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Waking up around 3:30 in the afternoon, I realized that today was the day I had been anticipating for a while - it would be the day of my first No-Limit Hold'em ring game. Every Friday at 7:00 PM, Stardust drops a live no-limit Hold'em game with $1 and $2 blinds, and a $50 minimum buy-in. This kind of "low-limit" no-limit Hold'em is exactly what I need to practice my no-limit game, and I was going to make it a point to play in that game.

After stopping by the bank to replenish my wallet, I headed over to Stardust. This had been my first time inside Stardust, one of the "old" Strip casinos. Their cardroom has about nine tables, and they regularly drop $1-$5 Stud and $3-$6 Hold'em. They offer "bad beat" jackpots, dropping $0.50 @ $10 and $1.00 @ $20 for the jackpots. The rake in $3-$6 Hold'em is fairly standard, 5% with a maximum of $3. The really interesting thing about their cardroom is that the betting on any given round is capped after FIVE raises, as opposed to four at The Mirage and Bellagio. With the $3-$6 Hold'em game as loose and aggressive as it was, I saw a couple of big pots capped before the flop, making for some rather impressive pots for $3-$6.

I arrived at Stardust around 5:00 PM, and was the first person on the No-Limit list. I took a seat in the $3-$6 Hold'em game while I was waiting. My imp decided to take the night off, and I ended up $136 ahead after only an hour-and-a-half of play against some very loose players.

During a half-hour dinner break I took before the no-limit game, I ate at a small place inside Stardust called Bono's Chicago Food. Not ever having been to Chicago, and being in the mood just for a quick sandwich I decided to try it out. I ordered an Italian Meat sandwich with Mozzarella cheese, which was excellent, and less than six bucks.

I must say that the no-limit game was far different from anything I had expected, much less played to date. From the get-go it was tight; I mean excruciatingly tight. Not so much as before the Flop as on the Flop; I saw as many as five players fold to a bet of only half the pot on the Flop. I personally was playing overly cautious for the first half-hour, still getting used to the idea of playing no-limit, and deliberately passing up two obvious opportunities to bluff. Once I realized just how weak-tight everyone was playing, I loosened up a little and began to take advantage of it. I had bought in for the $236 I had brought over from the $3-$6 Hold'em game. I was the third largest stack on the table, the largest being about $400. The median stack size was probably around $130.

Amazingly, the game only stayed full for about an hour! We dwindled down to five-handed before my cousin arrived from Excalibur, and he decided to jump in the game for the minimum buy-in of $50. We then lost a couple more players, making the game three-handed.

My cousin's death hand was in the big blind. I was on the button and folded before the flop. The small blind, with a stack of about $200, raised the bet $13 to $15. My cousin looked at his cards, and moved all-in with his $50 or so. The small blind called. My cousin turned over AKo.

Now my cousin, like me, is strictly a limit player. In a limit Hold'em game, re-raising in this context is practically automatic. In no-limit, this was a really bad move. The small blind has dramatically overbet the pot; his raise was more than three times the pot size. In a game as weak-tight as this, with almost no raising before the flop, the probability is far greater that the small blind has a real hand rather than that he is simply trying to steal the large blind. Of course, calling is out of the question; my cousin would be committing almost a third of his stack. I had actually done something similar earlier in the game, folding AKo in the small blind to a mid-position raise that likewise overbet the pot.

As it was, the small blind turned over pocket Kings. My cousin didn't catch his Ace, and was busted out after only about five hands of play.

With my cousin out, it was now heads-up, and the other guy accepted my offer to continue playing. He offered to double the blinds, to $2 and $4, and I accepted. Interestingly, he was just as tight heads-up as he was before; I quickly caught on and was easily able to take the blinds nine out of ten times with a pot-sized raise before the Flop. He only re-raised twice on the Flop twice, rarely called my pre-flop raise, and never limp-re-raised. We rarely saw a Flop, and never saw a showdown. After an hour he complimented my play, said that he doubt that he could beat me, and wanted to retire from the game. I was up $30 from that hour; not bad for my first heads-up no-limit game.

My cousin and I decided to grab some sushi at Sushi King in Stardust. The fish was very good, and the price only slightly more than I'm used to in Phoenix. I forgot to use the $5 comp the cardroom manager had given me, though. :-(

From there, we decided to head out to Bellagio where I played my first session of $8-$16 Hold'em for the trip. I only played for about two hours, and was up $28, when I decided to go back to Excalibur and crash. I don't know why I was so tired after only being up for about twelve hours; part of it was probably the intense concentration I had employed in the no-limit game, and part of it probably from the night before. :-)

Anyway, thus ends Day 3. Days 4 and 5 aren't all that exciting, but I'll write about them tomorrow for the sake of completeness.

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