My saintly wife again agrees to watch our kids by herself while I take a 3 day trip to Vegas to scratch my poker itch. Based on discussions on this site about the games during the WSOP, I was glad to be going during the tournament, although I didn’t intend on playing any WSOP or Deepstack tourneys.
I take Southwest direct from Kansas City…. Always like Southwest airlines, and land about 10 minutes early. Nice. I find that Vegas is running 10-15 degrees below average. Nice. Cabbie from the airport doesn’t try to screw me by taking me on Mr. Toad’s wild ride through Vegas….. Priceless.
I checked in to the Trump International and was able to get a strip-view room away from the train tracks, which I’d heard could be noisy (though they never woke me up). I booked the Trump through Priceline, knowing that if I got my offer accepted in the “north strip” area I’d probably get Trump, but could get Venetian, Wynn, or Palazzo. I ended up paying a little more than I’d have paid at Harrahs, and the Trump is a LOT nicer. Briefly, I’d highly recommend the Trump, particularly if you have a wife, husband or partner who is not into the casino scene (Trump has no casino), who wants to go to a non-party atmosphere but really nice adult-oriented pool, wants to be somewhere with a good spa, and who might want to spend some time at the Fashion Show mall (directly across the street from the Trump). The location is not ideal for poker players, but it’s a 4 min. walk to the Wynn (I timed it), and 10-12 min. to TI. The rooms are really nicely appointed, with big jetted tubs and separate showers, sitting areas, kitchenettes, fridge and coffee maker. And for me, the nicest feature was that the place was super-quiet.
Anyway, on to the poker. I head over to the TI to play a little 1/3NL and get on a table pretty quickly. I like the vibe in that room a lot. Its small, but I find the staff really friendly and genuinely helpful rather than fake and obsequious. I only remember one hand of note. I limp in middle position with 10 9 suited for $3, and the flop come 10, 9, x rainbow. Big blind makes it $15 to go. I bump it to $50, and a guy after me calls. The big blind thinks for about 10 seconds, then goes all-in for his remaining $120 or so. I’m not feeling good about it, particularly given that the guy after me will still need to play, but I think I’m probably ahead at this point, so I make the call (and guy after me folds, phew). Big Blind shows AA but doesn’t improve to set or two pair, and I take down the pot. Reason #37469 for raising with your aces pre-flop rather than trying to get cute. I buy-in to the 7pm tourney and head over to the deli for a quick Reuben beforehand. Tourney is small… only about 15 runners. Early on, I raise from the BB with AK and get one caller. The flop comes A 3 3, and I put in a pretty good sized bet—get called. O.k., so I’m thinking the guy has an A too. Turn comes another A. I put a big bet in and the guy calls that one too. River is a blank and I get the rest of my money in, fully expecting a chop, but not wanting to fool around just in case they guy has a 3 or thinks I’m bluffing. Guy calls, I show my hand, and he mucks and is gone—everybody is dumbstruck, and I double up. However, my lead is short lived when I flop a set of 7s only to loose to a flopped set of Qs--- what’s a guy to do? That puts me at slightly less than starting chips, and I go card dead until my JJ runs into AK—turn is an A—I’m off! +$100 for my time at TI.
I head over to the IP, planning a playing a few hours. When I sit, the guy to my immediate left says that I’m lucky, because the 2 really aggressive players at the table have just left. However, over the next 2 hours or so, I have a hard time imagining how aggressive THOSE players must have been given how aggressive some of the remaining players are. One player in particular is sitting on a disorderly monster stack of around $1400 (again, 1/2nl) and is really doing a lot of bullying. I don’t get involved in many hands, choosing to bide my time. Finally I catch AsJc on the button, and call the aggressive player’s $20 raise pre-flop. Flop comes 8 9 J all spades, and aggressive guy checks. I bet something like $30, and aggressive guy check-raises to $75 or so. I shove my remaining $130 or so, he calls. He had 9 10, neither of us improve, and I double up. I think that was the only hand I won in that 2-3 hours, but I left up $75. Head back to Trump for some sleep.
In the morning I get up early and head down to Planet Hollywood for their 10am tourney. I’d never played there before, so I thought this would be a good opportunity. I buy in to the $60 tourney and never really get anything going. I end up pushing my 10 10 in early position, and get called by AA…. Good-bye! I head down to the MGM and sit pretty quickly at a 1/2NL table. The players are generally good, with a revolving stream of not-so-good players, and I go up and down between $150-250 for most of the time, and slowly wear-away my $200 buy in over about 5 hours. No hands of note
I walk back up the strip and eat at the Burger Brasserie which is in the hallway connecting Paris and Bally’s excellent burger with bleu cheese and avocado and a spinach salad (sounds healthy, but it has lots of bacon and bacon dressing--- like I always say, you can wrap a rabbit turd in bacon and it will still taste great). Take the short walk over to Bally’s and get on a table pretty quickly. Favorite hand of the trip: in the small blind I have 2 3 offsuit and pay $1 after about 7 people limp in. Flop comes 2 3 7 with two clubs. I bet out $15 (pot-sized) hoping to take it down there. Get about 5 callers! Turn is something like a 10, and doesn’t put a flush on the board. I bet $20 and again, get 4-5 callers….. hmmmm. River is a 2 (giving me 2s full of 3s). I bet out $50…. Fold, fold, fold, fold. Nice pot for very little risk…. Kind of hand you gotta love!
I head over to TI again for some late-night early morning action. I hit quite a few nice little hands and make some good calls, and end up about $150. Sometime around midnight Minton sits at my table and we never really get involved in any hands together. I introduce myself on the way out and we have a brief chat—nice guy—and call it a night.
Next morning I head back to Ballys at 9am to check out the action during their aces cracked promotion ($200 paid for aces cracked between 9-12). Some crazy hands on the table, although I don’t really catch any cards and stay largely out of the action. One funny thing happens, though. The guy right next to me gets his aces cracked, and then again on the very next hand! His 150 stack becomes about $400 pretty quick. Same guy gets his aces cracked a THIRD time about ½ hour later. I leave down about $120.
I decide to head down to the Excalibur to check out the PokerTek tables myself. They’re pretty easy to learn to use, but I gotta say, I just really didn’t like them—just didn’t like the feel and the ergonomics of the whole thing. In addition, the space allocated for the poker “room” is just kind of depressing—bad space within a fairly dingy casino—I won’t be back, not my cup of tea. I get called down on a couple bluffs and lose a pretty big hand when my top and bottom pair runs into top two—leave down $200.
I head down to Mandalay Bay—again, another room I’ve never played at (and never been to the casino) and I wanted to try it out. I had to wait about 20 minutes to get a seat. I played a couple of good hands (QQ and JJ) pretty aggressively and read my opponents’ well, and got up $200 after about an hour. A guy named Victor, Russian accent and seems to be a regular, sits at the table to my right then moves to my left when he gets a chance. About ½ hour after he moves there, I limp in the small blind with 66 to a handful of callers and Victor in the BB. Flop comes 4 6 8 with two clubs. I bet something like $20 and Victor calls (others fold). Turn comes another club (maybe a Q?) and I’m obviously wary of the flush draw, but I bet out something like $25 and Victor calls. River is another 8, and I fill up the boat—bet $50…. He calls somewhat reluctantly. The funniest part, however, was his bellyaching. Sounding JUST like the John Malkovich character from me he says something like ‘oh god, I can’t beat you. I flop straight and you beat me’ (pronounce beat as bee-et), not really talking to me, but more to himself. A couple players leave, and the game becomes really passive and boring, so I decide to leave, up about $400.
Walk back up the strip to Bally’s (yes, it’s a long walk, but I view walking in Vegas as a good way to get some exercise, clear my head between sessions, evaluate my hunger level—which I can’t do well at the table—and generally reset). I sit at a table with some generally solid players, but a few who are a little too aggressive. I have fun talking to a nice Hungarian guy who was in Vegas with a bunch of his buddies to play poker for a couple weeks. I catch a couple of nice hands—my AhKs hits a flop of K-x x all hearts, and I take down a nice pot. I flop a set of 5s and take down a good pot. Finally, after a big pre-flop raise to $45 by an aggressive player, which is called by myself and 3 others (I have AQh on button) the flop comes out Q –x –x with two clubs. Aggressive pre-flop raiser checks, next guy bets $50, 3rd guy folds, and I raise to $100. Pre-flop raiser folds and original bettor thinks for about 20 seconds then goes all in (additional $150 to me). My read on this guy was that HE was pretty aggressive, but that the other aggressive guy had put him on tilt a little. I put him on AQ like me, or perhaps a flush draw, or KK, but I also think he could have KQ or even QJ, so I call. Turns out he had KQ and misses his K, and I scoop a nice pot.
All-in-all, I end up playing about 30 hours of poker in about 2 ½ days, and post a win of about $300 for the trip. Cards run good but not great, although people suck out on me very few times (a big difference from the LAST time I was in Vegas!!). I decide not to check out the WSOP at the Rio, because I’m not crazy about mob-scenes…. Maybe next time.
Some observations about Vegas:
1.) Nothing says “moron” louder than walking up and down the strip drinking from a hollow plastic guitar. The hollow plastic Eiffel Tower is close, but not as bad.
2.) The speed at which people walk on the strip is inversely proportional to the size of people in their group. Ten or more people constitute a nearly impenetrable wall of obliviousness. People who walk by themselves view the mass of bodies similar to the way NASCAR racers eye other cars on a racetrack—always looking for opportunities to pass and gaps between bodies.
3.) When walking up and down the strip, escalators and moving sidewalks will always be out of order in the direction in which you are going.
4.) Girls who are nicely dressed and made up and in heels who are walking on the strip at 9am probably did not wake up early to go out for a nice brunch.
5.) Does the management of the Venetian think that the chalky green color of the water in their canals is appealing? It reminds me of kaopectate.