I recently hit a nice milestone at my favorite card room, the Mirage in Las Vegas. It is not the only place I have played, but it is my favorite and most consistently profitable game. I love the Mirage. Since I moved to Las Vegas, I have put in over 300 hours there. Pictured here are all the chips I have won.
Actually, there is $2,000 more, but it is surprisingly hard to buy $12,000 in chips in a poker room that only plays $1/$2 no-limit and $3/$6 limit.
Here are the stats:
- All $1-$2 no-limit
- 310 hours at the Mirage
- $12,000 won
- $39 an hour
- 136 sessions
- 67% winning sessions
- 31% losing sessions
- 2% break even sessions
- Average session: 2.25 hours
- Average of $88 a session
Why the smallest game?
I recently moved to Las Vegas, retiring from engineering to work on poker stuff full time. When I was an engineer, I basically always played $2/$5 and bigger. Moving to Las Vegas, I knew that my poker coaching clients would all be $1/$2 players. I wanted to get calibrated to the Las Vegas game, so I needed to play those games.
The second reason I decided to play $1/$2 was as a bankroll challenge. It is a topic for a different article, but when I moved to Las Vegas, I was not exactly a twenty-something with $2,000, a backpack, a one way ticket to Vegas and a dream. I had multiple, redundant back-up plans in case things went wrong.
These redundant safety nets were a good thing. I burned through plans A, B and C. Among other things, my house in Boston sold for significantly less than expected and nine months later than anticipated. Unexpectedly supporting a $3,000-a-month mortgage that long absolutely demolished my bankroll.
I had to go to an ATM for the first time in a decade.
Thankfully, that $500 withdrawal was my new “golden buy-in”. I won the next session and have never dropped below zero again.
Building the Foundation
The third reason is rebuilding my game. If I was moving to Las Vegas to do poker stuff, I needed to make sure my game was as strong as possible. Even though I am a founder of Red Chip Poker, I am also a Red Chipper. I watch the PRO videos that our coaches make just like the rest of our PRO members do. I have been taking my poker even more seriously now than ever in the past. My improving results have shown it.
People think that you need to play bigger to make more money and virtually all of them move up too soon. Without a doubt there is more money in the bigger games. However, I am really enjoying the challenge of learning to wring every bit of money I can out of a $1/$2 game. To me, that is the challenge. Can I find more money in a $1/$2 game than most winning players can find in a $2/$5?
I am a big believer in putting in your dues. I have learned a ton since I moved to Las Vegas by playing in the small games. It is not just “bingo poker”, skill matters a ton. Players can be bluffed, it is not (always) just a pure value game.
Fourth and finally, time is on my side. I am going to be in Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. There is no race to the bigger games. There is something nice about being able to walk into the small games every night and have a massive skill advantage over every other player at the table. The swings are very manageable at this level and I am being more than fairly compensated for my time. I can comfortably rebuild the bankroll slowly until I am the most over-rolled player in the game.
Why are the session so short?
I live very close to the Strip, there is very little down time in going to and from the card room. If the game turns less profitable, my image goes sour, or I feel I am not playing my A-game, I leave.
You should never sit in a bad game in Vegas.
What was your biggest win and loss in one session?
I just started playing 1-2 live when I bought the crash course, and moved closer to a casino.
My goal was/is also 300 hours, so far I am 1/2 way there but am up only $3K.
I am not aggressive with enough hands preflop, and when I do open large to 10x vs 6 limpers sometimes I get a walk, or else I get called By 99+ AK, KQs, lol.
Maybe I should find a smaller pain threshold to open to, and then play poker.
What should I concentrate on most, in the crash course ?
First, just winning at the casino is an accomplishment. With the rake, it is a mathematical guarantee that most players will be losing players. Bravo, especially if this is your first 150 hours of play. I suspect you studied a ton before setting foot in a card room.
The Crash Course is pretty distilled all ready, without knowing you, I am not sure how much more concentrated I could get you!
If you keep hammering them pre to get isolated, they will loosen up to “stop you from bullying.” They have no plan for what to do after they call, but they will start calling with a wider range. Listen to the podcast:
Congrats on your development in the $1/2 game. As a reader of your books and content I have been successful in using some of your content in MTT’s.
Your rich content is developed from felt time and experience. That’s credibility.
Continued good luck and success in mastering $1/2 and sharing with your followers.
Thank you for the kind words!
I always appreciate how you simplify the lessons you teach and make them real to us amateur grinders. I’ve listened to every Red Chip Podcast about 3X each. I also did a month of APT prior to my annual Vegas trip this year and always picked you as my trainer in the program. I know it’s just a computer, but I still felt it helped. You taught me to be bet-size bigger. That’s my big takeaway. Well, I made about $750 out of $1/2 over 3 days, so I was happy. I know it’s a small sample, but I also know I played better than prior years. Thanks!
Glad to help. They basically pasted my picture onto a bot on ATP, so I had nothing to do with that advice. I do like APT though. Thanks for the friendly remarks. And look me up in LV.
Glad to hear of your successes in Vegas! Not surprised a bit. Happy Yule!
Wow, great results! Congratulations! I’m curious — do you think that your hourly win rate is sustainable or just a hot streak? I’ve often heard that $20/hr is near the top end of win rates at $1/$2 NL. If you think it’s sustainable, how much is attributable to your skill edge vs. your table selection and short sessions?
You never know if you are on a heater. I am first to admit this is a small sample size (relatively…) For the online guys, 300 hours of live play is nearly meaningless.
There are a few, very few, local grinders here in Vegas that I consider to be at the top of the local $1-$2 food chain. They also are enjoying the challenge of maximizing the small game. They are coming up with similar numbers. Are all five of us simultaneously on heaters? Is it survivorship bias? Or is it pointing to better play giving consistently better results?
To be clear, these players I am thinking of are absolutely outliers even among the crowd of long term winners. I think that $20 an hour is a much more reasonable goal. It will be difficult but attainable.
Since I quit the engineering job, and moved to Las Vegas, I have had the luxury of studying and playing a ton more. I really embraced the Pain Threshold theory that Soto and Berkey talked about on our forums. From that point in my graph, I see two things happen. My variance is higher, my win rate is higher.
I need to do some analysis on the session lengths, but I suspect that there are a ton of 20 minute sessions where I come in, realize my table is terrible and leave. You should never sit in a bad game in Vegas. I suspect I will find that once I get past that critical short session that I am actually there longer, but the short sessions are shifting the average.
Thanks for the additional information. I hope your win rate continues, it’s inspirational!
Congrats to my teacher. I took four hours of lessons from Doug last May and it really helped my game.
I am amazed that you have done so well at the Mirage. When I stayed and played there I thought that it was a tough 1-2 game. I have done much better at the 1-3 game at the Aria which seems like a looser game and more suited to your lessons. Wherever you are winning I am happy and as a good teacher and a good guy you deserve it. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…David
Congrats on the fantastic results and dedication. You mention walking into a casino and sit down at a table/game and then leave moments later because it’s not good. What attributes are you look at to determine a good table vs a bad table dynamic?
This is table selection:
I have had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as you Doug, multiple times. When that happens, I try to “watch and learn” and treat the session as a learning experience. I can say you “practice what you preach”.
Don’t be shy, introduce yourself. I am heading in to Mirage now!
Maybe I’m crazy but 300 hours of play is kind of nothing in terms of sample size, and so is 5 people who may or may not be honest about their win rate. I don’t understand how you are not playing in at east a 500 buy-in game (who cares what the actual blinds are) – actually I suspect your “good” 1/2 games are all playing deep which makes them a lot more like 100bb capped 2 5 games (think Borgata etc.) – there is no shot anybody is making over 25 grinding 1 2 for 40 hours a week – and 25 is pushing it far already (and I don’t know why anybody would ever even try – if you are capable of making 25 at 1 2 you can get a job that pays way more and is way more interesting).
In note to Patrick, I was first to bring up sample size and saying how this is trivial.
I too am skeptical of most win rates I hear. However, the other I mention have been supporting themselves for many years. You can not hide losses as a single person with no other income. These guys have been doing this gig for years, I trust their records.
I agree there are more interesting jobs. I walked from a six figure cushy engineering job. Playing is not for the money alone, I can make a ton more in other ways. I choose not to right now.
nicely done doug!
if you wouldn’t mind sharing, i would be curious to know what your standard deviation per hour worked out to be.
hope to run into you and say “hi” sometime.
Per hour Standard Deviation $208, per session standard deviation $293
I never really knew what these numbers are good for, and I am an engineer that has taken a ton of crazy math classes.