Where to Launch Your Poker Career; Don’t Say This! ; Gather Data

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The Top Five Cities To Launch Your Poker Career: Part Two

A Ranking Of The Top Five

 by Card Player News Team   

Note: This is part 2 of 2. For part 1, see last week’s edition.

After looking over your records (you are keeping records, right?) you notice that you turned a nice profit at the tables the last year or so. Maybe it was much more than a small profit. Perhaps you won a couple of tournaments, dominated your home game, or are considered one of your local poker room’s top players.

Perhaps you are asking yourself if you have what it takes to play full-time, as a poker professional. If so, where do you go, geographically, to take a shot?

Due to a lack of games and stakes in the majority of the United States, if you are truly serious about taking your game to the next level, you might consider a move to a part of the country with better options.

Thankfully, these days poker players have more options than ever. In decades past, poker players were restricted to just a few cities nationwide. Today, there are hundreds of card rooms from coast to coast that spread low, mid, and high-stakes games around the clock.

Card Player has scoured North America and has come up with a look at the top five cities where a player can access the types of games that make launching a poker career possible.

No. 5 — Baltimore, Maryland

Thanks to a 2012 measure allowing casinos in Maryland to add table games, poker has exploded in popularity. Now, the region is an ideal location for any poker player looking to put down roots.

The state’s largest casino, Maryland Live! in Hanover, is located just 20 minutes away from the state’s largest city, Baltimore, and houses a whopping 52 tables, making it one of the largest rooms in the mid-Atlantic region and among the top 15 in the nation. The room, which has been packed since opening in August 2013, boasts limits as high as $50-$100 limit hold’em, $10-$25 no-limit hold’em, and $10-$10 pot-limit Omaha (PLO). On the weekends, you can expect almost half the room to be occupied with $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit hold’em and as many as half a dozen small-stakes PLO games. Throughout the week, Maryland Live! hosts tournaments ranging from $80 to $230. On Sundays, the $330 deepstack tournament features a $20,000 guarantee.

In the immediate area, you have the future site of the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in mid-2014. Caesars Entertainment, which will run the property, hasn’t committed to specific size for their poker room, but has said that the casino will house upwards of 110 total table games, including a World Series of Poker branded card room.

For variety, Baltimore players can also head to Hollywood Casino Perryville (36 miles), Delaware Park Casino (58 miles), Hollywood Charles Town (66 miles), and even venture further out to Parx Casino (105 miles) in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which has 61 tables and annually hosts a World Poker Tour event. Overall, there are over 200 poker tables within a 90-minute drive with more coming soon.

One downside to starting your poker career in Baltimore is the taxes. While Maryland residents enjoy a relatively modest sales tax (6 percent) and state income tax rate (up to 5.75 percent), the property tax rate is among the highest in the nation, making it a somewhat expensive place to live.

No. 4 — Atlantic City, New Jersey

You may be surprised to see Atlantic City so far down on this list. The one-time poker hotbed and home to a young Phil Ivey is currently fighting off a seven-year slump brought on by a struggling economy and an increase in casino competition in bordering states. However, the city still offers a fertile ground for up-and-coming poker players looking for a variety of games and limits.

Of the 12 casinos licensed to operate in the city, eight still operate poker rooms. The largest is the Borgata, which runs a spacious 85-table card room and spreads a variety of games nearly unmatched in the country. Stud specialists will have trouble finding games outside of Atlantic City, where mixed games as high as $200-$400 run with regularity. Limit hold’em players also have options ranging from $2-$4, $10-$20, $20-$40, and even $40-$80 games. If the games aren’t to your liking, other casinos such as Ballys, the Showboat, the Trump Taj Mahal, and Harrah’s all regularly spread some small-stakes games.

On an average weekend, you can expect more than 50 games of $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit hold’em to be running in Atlantic City. At the Borgata, players can jump up to $5-$10 no-limit and above with the occasional PLO game running as well.

Those who consider themselves to be better tournament players will appreciate the more than 100 daily tournaments run each week in the city. The World Poker Tour makes two appearances at the Borgata annually and was just granted the upcoming $25,000 WPT Championship event for April. Both Harrah’s and Caesars Palace host World Series of Poker Circuit stops each year as well. New Jersey is also one of just three states in the country to license and regulate online poker.

Unfortunately for poker players, the state of New Jersey isn’t very kind when it comes to sales tax (7 percent) and personal income tax (6.37 percent for those earning between $75,000 and $500,000). Additionally, New Jersey has the highest median property tax in the nation.

On exciting addition to New Jersey was the October 2013 launch of online poker which saw nearly 200,000 total registered accounts as of the end of January 2014. A total of six casino operators offer online gambling in the state, with the Borgata, powered by PartyPoker, leading the way with the WSOP and Ultimate Poker among others.

No. 3 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Although Las Vegas remains the gaming capital of the United States, poker often plays second fiddle to other forms of gambling on the Strip. Slot machines, pit games, and sports betting accounts for just under 99 percent of the state’s total gaming revenue. However, the poker boom significantly grew the poker footprint in America’s most iconic gambling destination, and it still offers excellent daily tournament and cash-game action.

Although only one Las Vegas poker room ranks in the top ten for most tables in the nation, the city has just shy of 50 card rooms, giving local players an incredible amount of options, especially at the lower and mid-stakes. In total, the city is equipped with over 800 poker tables.

The biggest room belongs to the Venetian, which after recent renovation, now has 59 tables. The Bellagio (39), Orleans (35), Caesars Palace (30), Wynn (26), and Aria (24) round out the top five. The most common games spread in almost every card room is $1-$3 or $2-$5 no-limit hold’em, making Las Vegas one of the best locations for players looking to grind up a small starting bankroll. Those who rise to the top of the poker world can routinely find high-stakes mixed games at the Venetian, Aria, and in the famed Bobby’s Room at Bellagio.

If tournaments are your bread and butter, you’ll be overwhelmed with more than 500 tournaments that run weekly in the city with buy-ins ranging from just $20 to $500. Of course, the summer is filled with many marquee tournament series’ including the World Series of Poker, but Las Vegas is also home to the WPT, WSOP Circuit, Heartland Poker Tour, and our own Card Player Poker Tour.

Perhaps the best reason to make the move to Las Vegas to start your poker career is the lack of state income tax. The sales tax is high at 8.1 percent, but the state’s low tax burden and modest cost of living more than makes up for it.

In April of 2013, Ultimate Poker launched its online poker product in the state and was soon joined by the WSOP. Though Nevada’s small population (2.75 million) makes it a small market for online poker, operators are hoping to soon link up with other states to increase the player pool.

No. 2 — Fort Lauderdale, Florida

With fewer poker rooms than Las Vegas, you may wonder why Fort Lauderdale, Florida is listed at second in our rankings. The answer lies in quality rather than quantity. Florida has the fourth highest population in the country, the state experienced a late poker boom, and it’s well known that people in the state love to gamble and, as an added bonus, many are still learning the game.

Poker has officially been a part of Florida gaming since 1989 when penny-ante games were legalized. However, due to a $10 cap on pot size, most gamblers continued to place their bets at the horse tracks, dog tracks, and jai-alai frontons. In 2003, the law was changed to allow $2 betting limits and, in 2007, no-limit hold’em made its debut with a $100 cap on buy-ins. Finally, in the summer of 2010, the state scrapped its buy-in restrictions, officially opening the poker floodgates. The end result was a regional poker boom that rivaled that of Las Vegas in 2003.

Though the biggest card room (72 tables) in the state is six hours north at bestbet Jacksonville, those who reside in Fort Lauderdale, a seaside South Florida city about 20 minutes north of Miami, have the most poker options available to them. The second biggest poker room in the state, the Palm Beach Kennel Club (60 tables), is just minutes away, as are rooms such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood (41), the Isle at Pompano Park (38), the Miccosukee Casino Resort (32), and Mardi Gras Racetrack (30). In total, the state of Florida has 32 poker rooms, five of which are among the largest 15 in the nation.

Tournament poker is also taking off in the region. Last year, the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood hosted a $10 million guarantee tournament and plans to bring it back in 2014, albeit with a smaller buy in and $5 million guarantee. The state has a total of three WPT stops, a WSOP Circuit stop, an HPT stop, and two CPPT stops.

Like Nevada, Florida has no state income tax and Fort Lauderdale collects a low sales tax rate of just 6 percent. There has also been numerous pushes from legislators and developers to bring a destination casino resort to South Florida, as well as online poker. Though efforts thus far have stalled, there is increasing focus on making both a reality in the near future.

No. 1 — Los Angeles, California

The undisputed king of poker is the greater Los Angeles area, with more poker tables, tournaments, and game options than any other region in the country. The three largest poker rooms in the world are all in L.A. and the city of angels boasts four of the top 10 rooms overall.

Consider this fact: the Commerce Casino, Bicycle Casino, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and Hollywood Park Casino have a total of 492 poker tables currently in use, which is slightly more than the top 25 cardrooms in all of Nevada have combined.

While limit hold’em may be dying in other parts of the country, the game thrives in L.A. with games spread from $2-$4 to $100-$200 with incredible regularity. No-limit players will never have to wait long to find anything from $1-$2 ($100 buy in no-limit) to $10-$20 ($500-$1,500 buy in no-limit), because there are always tons of games going in the city on any given night. Even high-stakes mixed game players have no problem getting $400-$800 games started and the stakes can get even higher when a big tournament series rolls through town.

Speaking of tournaments, there are more than 60 daily tournaments that run each week in the city. Los Angeles is also home to the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, a $10,000 buy-in tournament that has launched the careers of poker greats such as Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi, and Gus Hansen. Even small buy-in tournaments routinely get incredible turnouts. In January, a $150 buy-in event at the Commerce drew 8,133 entrants. Earlier that month, a $100 buy-in tournament at the Bicycle Casino had 25 different starting days, 5,316 entries and 4,732 add-ons, creating a prize pool of nearly $1.6 million.

Gamblers in California endure a wide range of state income tax brackets, ranging from just 1 percent to 12.3 percent for those earning more than $500,000 each year. Most players fall into a 9.3 percent rate which is taxed on earnings of $50,000 to $250,000. Unfortunately, Los Angeles residents will struggle to find affordable housing and have to deal with a high 9 percent sales tax.

With over 38 million residents, California is the number one most sought after online poker market in the United States. Although past efforts have stalled due to Native American casino interests, many believe 2014 may be the year that online poker comes to the Golden State with two separate bills introduced in February.



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Ed Miller: Four Bad Things Amateur Poker Players Say

Miller Lists Four Things You’ll Never Hear Elite Players Say


by Ed Miller www.cardplayer.com     

Elite professional players are much better than amateurs. That much everyone knows. What many amateurs don’t know, however, is that elite players use almost a completely separate strategic vocabulary from amateurs. In other words, amateurs and elite pros think about the game in completely different ways — and obviously the amateurs’ way frequently doesn’t measure up.

Here are four bad things that amateurs say when they talk about hands that you’ll never hear from an elite pro.

1. “I put him on ace-king.”

Amateurs say this one constantly, and it’s almost always completely wrong.

Ace-king, specifically, isn’t the problem. You could substitute any other hand for ace-king, and it’s just as bad.

Amateurs tend to oversimplify the game, and this is one of the big ways they do it. When they are hand reading, they focus on just a single possible hand to the exclusion of all others. Then they make whatever play makes sense against that hand.

The problem with this is that it’s almost never possible to narrow someone down to just a single hand and be consistently correct.

Elite players would be more likely to say, “I put him on a weak range.” This statement acknowledges that an opponent can have a number of different possible hands.

2. “I folded/just called to try to cut down on my variance.”

I’ve been hearing this one now for 13 years, and it’s just as bad today as it was back then. Here’s the idea. So-and-so doesn’t like the natural ups and downs of no-limit hold’em. Actually, the ups are fine. It’s the downs that are the problem.

The player starts to think, “Well, I can’t lose what I don’t put in the pot.” Little by little, she begins to play more passively. Instead of reraising Q-Q before the flop, she just calls with it. Instead of calling with a bluff-catcher, she just folds. Instead of playing that draw, she folds it. Whenever there’s a choice that seems close to her, this player picks the choice that puts less money in the pot.

If you ask her what she’s doing, she’ll tell you that she’s trying to cut down on her variance. “Sure, I know I may be giving up a little value here and there, but I play so much better without all those swings.”

This doesn’t work. Winning poker requires high aggression and much risk-taking. You cannot systematically reduce the risk and still play a strong game. It can’t be done. If you are shading all of your marginal decisions toward calls and folds, all I have to do is bet every time you check, and I will eventually beat you.

Elite players don’t have an analogous saying to this one. They play a particularly high-variance style because that’s the best, most profitable way to play. If you intentionally try to reduce your variance, you must accept that you will never play well.

3. “I raised to try to take it down right now.”

Amateurs often invoke this one when they have a strong hand on a dynamic board. For instance, they might hold Q-Q on a J-9-6 two-tone flop. Someone bets, and they raise because they “want to take it down.”

The whole idea behind this is kind of ridiculous if you think about it. Good hands only have value at showdown. If you raise the flop and take it down, you might as well have had 7-2. In fact, the only difference between Q-Q and 7-2 is that you win more showdowns with Q-Q. So it makes absolutely no sense to try to avoid showdowns when you have good hands.

Now this doesn’t mean it’s wrong to raise Q-Q on that board. But raising it to “try to take it down” is weak amateur logic.

Elite players talk about raising ranges. An elite player would look at that J-9-6 two-tone flop and think of every possible hand they could hold. Then they would mentally divide those hands up into a folding range, a calling range, and a raising range. (And they might split the raising range in two, choosing to make small raises with some hands and big raises with others.)

Typically, they would have done this mental gymnastics during study away from the table, so that approximate ranges will pop into their heads automatically as they play. So an elite player might raise Q-Q because it’s a hand that’s in his raising range in this situation. At that point, any intention behind the raise is almost irrelevant. And the pro certainly wouldn’t intend to get a fold.

4. “I’m gonna look that guy up with anything next time. I just know he’s stealing.”

Humans easily remember things that have happened recently, and they tend to overweight these events when they estimate the likelihood of future events. If the New Orleans Saints have just won three games in a row by big margins, the average person will tend to overrate the chance that the Saints will win the next game. Sure, the Saints might be pretty good — but they aren’t as good as they’ve looked on their best winning streak. A single stroke of bad luck could derail them in any game.

It’s the same way in poker. One hundred poker hands mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Seasoned online players talk about needing one thousand times that many hands to draw meaningful conclusions.

Yet amateur players draw wild conclusions all the time from just one hundred hands — or even fewer. He’s always bluffing. She plays only the nuts. He’s the tightest player I’ve ever seen. She makes bad calldowns.

Most of the time, you can’t legitimately draw these conclusions on just a single day’s worth of play. Yet amateurs do it all the time.

Elite players take a more measured viewpoint. Sure, they make reads on opponents and adjust their strategies. But these adjustments are layered on top of a base strategy that is strong and balanced.

For instance, an elite player is unlikely to look at a hand and decide before the flop that he’s going to “play it like aces” this time just to try to stand up to a bully. As I said before, elite players think in terms of ranges. If they think someone is bluffing too frequently, they will simply add more hands to their calling ranges and their bluff-raising ranges.

And they aren’t going to start with 7-2, 10-3, or whatever hand is next to come down the pipe. They’ll add hands in from best to worst. If their next five hands are all stinkers, they’ll just wait for one that’s not.

Final Thoughts

If you are an amateur player who wants to improve, the first step is to root out the fuzzy thinking that’s in your game. If you find yourself thinking and saying the things I listed, it’s time to rework your game. ?

Ed’s brand new book, Reading Hands At No-Limit Hold’em, is available immediately for purchase at notedpokerauthority.com. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/edmillerauthor and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.




During every hand of poker, gather the data in your mind

by George Epstein


Several years ago, I was teaching poker to my granddaughter, Esther Fayla Epstein. She was making great progress, and had a special flair for the game.

In fact, intuitively, she even developed the Esther Bluff tactic that some of you may be using to improve your bluffing success. Thank Esther for that.

But several poker players I respect, including the late Arizona Stu and famed poker psychologist, Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, warned me to cease and desist; a young child in her pre- and early-teens is susceptible to becoming addicted to gambling. That would be terrible.

Esther accepted the news quite well and, instead, became proficient at volleyball (captain of her high-school girls’ volleyball team) and guitar (member of her school band), while earning A in math and physics.

Subsequently, I received comments from a learned reader, offering a perspective that is worth sharing – whether or not you are contemplating teaching your grandkids to enjoy the game of poker.

Chris, who is a child psychologist, wrote, “I think teaching your granddaughter how to play poker is great. I think it’s important to also teach her what not to do, and why and how those concepts apply to making decisions in real life as well.”

Fantastic thought! He added that he planned to teach his own kids how to play “as soon as they are old enough to understand what hands beat what.”

What does algebra have to do with the game of poker? Basically, Chris is advocating in favor of teaching poker to kids because it can also help them to learn how to make decisions in real life. By identifying and weighing the information and variables during a hand of poker, then analyzing these to arrive at best decisions, we are exercising the same mental skills that are important in enjoying a happy and successful life.

Algebra in schools: (This is my opinion based on my own teaching experience and observations.) In the classroom, emphasis often is on simply memorizing the mechanics of algebra – rather than fully understanding the key essential principles – not just “what” but, more important, “why.”

Perhaps that’s why so many kids fail to meet academic requirements. From my own experience in tutoring algebra many years ago, I believe the teaching in our schools may be lacking. I found that the kids with whom I worked did not understand the basics. After they fully grasped them, the child could easily move ahead to use algebra to solve all sorts of problems.

The beauty of really learning algebra is not the sheer pleasure of solving algebraic problems, but learning how to reason – how to think, analyze, and draw pertinent conclusions based on the facts, so as to be able to solve problems away from the classroom. Thus, learning and understanding algebra better prepares the child for life.

The same applies to the game of poker.

During every hand of poker, gather the data in your mind – the available information; then analyze its meaning to draw the best conclusions. Isn’t that exactly what winning poker is all about?

• Observe your opponents: What kind of player is each? What tells can you observe?

• Study your cards in the hole and those on the board: What are your chances of having the winning hand?

• Consider how the betting has progressed.

• Ask yourself, “Is the reward worth the risk – the pot odds vs. the card odds?

• Realize that position also affects your playing decisions.

• Act.

When you make the best decision, you are successful in your endeavor – win or lose the pot. Yes, losing a hand can also represent success – by losing less than would otherwise be the case. Best, of course, is when your decisions lead to winning big pots.

As for the kids: Understanding the essentials of algebra – how to analyze and solve problems – can better prepare our kids to be winners at poker and in life. If you decide to teach your grandkids, be sure they understand the nuts and bolts of the game so they can make the best decisions.

You should, too. Call it “skill.”

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at GeorgeEpstein@GamingToday.com.



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