24 days in Vegas for 60 years of life


Well, my 24 day moveable feast of a party to celebrate my 60th year alive was a huge success. From Dec 4 until Dec 28 I met and partied with assorted friends and relatives. The youngest was my great-great-nephew George (3 years old). The oldest was the 89 year old mother of an old high school/college friend who kept up the Vegas pace just fine.

25 friends and relatives joined me over the month and I met 8 people from bulletin boards. As well as having many people to entertain, I was very tired all month. I could not get my sleeping to arrange itself around other people. I was awake at 4 or 5 every morning and it was hard to grab a nap many days. I suppose some of it was being too excited. Then again I found the pattern exhausting. A few people would come in town all pumped up and ready to go and I would try to keep up. When they left after a few days, another group would come in pumped up. I did not want to miss anything. But it did take a toll on this old body and brain.

Somehow my play has turned a good corner. I won session after session, usually playing limit $3-$6 or $2-$4, but at the Stratosphere I took $300 off a no limit table over a few hours of play, and I took another $100 at Caesars no limit. The no limit just makes me a bit nervous because I am usually tired and drinking. One mistake and there goes the whole bankroll.

I was almost two weeks playing before I lost money in a single session. It felt very good. I also saw that I got a lot of respect at the tables. I know in past trips I have been the fish at the El Cortez. This time I was skilled enough to feel people worried about me and what I might be doing.

At the Gold Coast $22 daily tournament I came in third one day for $144. That was great fun. I was short chipped in the beginning. Then I had a table change and I caught great cards four hands in a row. I made money too because most people there had not played with me very long and thought I was loose by the third hand, so they stayed with me. At the final table with five players left and not much chance for first place, I let them fight it out so I would be in some of the money. Lots of poker there for $22. The first hour is limit and then they go no limit. I think people can join as long as it is limit, or at least they can replace players who lose during the limit session.

In one tournament there that I did not win, I actually came back to have enough to play with after an all-in loss left me with just two chips. People were laughing and teasing me about “a chip and a chair” but luck gave me back a good stack. I’d have won a hand with Q-2 off suit too if a woman had not called three all-in bets with a pair of sixes and caught a set on the flop. I caught 2 pair and would have beat the others had she not called.

In the game in which I placed third, I fooled one fellow who I noticed liked to take advantage whenever he detected weakness. I caught an ace high flush on the river, and made a face when the river card showed, so he took me for nothing much and went all-in with his trips. It is fun to go into a little act once in a while. I can’t do that at home because they all know me too well and as they fold they tell me how full of s**** I am.

My favorite game is that $1-$3 (1-6 on river) spread limit game at the El Cortez. No jackpot rakes. They cap a single rake at $2.50 and tipping a quarter or fifty cents on small pots is not considered insulting. There is a single, one dollar blind. So you can drink and listen to the banter and wait as long as you want for cards. Compared to the Orleans, where a half kill rule creates three blinds in a good portion of the hands, this game is a tight player’s dream.

The only other game with such a low blind was the old Excalibur 1-3 game that is now gone. And that one did not have the nice big bet on the river, ripe for check raise.

The savings in rake and tip over hours of play really adds up. And what a colorful experience that place is! Jackie Gaughn comes down to play in the afternoon. He is dressed to the nines and calling his famous, “One for the money!” Every once in a while he will wink humorously. It is old Vegas sitting right next to us.
One evening I had a loose, drunken kid to my right and “loose Mike” to his right. They were betting into one another and into me and I was catching cards that just would not stop. Low pairs of 5’s 6’s 7’s 8’s and 9’s all developed into winning sets or full houses. I took $250 off that table, and the kid got so mad and so verbally abusive to me for winning, that they called security and had him thrown out. I had quietly taken all his verbal abuse (along with most of his money) so that after he left, I had both a huge stack of chips and the sympathy of the entire table. That is one hard combination.

I got a little drunk one night on red wine there myself and talked a long while to “Jelly” a sweet Jamaican girl who watched but rarely played. When I get drunk, I tighten up and play just the best cards or flops. I kept winning even while drunk. Nine contestants in a Thai beauty contest were at the bar and the winner came over to say hello to her ex-husband playing across from me. This destroyed his ability to play well for the rest of the night.
That night there was a fist fight. I helped calm one fellow and the floor person helped calm the other until security came. They through one fellow out and I thought it was the wrong guy. But the other player’s thought more about poker than justice. The guy left was a classic fish. “We like having guys like him,” one local explained to me. I heard the next day that this fish had dropped $500. Too bad I needed sleep.

That poker table captures some of the most interesting characters and a mix of some of the worst and some of the best players I have ever seen. My most memorable hand was at a table of very good players in the morning. The flop gave me trip nines as well as three to a straight for my opponents. The First to act, bet. I was fourth. I figured I needed to fold or raise. I did not believe the first actor would bet out if he had flopped the straight, so I raised to push out other straight draws. An old local fellow after me, who had seen me play super tight for two hours, threw in his flopped set of tens. There was no straight, and I won the pot. The old fellow was flabbergasted. He still could not figure that raise. I was happy. I knew for the remainder of the afternoon he would be calling all my raises.

Fine news for me was to find that the weekend before I arrived the El Cortez poker room went “no smoking.” That made the experience much more fun and less risky. Smokers need to go about ten feet away from the table into the casino. That is enough; it makes the atmosphere so much more pleasant.

We also played at the Nugget. I like to play a few hours in the late evening and then get a nice comp after midnight for the next day. That is a great buffet. You can take the comp and go to bed, then go over the next day for lunch and not need to eat again that day. And it works as a line pass. That Nugget buffet can have a 40 minute wait. They used to be tight with those comps and strict about the time. There was a good looking brush who just would not give you an inch. If you forgot to sign in, oh well....no comp for you. But now it is friendly. Once they even changed the date on a comp I had not used. I don’t think they attract as many players there as they did when the room was out in the middle of the casino.

They were efficient, easy for table moves, responsive to requests, and very friendly. Once old “loose Mike” from the El Cortez came in to play $3-$6 at the Nugget. He sat down directly to the right of me and I knew what I was in for. He did not remember me from the night I took the $250 at the El Cortez, but I remembered him, and if I could have caught cards, I’d have cleaned his clock. Others there did discourage him after about an hour. They were good players and they did not loosen up as I have seen in some cases when a wild bettor joins the table. They gave him plenty of little pots and then killed him when they had cards.

There too I later saw a fellow who had played well for over two hours go completely on tilt and start betting anything and everything. I took one pot from him, but the rest of the table just cleaned him out. Discipline is everything. That night I had been playing on a $2-$4 table, but everyone was mindlessly in every pot and so I moved to where some real poker was being played.

I flopped a straight flush A-5 of spades at the Orleans and got a poker room shirt. Somebody stayed with me to the river too even though I had the A-5 in my hand. I don’t know what they had.

Someone also stayed with me to the river when I had pocket aces and caught four aces at Excalibur and spun the wheel for a mere $20. That night four or five of my grown kids were all wearing this birthday shirt they had made for me with my picture on the front of it, so at each table the dealer’s were looking at my face. They all wished me Happy Birthday and then it was great to hear tables cheer for my spin.

I finally played at the Venetian, but all the good comps I had heard so much about were gone. Just the standard $1 an hour and no free bad beat award. I did not care much for the place. Everyone said that it is the best run, but I found the floor persons a bit confused and slow to notice free seats. I liked Caesars best. Their 3-6 limit with no high hand rakes or kill pot was my favorite, but I heard that they are switching to the high hand rake too. I am going to keep looking for $3 - $6 games with no kills and no bad beat rakes. I did well too at MGM $3 - $6 game. I like when I catch a fairly conservative game where most of the players play their cards in predictable manners with few raises or reraises before the flop. I can put them on hands with some success and if I catch cards, rack up some money.

I think those are my favorites after the El Cortez.

I lost most of my sessions at the Orleans no matter what I played. I thought it was just bad cards. One session I lost in a short time with pockets jacks, queens, kings, and aces and a couple of those looked good for a while, so they cost me money. In retrospect, I think there is something working there that does not give me success. Maybe the players are just a bit better. Or maybe that damned half kill stuff just loosens the game too much for me. I know I don’t like it when I manage to take two in a row and then have to be this stupid big big blind. It might be fine for loose players, but I am not likely to be in three pots in a row. I’d rather keep my $3 profit for a hand that I want to bet.

But sometimes there I found bad players. One was a young kid with a tatoo and sunglasses who agonized over his 2-4 bet like it was a no limit. He was a very loose and bad player. He would pay you on the river even when he had nothing. Once after a long, tight session, I raised on the button in order to buy a free card. It worked, but my hand did not develop. He clearly had something to bet on the turn, but he waited for me and when I check he was so annoyed. He was one of the easiest players to read I ever played with.

My buddy best liked the $4-$8 game at Texas Station. He said there was no kill and no crazy players outdrawing good cards with nothing, just pretty regular and predictable players.

Of course, I know that no poker room has predictable players. They change from time to time. But both my buddy and I are getting to the point in our game where we want to avoid a table with too many people just in for the hell of it, the “it’s only money” crowd who never take any note of how you play and they seem more prevalent in high tourist areas and in the lower stakes games.

Finally, I was often in games of 5 or 6 and asked for rake reduction. Rarely was I told no. At Caesar’s I played an hour with no rake whatsoever. I like a five person game because I am used to that at home. I can play more hands and be more aggressive and those conditioned to the 10 person games will still be folding. I especially like a 5 person game if all five have been playing with me for a few hours and view me as tight.

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