What’s the Best Night of the Year to Play Poker?
St. Patricks Day and March Madness weekend combine to create the perfect storm for skilled low- to mid-stakes poker players. It’s become the best calendar date of the year to play poker in Las Vegas.
I was astounded by all the craziness last night. Call it March Poker Madness.
Las Vegas poker rooms were packed. Every seat was taken. Waiting lists were long. More drinking and talking went on than usual. Almost no headphones were seen. Players looked to be having fun. The pots seemed bigger. Many games were great.
I got my ass kicked.
No, not really. Let’s just say it was a good night.
This was my overall impression after playing at four different cardrooms over an 11-hour stretch on a long Saturday night-early Sunday morning, which just so happened to overlap into a perfect storm of citywide poker action. My conclusion is this:
St. Patrick’s Day and the opening weekend of March Madness appear to create the best calendar date of the year to play poker, at least here in Las Vegas.
Surprisingly, I never realized this phenomenon before. Las Vegas has been my home for 16 years. One would think I’d have discovered this already. But I don’t recall going out to play poker during this specific weekend. In the past, for more than a decade I traveled frequently with the World Series of Poker Circuit, which meant I was off working, someplace else. If I was in Las Vegas during mid-March, it’s most likely that I avoided what amounts to “amateur night” for partiers and drinkers. Don’t misunderstand. I love drinking. But I don’t like drinking with drunken amateurs. Besides, the service sucks everywhere. It’s way too crowded.
Now, I realize the objective isn’t drinking with drunken amateurs. It’s to play poker with them.
Aside from the financial upside, the games last night reminded me of the way poker used to be. Players cracking jokes and laughing. Everyone talking about the ball game on TV. Gamblers discussing the next day’s pointspreads, while ordering another Miller Lite. You know, having fun.
If this all sounds manipulative, even exploitive, well — it is. In a game with tougher players and diminishing edges, every conceivable advantage must be hunted. That’s assuming you play for money. The formula for increasing one’s chance of winning is simple: You have to go where games are good and play at the ideal time. Oh, and you must play well.
Saturday nights are almost always the best nights of the year to play poker. This is true just about anywhere, especially in Las Vegas. Friday nights can be pretty good, too. However, on Friday nights many less-skilled players realize there’s still a long weekend ahead of them. They tend to remain in control of themselves and make table decisions that aren’t catastrophic. Not yet, anyway.
By Saturday night, the emotional bolts of self-constraint have rusted away and are about to snap. At least a few dozen beers into the weekend with a pocket full of losing sports tickets, the poker table becomes the last chance to get even. Sometimes maxed out on ATM visits and down to their last hundred, players will simply give up out of frustration. I saw this happen last night when an out-of-town visitor on a bad run got fed up with playing normally. He decided to blind shove his last $120. He lost.
Those kinds of bizarre situations happen a lot on Saturday nights, especially in the “touristy” poker rooms on The Strip filled with frat boys. But that’s merely the foundation for more craziness.
Combine Saturday night with the opening weekend of March Madness, which is four exhaustive days and nights of betting and watching television and cheering, then subtract the hours of much-needed rest, and low-to mid-stakes poker games all over town become even wilder. Then, to top things off, add in the party factor — St. Patrick’s Day. This is one of the most popular days of the year for casual alcohol consumption, perhaps second only to New Year’s Eve. All the scrumptious ingredients are in place:
Las Vegas + Saturday Night + March Madness + St. Patrick’s Day = Great poker games.
Admittedly, this was just one night. Perhaps, my experience was atypical. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Let’s open this up to other opinions.
Eager to know if my personal experience and hypothesis about St. Patrick’s Day/March Madness is shared by other poker players, I posted a poll on Twitter. Although the results are unscientific, these percentages show that a majority of poker players believe this is/was the best night (and weekend) of the year to play poker in Las Vegas.
Here are the results, so far (Note: It’s now 12 hours into the 24-hour poll — so the results are incomplete). The results do appear to be conclusive:
I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow night — or the next, or the next. But I sure do know what I’ll be doing next March 16, 2019. I’ll definitely be playing poker.