at showdown. Why she didn't re-raise with KK is beyond me, but I guess, in her mind, she justified saving $4.00 when I outdrew her.
I found myself with $107 and immediately asked to be dealt out.
I had been talking with the floorperson about moving up to 8/16. I kept telling her, "At 7pm." Then I said, "No, cancel that." Then I came back just ten minutes later and said, "I need the seat after all." She must have thought I'd gone mad. I got the seat soon, anyway.
At 7pm, I sat down at the 8/16 table with $107. A few of the locals noticed my very few chips, for that game, but said nothing. At first I felt kind of stupid, because I can't stand it when people buy so short, but I got used to it.
Right away I was dealt KJo in late position. There were several limpers, but no raises. The flop came Jxx. I bet and was called in two places. The turn was an ace, and an early position limper bet. I called along with another player. River was the same. The EP limper showed AA for a set of aces (???). Once again, no raise before the flop. I was crippled a bit by this hand.
Next I was dealt J9s in the blind. I flopped a pair of nines and a straight draw. The turn brought the straight, but not the nut straight. I started check-calling to a player who seemed very confident and strong. He wasn't the smartest player I've seen, but his body language convinced me he had something. I just didn't know whether it was a higher straight, or a pair of queens, since he seemed the type to "miss" a four straight on board. My initial read was right, he had a higher straight. I was down to $3.00.
I was in the SB, and told the dealer, "I am all-in for my last $3.00." Just like it was a tournament. I got lots of chuckles from the table.
At that point, another 2+2 member, "MajorKong" (Ed Miller) walked up and asked me if I was Felicia. He got to see my $3.00 all-in. We started talking, as I was figuring this would be it for me; back to 4/8.
Lots of players looked at me like I'd lost my marbles, not taking out money, but going all-in with $3.00 in the small blind. I kept laughing, because it was just so funny to me at the time, without them knowing what was going on.
I held JTs, the flop came TTx, lol. I won the tiny pot. At this point, MajorKong (MK) and I started discussing the experiment, and some people at the table got to hear what I was up to. They were all laughing it up. Their former expressions of disbelief were suddenly turning to amusement and curiousity. I explained the details to a few of them who asked.
I had AT on the button, the next hand, and called a raise. The flop came AxxA and I was again all-in before the turn. Now I had $67.
A little while later, at 8pm, I was dealt QQ. I raised before the flop, bet the flop, was raised all-in by a player who was having fun playing my experiment with me, and beat his two pair (98s) with a higher two pair with the paired board (855x9). I was so busy talking to MK, that I missed the paired board and started to get up! The players were cheering me on, and telling me to stay seated, that I'd won the hand. I laughed, saying I'd missed the pair altogether, by talking and getting so involved in the experiment.
By this time, all the players were cheering and saying they were trying to "help me" in my experiment by putting me all-in, lol!
Not long after, I had 77 and saw the flop for one bet. I flopped a seven and kept betting until I was all-in. Now I was up over $100.
One player was sitting to my left. He was a little grouchy. He told the dealer that I was "talking too loudly" and it was hard for him to concentrate. I found this funny, as most dealers tell me I don't talk loudly enough! I think it was actually my talking to MK, as well as the table cheering at me, that was bothering him. Maybe he was stuck. He seemed to be playing scared money, and would check hands I thought were worthy of raising or even capping off, due to getting outdrawn before I'd arrived. He kept saying that the woman in the three seat always outdrew him, so when she was in the pot, he checked any hands. I hadn't been there to witness this woman "always" outdrawing him, but whatever. He was the same guy who limped in with pocket aces, then simply called my bet with a jack hit the flop, even though he had a set of aces! Oh, well.
Finally, though, even he got in the spirit of things, and started cheering me on. He kept asking if "he" was going to be in my story. I told him definitely, since he was the one who tried to "get me in trouble" because I was talking too loudly, LOL. He seemed to think this was cute, and loosened up a little.
At 8:20pm, I was dealt AJs in late position. I called one raise by a player I read not to be as strong as he was indicating (perhaps AK, AQ, or a pocket pair of tens or less). A jack hit the flop, as well as a heart. He checked in early position. I bet. I got called in a couple of places and kept betting, as nothing was higher than the jack, and the board was not scary at all. He check-called to the river, then mucked to my river bet.
I counted up the chips to be $181. The table started whooping and cheering. They were all exclaiming to their neighbors, "She took a $3.00 all-in small blind and built it up to that! She did it!" They all were so excited about the story, and wished me luck at the 15/30 level, while cautioning me that the $150 buy-in was going to be a killer. MK was ecstatic, and we went up to the podium for the "higher" limit games.
Unfortunately, the brush running the higher limits didn't really understand what was happening, when I'd told him to put me on the list earlier. I tried to explain it to him, but he is Asian and obviously had difficulty. I was so disappointed to see that not only was I not on the list, but the list was at least 15 long.
He promised to start another game quickly.
In the meantime, MK said I could sweat him in the game he'd just been called for. It was also 15/30.
His game was tougher than I'd come to expect for 15/30 at Bellagio. We talked about 2+2 happenings, and about how good of a story my experiment was going to make, due to making such a huge comeback from three chips. We both thought the whole thing was hilarious. I was having a ton of fun. I never thought it would be so fun. I was thinking either tedious and boring, or nerve-wracking. I never thought I would have so much fun on a $40 buy-in.
Finally, at 9pm, a new 15/30 game opened. I got the two seat. I put my paltry $181 on the table. This time, no one looked at my small buy-in. No one looked at me, period. This seemed like a very, very soft table. They had that 'deer in headlight' look.
I was in the big blind and got a free flop with T3s. I picked up a back-door straight draw, as well as a flush draw. There was only one other opponent by fourth. He had the same straight on the river and we split the pot. I was up to $215.
At 9:45pm, I had ATo on the button. It was passed to me, I raised, and the blinds folded.
I had been telling MK how soft my game was. I told him about EP players limping in, then calling two or three bets with T6s, J7s, J3s, etc. I saw all of these hands because the "fish" always got there, lol. It was a truly fantastic table.
MK was able to get into the game, and sat to my right, in the one seat. We resumed our conversation.
After being blinded down a bit, as well as not hitting some hands, I finally got 99 in late position, at 10pm.
MK made it two bets, I made it three. The flop had two jacks, but I didn't put him on a jack, and when he checked to me, it didn't seem like he was trying to check-raise. I bet, he called. He said he "knew he was beat, but wanted to help with my experiment." I finally got all-in, and we turned up our cards. He had AQ.
The river gave him the dreaded queen, and I was out of the "tournament."
Yes, another 2+2er busted me! It was hilarious and we both laughed it. He exclaimed, "A queen! Just like in a real tournament!"
I said I was going back to 4/8 to start over again. He persuaded me to stay at 15/30 and start the experiment again tomorrow.
I stayed and played. I was a little hyped up and exhausted, anyway. I actually dreaded going back to 4/8, now that the poker room was packed.
I thought I only had $300 left. I even said to MK that I'd purposely put a lot of my bankroll into the lock-box in my car, in order not to tempt myself to play cash games. I guess I missed some hundreds, because later on, when I'd lost almost the entire $300, I was able to find $500 more in my pocket! I just I must have subconsciously left more money in my pocket that I'd thought, LOL.
I had every hand outdrawn either on the turn or the river, for my first $300, and had to buy in for more.
For two hours, I received no pair, nor any good ace. Then I finally started turning things around and won some pots. I still didn't receive any pairs, but had some good aces, and some free flops in the blinds that made monster hands.
MK excused himself for a few minutes, and I finally got 55. Flopped a set (sets have been wonderful for me tonight, have you noticed?), and got called the whole way.
Then I got KK and made it three bets. Even though an ace came up on the turn, the only opponent left in the pot seemed ace-less, to me, and I kept betting, sure I had the winner. The showdown proved my read correctly, and he mucked his hand when I showed the kings.
I left up about $47 (from the 15/30 cash buy-in, not the "tournament" buy-in).
I was exhausted by 1:00am, and decided to go home. MK and I said our farewells, and made some plans to get together on Friday.
This was one of the most fun things I have ever done in poker. I just can't believe I actually had a great time.
Some of the corrections I want to make, when I try it again, is to adjust the "minimum" buy-in amount for each level. Some of the buy-in's were so minimal that it was much worse than being in a tourney. I would rather keep it more like a tourney, than like a crap-shoot with such as short buy. Also, there don't seem to be as many hands dealt, per hour, in cash games as in tourneys. Since tourney players are usually playing more tightly, the hands go faster. So maybe I should disregard the "clock." I kind of did this anyway, as you can tell by the times of some of my hands.
I had a GREAT time, and would consider doing this anytime I am able to do so. I don't feel like it was a waste of time, I had fun, which is what poker is all about (for me). Yes, I am a serious player. I don't play like an idiot (I'm closer to a rock, actually). But this was a huge thrill for me, and I felt like I had nothing to lose.
(Just as an FYI, I know that I am "bound" to lose, which is why I compared this to a Martingale betting system. There is really no way to win, unless one ratholes money along the way, or catches some awesome wins at the highest limit, then cashes out before losing it again. I don't want anyone to think I somehow had aspirations that I was going to "win big." It was purely an experiment to see how high I could get before "busting out.")
I think I might try it again tomorrow. Wish me luck!