My recent trip was an early Valentine’s Day surprise from the significant other (let’s call him “Jack”), who arranged the trip with his best friend (“Jane”) who wanted to surprise her boyfriend (“Joe”). Gosh are they thoughtful!! Of course, the nature of the trip meant less poker time, but that is a small price to pay for a Vegas trip. As a further bonus, college buddy and AVPer Santa Claus was in Vegas for a convention, and persuaded his lovely wife to fly out for the weekend.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and immediately ran into an airport bad beat when we discovered that the trams at the Vegas airport are going through renovations, and thus you have to stand in line for 20+ minutes to get to the main terminal. But, the line for cabs was almost non-existent, and we were at TI by 3:00; short line at check-in meant we were having a drink at the TI Breeze Bar and playing video poker in no time at all.
Jack and I then wandered over to the Venetian. We got margaritas to go from Canonita, did a lot of window shopping at the Canal Shops, had a snack, and spent some time playing Wheel of Fortune slots (these machines are the devil!). We then wandered up the Strip just checking out casinos, people watching, and enjoying the perpetual happy hour. After wandering through Bellagio, Santa called to discuss dinner plans, and we meandered over to Planet Hollywood to meet the Kringles. Incidentally, Jack loved the ambience at PH (kind of modern, hip, young), and I suspect we’ll be heading back there on future trips.
We met up with the Kringles in the Miracle Mile shops, and after getting a beverage for the road (Mrs. Claus introduced Jack to the joys of Fat Tuesday frozen beverages), we headed back to TI for dinner at Social House. This was my second meal there, and it was just as good as the first. The Kobe burgers and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno chips are still my two favorite dishes, though we did share several other great items, as well as a bottle of Drunken Whale sake. Jack took a smoke break on the patio and nearly blew up TI by trying to put out his cigarette in the base of a propane space heater. Disaster was averted by the bartender, and we had a great view of the Sirens of TI show.
After dinner, we headed to the TI poker room where I started at 1/3NL while the Kringles got into a 2/4LHE game. Jack headed out to check out the Wynn/Encore and have some more drinks. When a seat opened up, I joined the Kringles for an hour or so, until they headed back to Bally’s. Let’s just say I played the 2/4 slot machine game like a total donk, raising pretty much every hand I played, getting lots of glares from the more serious players. It was a pretty entertaining hour or two, and I even ended up with a small profit, though all the weird suckouts reminded me why I’m not a big LHE player.
I retrieved Jack from the Wheel of Fortune slots at Venetian and we headed to Harrah’s for the dueling piano show, a regular stop for us. As always, the show was a blast (the twin sisters were starring that night). Jack eventually decided it was time to pass out, so we went back to TI where he headed to bed and I went to the poker room to play some 1/3 NL. No hands of note, though I cashed out a small profit and went to bed around 5:00 am.
Friday rolled around and Jack and I headed to Mirage to eat lunch at BLT Burger. This was a fun place, good crowd, and great food. The wait staff wore shirts with amusing sayings, such as, “Tip waiters, not cows,” and “If you are what you eat, I’m fast, cheap, and easy.” The menu offers huge milkshakes, and I was admiring a shake delivered to a booth near us, regretting not ordering one myself. The lady who had the shake caught me staring and laughed at me, saying, “It tastes even better!” I bet she had one that was spiked with booze (yup, they are on the menu). I ended up with a Kobe burger with bacon and bleu cheese, and an acai mojito. A little pricey for lunch, but worth the experience.
Jack and I then headed to Caesars Forum shops for some power-window shopping. I was glad to see a large number of sales and discounts being offered, hoping that meant the eventual spouse pass fee might be reasonable. Jack got a couple of shirts and a couple of Fat Tuesday beverages. I headed back to TI after being texted that a new 1/3 NL game was opening up, but by the time I arrived, someone had busted three of the other players and the game had broken. So, I entered the afternoon tourney.
The tourney had three tables, and the competition was pretty soft. Early on, I raise preflop with 44. I get one customer. Flop is T-T-Q. I c-bet, he calls. Turn is a Q, I bet, he calls. River is a 5. I check, he checks. I flip over my cards and say, “three pair”. Other guy stares a second, then folds. Now, if this guy had a card over a 5 he wins, and if he had 5 high or less, we chop … so … WTF?!?! I tried not to smile as the dealer pushed me the pot. Just before the first break I double up and get a decent stack flopping nut flush over second nuts. But after break, I give most of it away when my AQo is called by A9o, we get it in on the A high flop, and he rivers a 9. A little later, I bust out making a steal with QTs from the BB in a limped pot, and the button calls for more than half his stack with QJo. Oh well!
I find Jack and we play video poker while waiting to meet up with Jane & Joe who had just arrived in Vegas. I hit quad Ks twice in 15 minutes to make a $50 profit. Once Jack and Jane get checked in, we wandered around TI, Venetian, and Palazzo letting Jane & Joe catch up on drinks, then headed out for an early dinner. Joe was in a seafood mood, so we impulse stopped at Sushi Samba in the Palazzo. This is a really interesting place, fun décor and ambience. We were told at least a half dozen times that they offer a combination of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisine (fascinating fusion). All of the specialty drinks were awesome, including a capirhana, several kinds of mojitos, and a lemongrass martini. Joe and I had oysters on the half shell and the chef’s selection of sashimi and sushi, while Jack had teriyaki chicken and Jane had some amazing grilled mushrooms and scallions with a smoky cream sauce. If you like pan-Asian food with an emphasis on seafood, it is definitely worth a visit.
We headed back to TI where I entered the headhunter tourney while the others played slots and drank. I ground along with a fairly average stack until we got to the final table. A very aggro guy was on my right with a big stack, and a very aggro lady (called herself “Dr. Bully”) had a huge stack across the table. AVPer Yappy Dave was three to my left, and had a healthy stack himself, but was crippled by some bad beat early. A few orbits into the final table, aggro-guy raises to $2,000 (BB is $800). I find KK and raise to $4,500, assuming it would fold to aggro-guy who would repop it, giving me a chance to get it all-in preflop. All of a sudden, Yappy Dave pushed all-in! Hmmm, that can’t be a good sign. Folds back to aggro-guy who also pushes all-in, and I have an uneasy feeling as I make the call. Aggro-guy has AdQd, and Yappy has JJ. Flop is A-x-x, turn is a beautiful K, and river is a blank, giving me a triple up and a narrow chip lead. A bunch of small stacks go out in short order and we end up chopping four ways, giving me $315 plus 4 bounties.
I then met up with the rest of the crew, and Jack and I head back to Harrah’s for another dueling piano session. On the way over, we walked behind three young guys smoking some weed. They hear us mention that we can smell it, and one of the guys looks back and says, “Just a little dessert, dude!” By 2:00 am, Jack was pretty drunk and tired, so we headed back to TI and Jack ended up calling it a day.
I headed back to the TI poker room for some late night cash game action. Early on I was running well when I slowplayed AA preflop UTG on the first hand in an hour that wasn’t raised. The flop was 9-high, so I bet and was raised. I called, but wasn’t happy. Turn is a gorgeous A, and long story short, I double up through a guy with 99. I give some money away, though, to an older French-Canadian dude who was an uber-calling station; if he had any pair or any draw, he saw it through to the river. But the worst beat of the session went to a total maniac who came in after clubbing. He threw a lot of chips around, but wasn’t a total donk. I had 99 OTB, raise, and maniac calls from BB. Flop is 8-high with a couple of spades. I bet, yahoo calls. Turn is another small card, I push for yahoo’s last $150. Yahoo hems and haws, says, “I don’t think you have anything. I think I have the best hand. You can’t push me around.” He finally calls. River is a 4 and yahoo suddenly stands and slams his cards down, yelling, “That’s what I’m talking about!! What a great call!” Of course, he had 44 for the rivered set. Yahoo keeps jumping around and hooting, runs out into the hallway and hoots some more, and finally comes back to stack the pot while talking about what a great read he had made. Ummm, yeah, brilliant. He is the first entrant on my new list of “River Dancers”. I donk some more off to the calling station and decide to call it a night.
Saturday rolled around, and Jack and I slept in. We were headed out of TI when Santa called. We ended up meeting the Kringles for some window-shopping at Fashion Mall, then went for a late lunch and margaritas at Margaritaville. Santa and I then headed to the Flamingo poker room for a session of 1/2NL, while Mrs. Claus and Jack headed to Caesars Forum shops for more Fat Tuesdays and some actual clothing purchases. Play at the Flamingo was pretty passive, and I managed to turn a nice profit of $470 in a couple of hours, including a sweet bluff of Santa to get him to lay down QQ on a J-high board holding T5o; sometimes I play so good! Of course, I also donked $300 to Santa when I made a call trying to tilt him and ran into his QQ against my 78. I hit a straight, but Santa sucked out with the four card flush on board. Oh well, it still got me paid off on a number of future big pots when people overplayed top pair or weak two pair hands and I held the goods.
Jack and I headed back to TI where he went to make some purchases at the Fashion Mall while I entered the headhunter tourney again. I was at Yappy Dave’s table to start, and Dr. Bully was also back in the tourney. I took a hit early when I tried to make a three-barrel play with 5c3c, but some guy called me all the way with only top pair no kicker. Soon after, Yappy makes an early exit when his AK flops TPTK but runs into 8h5h making a straight flush on the river; rough hand! I grind my way back to a slightly above average stack, but get crippled when my AJs runs into ATo and a T hits the turn after the money went in. Oh well! Still a fun tourney with a good structure for the entry fee.
I met up with Jack, Jane, & Joe at Kahunaville where I watched them attempt to drink every specialty drink listed in the menu. The flair bartender show was also pretty amazing entertainment. We then decided to walk over to Wynn/Encore as Jane & Joe had not seen Encore. On the way over, Jack turned around on the up escalator to the bridge over the street and proceeded to fall up the escalator … falling down but being carried back up and then falling down again, doing three complete flips. It was one of the funniest falls ever!! We end up playing video poker and Wheel of Fortune slots at Encore for a couple of hours. Jack cracked me up by constantly asking if he should draw to a “large straight”, while Jane helpfully kept yelling, “This isn’t Yahtzee!” We then headed back to TI for a couple hours of sleep before heading to the airport; I swear Jack still was drunk when we landed in Iowa.
Altogether a fun trip, proving there is more to Vegas than poker … who knew?!?!
P.S. In less than three weeks, Santa and I will be returning to Vegas spouse-free for Ironman of Poker IV. You have been warned!