Who are you?

Playing poker at a resort destination gives you the opportunity to use your powers of observation. From the moment you walk into the room you should be observing the players and trying to figure out who you will be playing with. Chances are you will be sitting down at a table with eight total strangers.

The first thing I try to do when I sit down in a game in Reno or Las Vegas, is to figure out who are the locals and who are the tourists. The locals are there to take money from the tourists and are generally better players. The most cursory observation should allow you to easily distinguish two types of players. If all else fails, just talk to them. The tourist will usually tell you where they are from, the local will be grumpy and not say much at all.

Once you have crudely sorted the players sorted categories, begin to evaluate the level of play. Las Vegas is full of struggling professional poker players that are slowly going broke and refuse to admit they are not good enough to make it. These players are just good enough to be able to be bluffed. The truly great professionals players in Las Vegas are rarely found playing in out of the way places and small limit games. Tourists of every level of ability show up in Las Vegas every weekend. I make an effort to find out what brings them to Las Vegas, those that come to play poker are generally a little bit better than those that come for other reasons. Once again the local hero that comes to challenge himself is usually hanging around the Bellagio and not some out of the way place.

I make enough trips to play poker that I begin to see many of the same players sitting in their regular games. I have those players and their habits already filed away in memory and now I concentrate on the remaining players – the Unknown Factor. A few minutes into the game you should have a pretty good idea who everyone at the table is and how they play. If you are unsure on a player or two, then it is time to get to work and figure it out. Simply ask them about something to get the conversation started. Where are you from? What brings you to Las Vegas? These are simple questions. Do you live here? Are you from here? How long have you lived here? Just throw it out there and seem sincere and most players will tell you.

A trick I will often use is to buy a round of drinks, free drinks in Reno or Las Vegas, but a round of drinks none the less. Be aware of who takes a drink and who does not. Those abstaining from alcohol tend to be more serious players than those drinking. These are the very basics of identifying who you are playing against.

Identify the soft spots and be willing to play more hands against the weaker players. Once you know who the better players are, you can bluff them and be warned that when they are willing to go to war with you they have a decent hand.

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