If you like tunes, play this in the background:
Caesar’s Palace references and therefore I always assume they’re singing about Vegas.
First, I won $1,150 on this trip. Most was running a Martingale betting scheme at $10 tables up and down the strip. I simply don’t know how to play Blackjack with a shoe or an autoshuffler. Yet, I get these coupons for a $10 matchplay (bet $10 of your own and the casino will treat it as $20) and I need an excuse to make a $20 bet. So I do a little 10-20-40-80 series and gosh I lost the $80 (net $150) only twice. One series was at the Orleans, where I was staying and just wanted a beer before heading off to bed. Well, 4 beers later at 1 AM, I had finally lost 4 in a row and was up $265 in the meantime. If you ever want the feeling that you just can’t lose, the Martingale can be a lot of fun. After a while, the thought was “well, how am I going to win this one? Is my hit on this 15 going to be a 6? Is the splitting of the Aces going to wind up being 2 21s? Am I going to double down on the 11, see a 15 come up and then see the dealer’s 10 turn into a 15 and then a 22?” They all seemed to happen. So the Blackjack seemed to be the funding for this trip. The dealer seemed to want me to lose after a while – he’s slide the hit card, a 6, into the 8 and 7 and roll his eyes while looking around the room. Ironically, the Orleans session ended with the first 4 hands the new dealer began to roll out.
But this is a poker forum. Here’s some defining moment from a few stops along the way.
I don’t like to play No-Limit cash games. I will be tempted to go all-in with a winnable hand and then lose a lot – the only time I had played before, I guy caught a straight on the river and I lost my $150 entry. But on this trip, I rationalized that $100 wouldn’t be too much to lose and then later that $300 wouldn’t be too much to lose when I was up $600. I showed up at the Golden Nugget at around 6 AM on two different days. Six o’clock is the time I usually wake up to go to work so I’m actually very alert at this hour. And by contrast, most of these guys had been there all night and were still in the sobering up stage. This is a nice little overlap period and my first look at action poker.
The first thing I notice is that there’s a new standard bet. People routinely go 5 to 20 times the big blind pre flop. It’s like the game needs to get a jump start to the levels these guys are used to. From that point forward, there’s also a tendency to bet (a) more than the pot size after the flop (like a bet of $125 into a $100 pot) and (b) an all-in on the river. What’s odd is that this is the exact style of half the Party Poker crowd playing the free on-line tournaments. So I had seen it before. You just have to wait around for high pocket pairs or Ace-Kings and then bet along as they crash themselves by design… sometimes.
So there’s this Asian guy, let’s call him Jet Le (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001472/) probably a smart guy by day. But all night long, he probably had enough to drink to make his own party. He looked haggard and was probably in the second hour of a six-hour sobering up process. In this game, he would routinely blast the $2 big blind to $22. Then, if there were 2 callers, a $75 bet on the flop awaited you. Most people would let him have it on the flop. Why? Because he kept hitting the miracles. I stuck around long enough (and he kept showing!) to figure that he was going to the $22 bet with (a) any pair, (b) any Ace and (c) any suited cards that could connect. With this action going on, the sharps at the table kept trying to wiggle their pair of Kings into money. But when the flop came Ace-anything or with 2 suited cards, these same folks would fold. As one shrewd lady put it to Jet Le, “you’re here playing your Bingo poker, where you’re just needing 5 of something in a row and if you’re hitting it half the time, we’re just funding it!”. So, this game is good on two levels – the maniac pot booster and a few of the sharps actually honoring the high potential for a miracle straight or flush. My Uncle used to say, “where there is confusion, there is profit”. Well, that sure worked out for me. There was an unspoken “I got this one” vibe going on, where after the flop if one of the sharps did call Jet Le, the other sharps would tend to back off thinking the one guy knew what he was doing. Well, the time I used this to my advantage was when I got a 7-6 suited from the Big Blind. Here comes the $22, there’s 4 callers and I call as well. The flop is Jack-3 of clubs and a 7 diamonds. I toss in $75 and ALL OF THE SHARPS fold. Jet Le calls. Turn is nothing, we both check. The river is nothing and I miss my flush. How the hell do I play this against the maniac? I reached for the old “profit taking” bet of making a low bet after the river as if to say “I still have my trips” and make a $25 wager. He calls and turns over an Ace-King and my pair of 7s takes it. The table erupts in infield chatter of what was I thinking of folding my Jacks or my small pair that ended up being trips, etc., etc. But I think my play was correct knowing these circumstances: (a) players are yielding to the one sharp willing to take on the maniac and (b) the maniac is also a calling station when you happen to lead – he won’t go all-in if you’re betting first.
It really didn’t feel like poker so much though. It felt like playing chess with someone who inexplicably brings the Queen out early. With the right maneuvers, you’ll end up taking that Queen while also getting numerous position advantages on the board. Well, here, with the right FLOP and maneuvers to follow, cash advantages should be lining up every 10th hand or so.
So, up $225 at the Golden Nugget in two separate no limit sessions. I would highly recommend this place for the 6 AM working man. Two or three rich kid/college fund babies (who are decent, but not spectacular players), 4-5 sharps and one or two maniacs to spike the pot creating the cash flow potential. Fun times, good table talk, no one getting too ticked off losing their all-in Aces to Jet Le’s manufactured 10-high flush (just break out another couple hundred and wait your next turn at him).
A quick rundown of other sites, stops and sights:
10 AM weekday tournament at Treasure Island – only 10 people. All of them sharps. I can’t win here anymore. After placing in 6 of 11 tournaments at the TI, I am now oh for the last 6. The other distressing element is that the beginner or maniac or timid player is simply not there anymore. Seven years ago, with the Chris Moneymaker syndrome in effect, everyone took a shot at playing poker.
No-limit 50 cent - $1 game at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall – for some reason, I’m a lifetime winner at this joint, which used to be the Barbary Coast. So with a positive vibe going, I looked at the poker room and saw the faux picnic table look of the tables and thought of it as the closest thing to Mom’s kitchen. Sure enough, I sit down and there’s a couple sitting together: “Honey can I get you a hot dog?” “Um, a corn dog this time”. You get the feeling these folks spend the day at the tables and are into small scale action – 5 times the big blind will get you 7 callers just about every time. I nail Aces in my third hand, a 3-of-a-kind 5s on another and walk away with an extra $75.
3 PM weekday tournament at the Southpoint. Great newer casino – nice smallish house take in their tournaments. 14-15 players. An older crowd of shameless bluffers. I think they like to spend their retirement money putting people “in their place” with a re-raise that has the sharps cowering. But I got a desperado heads up Ace-King vs. Ace-King, he goes all in (please don’t do that), I have to call (pot odds still give me at least a 30 % chance of winning and probably a coin flip) and 4 hearts later on the board – he’s got a flush, I don’t and I’m short stacked.
6 PM weekday tournament at Monte Carlo. 10 players (!) for an evening tournament. Best dealers who seemed to have good jokes to tell and a few stories. However, there was no scoreboard – it felt like I was in the dark on how many were going to be paid. Mostly sharps – one calling station, one all-in moment that didn’t make sense (10-8 offsuit by a middle stacker). But again, in the above 3 cases, I don’t think profit taking is really possible long term – the house take of 20-30 % is simply higher than the percentage of clearly sub par players. Fun games by and large though.
3 PM weekday tournament at Caesar’s Palace. I really liked this place – 5 stars. $70 buy-in was much lower than I ever thought possible at Caesar’s in a casino that has Craps minimums of $25. You get golfers off the course after having a few tipped back, you get trophy/plastic surgeon dream wives who have some semblance of control until they get impatient and start to go all-in (after an Ace-3 all in: “well of course I went all-in, it was the first Ace I had seen in the last hour and I sure as hell wasn’t going to wait for another”). A slow play Ace-Jack small blind took me down heads-up, with a flop of Ace-Jack-4 pairing up my Jack -10. He checks, I go 2/3 pot, he goes all-in and I call with another 1/3 pot to see he’s paired the Aces. 12 players left of a field of 35. The poker room itself is like a sports/art studio. An impressive wing of the “women of Caesar’s” and another devoted to Muhammad Ali. Highly recommended poker room.