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The Bellagio Live Poker Stream: A Player's Perspective

  • Dennis SalgueroDennis Salguero
Bellagio Poker Table
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  • I was in the Bellagio poker room when I found out I would be on the inaugural show for POTS.

On the night of April 26, 2017, the Bellagio brought together some of the best poker players for the debut of Bellagio Poker On The Strip, (or POTS), a new live stream poker show.

It's the only live poker stream show directly from the Las Vegas Strip. The majority of the players had highly coveted titles and, literally, multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in poker winnings.

I say "the majority" because I (a lowly amateur!) was also one of the players selected for the debut show. In fact, I managed to be involved in two of the largest hands of the night with some very, very good professionals. So what is it like to play on a live stream against some of the best players in the world? Read on and I'll give you the amateur player's perspective.

Getting on the Show

I love all of the great poker and analysis that is being put out on streams right now, so I was really happy to see the announcement for Bellagio POTS.

Although I really enjoy playing poker, I've only been an avid player for about three years and I have a modest Hendon Mob profile. So I made myself about a +700 dog to get selected to be on the show since I'm a relative nobody in the poker world. Little did I know that a ticket like that would cash!

The Bellagio created an application that prospective players were asked to fill out. It had questions about your poker dreams and past results, it also had a general section to describe yourself. When I've been faced with these types of questions in the past, I have found that being completely honest and open about yourself is the best way to go.

All of us have a unique life story, so why not just openly share yours? In the section to describe myself, I wrote about how I'm not a naturally competitive person, it's just not something that most people associate with my personality. But an exception to that is poker; I want to be good at poker, it bothers me when I lose.

In other words, poker is one of the few things that gets my competitive juices flowing. I'd like to think that this honest assessment is part of the reason I was chosen to be on the show. I can only be myself, so why not talk about myself?

I am fortunate to have good poker friends; we'll call the first one Belieber. Like any good poker player, his nickname can be traced back to a prop bet! Both of us made the commitment to each other to play as much live poker as possible in 2017 and a good number of those hours have been logged at the 2/5 tables at the Bellagio.

Bellagio

So it was only fitting that we were in the Bellagio poker room when I received an email notifying me that I had been selected to be on the inaugural show for POTS! I passed my phone to Belieber so that he could read the email and see why I was suddenly excited. The email was sent to me by Mr. H who is in charge of selecting the players.

I immediately replied and told him my table and seat number and invited him to meet. I'm grateful that he took the time to come over. I asked him a few quick questions and then I was all set. I knew that POTS had multiple dates lined up, and I was available for all of them, but I didn't think I would be selected for the inaugural show!

I was really excited to have locked up a seat. In fact, I was so excited that I had to sit out of my 2/5 game and take a little break. I took the time to walk down to the Bellagio gift shop, burn off some nervous energy and get myself a new poker hat to wear on the show. I wanted to look my best and promote the Bellagio at the same time, so a nice new black hat fit the need.

Go and Tell Everyone

I was notified of my selection the weekend prior to the show date. I really want to see the Bellagio succeed with this show so I promoted it to all my friends and family. I started with my poker text group that shares hands and general poker talk. That group includes both Smoltz and A Player, both of whom were happy for me.

I really want to see the Bellagio succeed with this show so I promoted it to all my friends and family.

Then I started spreading the word to other friends, past clients, current clients, my Twitter feed and anyone else that would listen. Obviously no one wants to play bad on stream and some of my clients didn't know that I took poker so seriously. So I was taking a risk by telling everyone, but I appreciated everyone's support and I think it helps to keep yourself accountable.

Belieber, Smoltz and A Player also quickly mobilized themselves to be available on Wednesday night to watch the stream and maybe key in on some things that I might have missed during play. These guys are some of the best poker minds that I know and their help would be critical. All of us have known each other a while now and we know each other's game. This is why having a poker text group is so important!

It's Showtime

Since this was my first time playing on stream, I wanted to be relaxed for the day of the show. Although I am in Las Vegas, I live nowhere near The Strip and I have clients that I usually see during the day.

So I made arrangements to stop seeing clients at noon that day and I booked a nice room at the Bellagio on a very reasonable poker room rate. This way I could eat lunch, relax and shower before the start of the stream. I could also be completely ready to go without having to deal with rush hour Las Vegas traffic and be on time for the start of the show.

They asked us to be there an hour before the stream started, so having a room on-site made this a lot easier.

Bellagio Room

When I arrived in the poker room, we were informed that it would be a 30-minute delay on the stream and that we would not be able to use any phones or electronics during play; both of these rules were requested by Nevada Gaming. While I was disappointed to not be able to get insight from my text group, I thought it was a great idea for the Bellagio to consult with Gaming on this. POTS is truly a first-of-its-kind event on The Strip and making sure that Gaming approved of it showed me that the Bellagio and MGM were interested in running a first-class show and I was happy to be a part of it.

We quickly met with the stream commentators, signed some paperwork and bought in. Not going to lie, it was slightly intimidating to see some of the pros buy in for huge amounts. To be sure, I came ready with a healthy bankroll, but some of these pros really had a bankroll and had some fairly large chips ready to go.

But I decided to not be swayed by that, just play my own game and keep on relying on the skills that have made me a winning player. I play my best with a 100 BB stack and that's what I bought in for with another 100 BB behind in my chip cup. I was prepared to go further into my pockets if need be, but this was the level I was most comfortable at. When playing with the pros, stay in your lane!

Immediately after the action started, there was talk of bringing a champagne bottle over for a toast to the inaugural stream. I thought this was a fantastic idea and another classy move by the Bellagio. I usually wouldn't drink while playing stakes like this, but it seemed like a fitting way to kick off the start of what will be the most successful live poker stream!

Plus, I have been known to enjoy a good glass of champagne, so I partook of the toast and then we were off to play some poker!

That One Time When I Read Mikey D

I was involved in the biggest pot of the night and it involved the players in Seat 1, 2 and 3 with me in the 1. I opened {5-Spades}{5-Clubs} UTG for $120. This type of open was required because even though the blinds were 2/5/10, many of the pros were playing double straddles and the biggest straddle was at $40.

So even though I was actually in the hijack seat, I was first to act and this open sizing made sense. Mark, a very talented player to my immediate left, in the 2 seat, decided to flat call; this would end up being his only flat call of the night, he was playing much more aggressively otherwise. To his left was Mikey D, in the 3 seat, and he raised to $440.

The action folded around, leaving the three of us in the pot with my action. At that point I knew that Mikey D was very capable of running a squeeze play and I recognized it as such. I had been folding too frequently to three bets in prior hands, so my primary read was that his range was very wide and most pairs would do well against that range.

Perhaps not as low as pocket fives, but I thought I had a pretty good chance to avoid being dominated. He was (correctly) exploiting a weakness in my game and I wanted to fight back. In addition, I think I caught a physical tell on Mikey D. Could it have been a tell or perhaps a reverse? I wasn't 100 percent sure, but I didn't feel too bad about my hand.

Poker Table at the Bellagio

What I didn't like, however, was Mark being in between us. I was willing to take pocket fives heads up against a range that I knew wasn't all pairs. But I wasn't able to effectively put Mark on a range; I can do that now, sitting at home and talking with my friends.

But in the moment I couldn't quickly eliminate most pairs from his range. During my tank, I thought about Mark's hands about twice as long as I thought about Mikey D's hands.

I really couldn't see myself taking pocket fives multi-way and I couldn't create any probabilities that would see Mark fold and go to showdown alone with Mikey D. This was probably my longest tank of the night and I ultimately folded.

I wasn't happy the instant I made the fold and I certainly wasn't happy to see that both of them didn't have any pairs. It was a tough fold to make and I think I might handle this situation differently in the future.

To be clear, I regret making this fold a whole lot more than . . .

That Hand

It's not often that I find myself in action games that include both straddles and the 7-2 game. But it seemed fitting for the POTS game and I decided to play 7-2 during the second part of the show.

I believed that I had created a tight image that would allow me to get this hand through again (I had done it once earlier in the night). I opened {7-Clubs}{2-Spades} from the cut off for $40 and it folded around to Danielle Andersen, a very talented player that I had previously seen on other streams.

She raised to $130 with action heads up at this point. I know that Danielle is talented enough to defend any number of hands from the big blind; her range is fairly wide here for what was just another $30 for her to call. I felt like there were enough non-pairs in her range where I could at least have 30 percent equity with my hand in the best case scenario.

At this point I tried to play off my image. My three-bet fold range was basically 100 percent, so I felt like I was representing a big hand here by just staying in it. Both calling and shoving were also viable options but I decided to four-bet to $340. Given the chance at this hand again, I might have chosen to shove. Danielle replied by going all in, putting me in the tank.

This is the only part of the night where I felt that my plan for 100 BB buy-ins had a flaw.

This is the only part of the night where I felt that my plan for 100 BB buy-ins had a flaw. My stack size basically gave me no fold equity and my remaining stack, around $650, made it feel like it was a mistake to fold. Had I been sitting with a larger stack, I might have been able to bet this hand differently and maybe found my way to a fold.

Obviously, I took the added $350 into account from the 7-2 game and tried to incorporate that into my rationale. So I was facing a call of $650 into about $1050 (with the $350 added) and I felt relatively confident that I had a chance at 30 percent equity against Danielle's range; I just needed her to not have a pair and I felt good about my chances.

So I was getting about 1.6-1 when I needed about 2.3-1 to make the call an even-money proposition. I knew that I was getting the worst of it but, what the heck, it's fun for the stream and I could make a whole table of pros sweat their $50! I made the call and was pleasantly surprised when Danielle turned over her {a-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}, giving me the 30 percent equity I was hoping for.

If you had told me at the beginning of the night that I would play a massive pot with 7-2, I would have called you crazy. It wasn't what I had envisioned for the stream, but it sure was fun in the moment and it made the highlight reel for POTS. Am I making this play again in the future? Probably not. I'd consider a different stack size, maybe a bigger open and a four-bet shove. Or maybe stay out of 7-2 games all together!

The Aftermath

Immediately after the stream I walked up to my room and I was able to consult with Belieber, Smoltz and A Player. We went over the stream experience and some of the hands that I had played. I wasn't able to see the stream yet, so they had to clue me in on some of the spots I played and what the other players had.

The general consensus was that, with the 7-2 hand aside, I made the folds that needed to be made. I was generally happy with my play because it was a tough lineup and I held my own against some of the best players in the world.

For some of my poker guys in different time zones, the stream ended pretty late for them and the call afterward took at least another 40 minutes. I'm grateful to have help from these guys.

I was generally happy with my play because it was a tough lineup and I held my own against some of the best players in the world.

I ended my stay at the Bellagio the next day with a comped breakfast buffet - the Bellagio remains as one of the best buffets in Las Vegas - and then it was time to return to the real world. I left the Bellagio to see my first client of the day.

In the days following the stream, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of both my current and past clients had watched me on the show. Some of them don't really follow poker and may not have fully understood each hand, but they were happy to see someone they knew on the stream.

Many of them asked me general questions about poker and my experience on the show. They were sucked in by the whole experience and I was grateful for their support. I received congratulations from many folks via email and my social media accounts. In another unexpected but pleasant development, my followers on Twitter showed a pretty nice increase the night of the stream and in the days after.

Even though I posted a loss on the stream, it was great to see all the support behind me and it allowed me to share my passion for poker with friends who might not have otherwise had an interest in the game.

Here's what I have learned and would share with people that are applying to be on any of the stream programs out there, but particularly Bellagio POTS:

  • I had more than 180 hours of live poker logged in 2017 alone when I was on the show. I had about another 100 hours of online play in 2017. Be confident in your game, but put in the hours; there is no substitute for simply playing a lot of hours.
  • Just be open and honest in your application. Tell the show producers about yourself and your experience. Don't try to be someone you're not just to get on the show.
  • Stay in your lane! Choose a buy-in level that you're comfortable with and that is going to let you play your best game.
  • Surround yourself with good poker friends to talk hands with and see things from a different perspective.
  • Tell everyone you know about your show date. It adds to the fun and makes you more accountable to play your best.
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience! I certainly did! You never know if you'll have the opportunity to be on stream again, so take it all in and make the most of it.
  • Don't play the 7-2 game!

Dennis Salguero lives in Las Vegas and works as a data scientist. He publishes poker and data science articles on his company site, BuriedInfo.com, and he can be reached on Twitter @buriedinfo.

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