Monday, January 16, 2017

Las Vegas - Becoming a Local

The first week of January, 2017 was our 6 month anniversary as legitimate residents of Las Vegas. We came in the midst of one of the hottest summers in the valley (see my speedometer temperature gauge reading 118 degrees) and so far this winter there has been a lot more rain than I had anticipated. 

Over time that will all even out and, regardless of the variations and proclivities of weather here in the desert, I do not miss the sleet, snow, icy windshields, salted streets and sidewalks and frigid cold of the northeast.    

Yet, becoming a “local” involves a lot more than living in Las Vegas and doing things that Las Vegas residents do. Becoming a local in the poker room is an even more daunting task.

Although the choices of where to play poker in Vegas are not as varied as they were about five or six years ago, there are still plenty of places to play. Add into that mix the stakes you are willing to play and the options narrow further. Big strip casinos like the Bellagio, Aria, the Mirage, and Wynn all have sizeable poker rooms that fill up regularly on weekends with tourists and opportunists. The game of choice is No Limit Hold’em and the many $1/$2 dollar tables and $1/$5 tables with other variations in between attract players willing to buy in for thousands of dollars. Limit tables are far and few between although they can be found in smaller venues like the Flamingo, Monte Carlo, and even Excalibur. The Venetian, once a mecca for poker players, has been seriously impacted by the poker-playing public’s dislike for owner Sheldon Adelson and his vocal trashing of on-line gambling ventures. Some still play there but not with the enthusiasm of a few years ago.

Tournaments abound, both small and moderate stakes, and the Downtown locations, the Golden Nugget in particular, have nice, regular, reasonably staked competitions.

But, to become a “local” one must pick a room and frequent it regularly. For that, and for residents who live in North Las Vegas, away from the frenzy of the Strip, that often means a Station casino.

In the past six months I have played at Red Rock, Green Valley Ranch, and, most often, Santa Fe. These, along with the other Station casinos, offer small stakes Limit games ($2/$4 and $3/$6 primarily) as well as small stakes tournaments at least twice a day. 

Did I mention that, more often than not, becoming a local player takes time and often costs money? Except for weekends and holidays, these off-strip casinos are all locals! The faces that show up for the tournaments are mostly all the same faces; the bodies occupying the chairs around the low limit tables are the same ones that show up every day; those waiting around for the occasional Omaha or No-Limit game are the same payers day in and day out.

The characteristics of local players vary greatly. Contrary to popularly held opinions, they are not all “tight” poker players. On the contrary, some can be very loose. Whatever strategy they have developed over years of playing becomes their poker personality and they project it, win or lose. They all know each other and they all know how the others play. Some have been in Vegas for a few years; some have lived here all their lives. They come from New York, California, the Mid-West, Mexico and Canada. Many are retired but not all. They tend to be right of center politically and care very little about what anyone else thinks of their opinions and views. They are deeply concerned about rakes and fees but generously tip dealers with every winning pot and cocktail waitresses with every drink. They react favorably to any casino perk that increases their edge, be it a high-hand jackpot or a “quad-flopper” promotion. They come and go during the course of the day some arriving by 6 AM, leaving the table for lunch, and returning afterwards. Some pop in from their jobs instead of eating lunch, leaving with a few bucks winnings or depositing their lunch money on someone else’s stack of chips. During the week they tend to be older, more senior citizens and the sight of oxygen tanks and walkers lined up against the wall is common.

They share one characteristic in common – they are known. They are known by each other and they are known by the casino staff: dealers, floor people, managers, waitresses and hosts. If you are known, you are a local. It doesn’t have anything to do with how well or how badly you play poker. It doesn’t have anything to do with buying in for $100 at a time or doling out $20 bill after $20 dollar bill. It doesn’t have anything to do with how you dress or how you talk. If you are known, you are a “local.”  

So, that’s what I have been doing – getting people to know me and it has been going well. A few dealers know my name; a few patrons know and remember me; I feel comfortable and welcome in the poker room. Becoming a regular winner, on the other hand, takes more time but I am working on that too!