Friday 10th April.
So for the second time in as many months (the previous one was to attend my friend’s bachelor party), I found myself taking the 10-hour flight from London to Vegas. I had paid the upgrade for premium economy (which is upstairs on a Virgin Atlantic 747), but as I went into the departure lounge I was told “I’m terribly sorry, sir, we’ve had to give you a different seat”. Would it be in regular economy? Would they have upgraded me to first? Not quite, but it was a premium economy exit aisle seat with unlimited legroom, which I must say made the flight very easy indeed.
The 10 hours quite literally few by and landed at McCarran around 2pm local time (terminal 2, of course, which for those who don’t know is absolutely tiny compared to the main airport). I was one of the first off the aircraft, straight through immigration, and my bag was already on the carousel. Hopped in a taxi, and in less than half an hour after landing I was in my hotel room in the Excalibur.
As I was there for a week, I took my time getting settled in, heading out around 5pm for my first evening of poker at the Monte Carlo, a short walk away. Got immediate seating on a 2/4 limit table, and within 5 minutes had a Corona in hand. My style is PTG (‘play to drink’): for me, missing the cocktail waitress is like folding pocket aces – you don’t want to do it until you’re sure you’re beat.
The MC has introduced a small blind since my last visit (used to be single BB only) which obviously eats a little in to my drinking strategy, but hey I guess you get to play a few more hands. About 45 minutes into the session I hit pocket 9’s, and the flop came down J99. Nicely slow-played the hand, and got a good pot plus $60 high-hand jackpot. Unfortunately it was pretty much the last hand I won that evening. Had a pleasant time nonetheless, sampled a variety of beers (for cultural reasons, you’ll understand), and left around 9.30pm (which for me was 5.30am) and headed for bed. And I still had $95 of my original $100 buy-in.
Day 1: 4 hours / $5 loss
Total: 4 hours / $5 loss
Sat 11th April.
Woke around 7.00am, not feeling too tired. Went downstairs to the casino floor and registered for the 9am $20 buy-in tournament on the electronic tables. I have written a full review of the electronic tables in the AVP Excalibur room forum, but to summarise, I think they make some sense for tournaments, most people who try them find it a better experience than they thought it would be, and even if I didn’t like them I would be attracted by a $20 buy-in tournament.
Now the 9am tournaments get around 50 entrants, with the top 5 - 6 places paying. I am not usually one who would order an alcoholic drink before lunchtime, but enough people in the tournament didn’t seem to see anything wrong with it, my body didn’t really know what time it was anyway, and hey I was on vacation! So what harm could a little Budweiser do? Anyway, made a little progress in the tournament, making it past the first break at 1 hour, but lost a big hand towards the end of the second hour, making it to the final table with barely enough chips to cover the ante’s, never mind the blinds. With third Budweiser in hand I doubled up once and then busted out in 8th place, a little out of the money.
I spent the rest of the day realising why it is not a good idea to have beer in place of breakfast, vacation or no vacation!
I took it easy during the rest of the day (nursing a slight headache), eventually venturing out around 7pm. I took a leisurely stroll up the strip, ending up at the TI poker room (a walk of around an hour). Got immediate seating on a 2/4 limit table, drinks came almost straight away, and I proceeded to see if I could get aces cracked to try out the new wheel. I couldn’t, but a lady at the table did but unfortunately folded them when she thought she was beat, not realising about the promotion! She was a little annoyed that no-one had told her about it, but got her revenge when she got AA twice more over the next hour – winning a sizeable pot with one and spinning the wheel for $25 for the other. Left the room just before midnight 24 dollars down and walked back slowly along the east side of the strip. Vegas was as busy as ever on a Saturday night, and I looked in a few rooms along the way: O’Shea’s was full (1-2NL and 1-5 spread), Flamingo had 9 tables in play (5 x 2/4 limit and 4 x 1-2NL) and MGM had 20 tables (you name it, they had it!). Called in the Manchu Wok in the foodcourt, and headed for bed.
Day 2: 6 hours / $44 loss
Total: 10 hours / $49 loss
Sun 12th April
Woke around 7am, feeling much better than the previous day, and headed downstairs for the 9am $20. This time I had learnt my lesson, ordering several black coffees rather than the budweisers of the previous morning. Kind of up and down in the tournament, finally busting out after an hour and a half.
Messed around during the day, then headed out to the Monte Carlo at 8pm for some more 2/4 limit action. Now once in a while you hit one of those fun, fun tables, where everyone is there for some serious laughs. I think the Canadian couple started it, closely followed by Denver guy and his girlfriend. English couple (especially Mrs English) weren’t exactly holding back either. I was clearly out of my depth and led astray. I don’t want to go in to too many details but needless to say tequila shots were involved, and we should not dwell on who was kissing who, and what was legal in which of the 50 states. I was down over a hundred but didn’t care. At some point someone suggested celebrating each big win with a victory dance which earned tips from the other players. Sure enough, when it came to my turn I put in an elaborate exotic dance, making careful use of the pillar at the front of the room as a pole. $5 tips!!! I may not have the usual build or gender for this, but it was sure easier than poker. Anyway with that my luck changed, and I staggered out after a 7 hour session at 3am only 39 dollars down – I’d probably tipped the dealers and waitresses way more than that over the evening.
Day 3: 8.5 hours / $59 loss
Total: 18.5 hours / $108 loss
Mon 13th April
Woke around 7.30am, having not quite got to the hung over stage (i.e. still drunk). But didn’t want to miss the 9am $20 at the Excalibur, so headed down, signed up and ordered a black coffee. I was all but felted after around 10 minutes when I overplayed pocket 9’s – three low cards had come on the flop but unfortunately a limper before the flop was holding KK. Doubled up a couple of times afterwards but was already crippled, and busted out around the hour mark. I was absolutely shot.
I noticed that the Excalibur had opened up a list for 1-3 spread (a blast from the past) but there were no names on it. Went back up to my room and came down again 2pm to check out the spread game again, but it had never materialised, so I went back up to bed. Slept 15 hours straight, waking up on Tuesday morning.
Day 4: 1 hour / $20 loss
Total: 19.5 hours / $128 loss
Tue 14th April
Woke fresh as a daisy, and went downstairs for the 9am. Drank hot chocolate, hit some good cards, and got to the final table with a moderately decent chip stack. Once I was in the money (5th place) I celebrated with a beer (it was nearly midday after all). Met AlaskaGal for the first time, and busted her out of the tournament when my 88 beat her 77 (she had her revenge however on Friday). I proceeded to hit unbelievable cards knocking out the other players one-by-one – my first ever Vegas tournament win!!! 1st place $458.
In the evening I headed out for a quiet session at the Monte Carlo, playing 3 hours 2/4 limit and finishing 15 dollars down.
Day 5: 6 hours / $423 profit
Total: 25.5 hours / $295 profit
Wed 15th April
Entered the 9am again, and kept to the hot chocolate. Didn’t particularly have much to go on, but played some well-timed moves and ended up on the final table for the third time in the week, and I had enough of a stack to play with. Played a sensible game and ended up finishing 3rd for $123. In a strange way I found this more satisfying than the previous morning – I felt that the previous day I had been getting unbelievable cards and excellent luck, whereas today my cards had been pretty average.
Bought a 24-hour monorail ticket (for $13, ouch!) and used it to check out a few rooms along the strip, then back to the hotel to rest up for the afternoon. Headed out again at 7pm towards the TI poker room. By the time I had walked to the monorail station at the back of MGM Grand, taken the monorail to Harrah’s, and then walked by across to the TI, it had taken a total of 50 minutes – only 10 minutes quicker than my leisurely walk on Saturday!!! Anyway, the TI did not have a 2/4 game in play so I hung around about half an hour but nothing developed. I walked back down to the Flamingo, where I knew I would be able to get a game.
Now I have walked past the Flamingo poker room many times before, but have never actually played it. I am impressed about how you can pretty well guarantee a 2/4 limit table at any time of the day or night (that night there were 3 playing), but I’ve always been unsure as I know I will lower the average age of the table by 10 years! Waited around 20 minutes for a seat, and I was in business. My prejudices regarding the age make-up of the table was partially true though there were some younger players too, but it didn’t matter at all as everyone was having fun. I had been there half an hour when the floor announced “the 10pm drawing for $200 will go to a player on table …. 2”. It was our table! To find out who won, they dealt a card face up to each player in turn – highest wins. When a 3 came down in front of me I realised this wasn’t going to be my day, but it was a bit of fun anyway.
The drinks service was good and fast. Especially considering some of the waitresses were not so mobile these days. However at one point, having ordered a jack daniels on-the-rocks, they brought me a whisky which most certainly wasn’t jack. Now this has never happened to me before anywhere in Vegas, and could easily have been a genuine mistake, but it did have me wondering if they were trying to save a few cents. No great problem, I just switched back to beer for the rest of the evening. As I got my last drink for the evening I tipped the waitress an extra dollar which quite charmingly confused her: “Er, do you want an extra drink?”. Clearly the room is not full of big tippers! Left at 1.30am, 15 dollars up.
Day 6: 7 hours / $118 profit
Total: 32.5 hours / $413 profit
Thu 16th April
Busted out of the Excalibur $20 9am after around an hour and a half. Quite fancied a full afternoon of poker, so I headed back up to the Flamingo as I was pretty sure I would be able to get a 2/4 limit game, plus I wanted to take advantage of their aces or kings cracked promotion which was running until 4pm.
Arrived at 1.15pm, but had to wait around quarter of an hour for a seat. Had good hole cards and promising flops, but got sucked out on the river hand after hand. Considered trying my Monte Carlo exotic dance of luck, but thought it was probably wasn’t the time nor place. Won a little back, but still lost my $100 buy-in after around 2 hours. I was having a good time though, so bought in for another $50. Up and down a little after that, until eventually around 6.30pm our table broke and I got moved to a different 2/4 table. Now this was a different kettle of fish, with bet ... raise … re-raise . re-raise being the norm. I was sat next to a guy in I guess his 70s who was immaculately dressed in a light suit, sunglasses with a strong European accent. Everyone was scared to win a hand off him, as they were sure they would find a horses head in their bed the next morning!!! It was a fun table, and I finally lost my $50 re-buy at 9pm – it had been a 7 and a half hour drink-and-poker marathon.
Day 7: 9 hours / $170 loss
Total: 41.5 hours / $243 profit
Fri 17th April
Entered the 9am for the seventh and final time in the week, but busted out just on the hour mark. I was getting short-stacked, so when 3 low clubs came in on the flop I pushed all-in holding just two overcards. AlaskaGal calls, flipping over the nut flush.
Did some final shopping during the day, then headed off to the MC in the evening around 8pm for some 2/4 limit. Was card dead, and finally getting to the end of my alcohol tolerance for the week. Left around 11.30pm, having lost 59 dollars.
I had had a great week – cashing in the tournaments and Sunday night at the Monte Carlo had been highlights for me. The Flamingo had been a pleasant discovery, and I will play there again. 4 months until my next trip!
Day 8: 4.5 hours / $79 loss
Grand Total: 46 hours / $164 profit