Sunday, December 20
I departed the snowy wasteland of Iowa at high noon, stopped off in Denver for a quick beer (New Blegium 1554 Enlightened Black Ale), and arrived in Vegas late afternoon. There was no taxi line, traffic was light, and I was checked in at my partially comped ($40/night) room at Paris in no time at all. I didn’t bother with the $20 trick, so I had a lovely view of Bally’s and a parking garage. Still, a nice mid-range room at a great price.
I headed out of Paris looking for a poker game. I decided to check out Aria in the new City Center (new in the sense that, after what seems like a decade of construction, a few places were finally open). It is a major pain in the backside to get into Aria, which is a deceptively long distance off the Strip. Walking from Paris, you have to go past Planet Hollywood, over the new pedestrian bridge, through a set of shops where you need $10K+ in available credit to even window shop, over another bridge, then up a long sidewalk to the entrance. Basically, just a hedge maze to capture fat cats.
The casino itself is quite elegant, lots of glass, dark wood, earth tones, and polished metal. Their marketing gimmick appears to be a free song from a fat lady anytime you blow through $5K on slots or pit games. But the poker room is nicely located just inside the casino entrance. Very spacious and comfy place, and very busy. I got right into a 1/3 NLHE game, but it was playing uber-tight. I flopped top set of 9s and flopped Broadway, no action on either hand.
I went to the front podium to see about a table change, or a move to a 2/5 NLHE game. I noticed a shorthanded PLG (Pot Limit Gamboool) game being spread, so I moved to that game instead. Early on I found 8775 in my straddle (we were playing with a semi-mandatory $5 straddle). Flop is 9-7-2 rainbow. I bet, got raised by a semi-short-stacked weasel. I reraised and we got it all in. Weasel showed 97xx with no redraws … and promptly hit a 9 on the turn for the infamous little boat / big boat battle. Rebuy!
I waited what had to be 30 minutes for my chips to be delivered, as there was some monster brouhaha at the cage, with some heated voices among the cashiers and a supervisor. Players and chip runners were stacked 20+ deep waiting for chips. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a supervisor (Daniel, a/k/a “EZ”) had sat down at the game to keep it from breaking. He played maybe 2 hours until we not only got the game full, but started a full feeder game! Daniel also took my cell number so he could text me later in the week for new PLG games. Excellent customer service!
While patiently waiting for a playable hand (I was by far the least Scandinavian of the group), the sickest PLG hand I’ve seen in person ran out. Two degenerate Scandis got in a raising war preflop, quickly getting all in for $700+ each. Hands were: AAXX double-suited (with another Broadway card in the mix) vs. KhKxThX double-suited. They agreed to run it twice.
Board No. 1: AhXhXh-blank-blank. Flopped top set goes down to flopped nut flush.
Board No. 2: K-6-6-blank-blank. Flopped Kings-full holds against AA unimproved.
Here I thought “running it twice” meant “reducing variance”, not “let’s give a guy a double shot to the pocket rockets” …
Down nearly two buy-ins ($800 total) at one point, I eventually went on a semi-heater. It started when I flopped the nut straight with redraws to a bigger straight and a flush; got it all-in against my buddy Weasel who had the same straight, but no redraws. Broadway hits the river for me, and I have a courtesy double up. Later, I called Weasel’s preflop raise with 73xx (don’t ask!), flop 7-3-2 rainbow, get it all-in, and hold up against his unimproved AAxx. I made a smart (and correct) laydown of AKKs6s preflop to heavy action. Then I felted Weasel in a monsterpotten when I found AcQsTd9s and flopped KsJcTc against Weasel’s Kc9cXX. Weasel asked to run it twice (permitted at Aria, at least in Omaha); I declined. My hand holds up for a pot over $1100! Donkey Kong!
The PLG game had a lot of European players rotating through. At one point, a nice Dutch gal and two German buddies were all at the table, being very friendly. I decided to improve my table image and international relations by calling them all Scandinavians. I also had a $27 shrimp quesadilla tableside. The menu said it was $18, so there must have been a charge for them to walk it 25 feet down the hall from the Skybox sportsbar. It was barely OK, but for the price, I kind of expected caviar and lobster tail on the side. Hint—If you play at Aria, eat before you get there!
I finally decided to lock in a nice profit before I made a stupid play (or more accurately, before one of my many stupid plays got me caught in a big pot with a bad hand). I headed back toward Paris, but stopped off at Planet Hollywood. The late tourney was wrapping up, and there were two 1/2 NLHE and one 2/5 NLHE games going. I got into a game right away, and sat next to a scruffy young kid who responded to the name “Beer Pong”. Beer Pong fancied himself a player, and kept pushing with his shortstack, hoping to double up twice so he could buy into the 2/5 game (he assured me he knew the players—including the “Iceman”—and was better than all of them). Beer Pong eventually earned a buy in, sat in the big game, went broke in about 30 minutes, after which the game promptly broke.
I played until about 5:30 a.m., but the game was pretty tight and short-stacked. No real hands of note for me, but one guy hit HHJs for quad 7s and quad As within about a 15 minute span. SVB alert! To rub things in, the dealer who dealt the quad As rotated to a new table … and promptly dealt quad As again! Quote of the session came when a nice kid rivered a full house to snap a grouchy guy’s flopped straight. Nice kid says, “Sorry.” Grouch glares and says, “Sorry you caught a full house? Apologize again to me and I’ll beat your azz!” Thankfully Grouch busts out and leaves before hilarity or physical violence could ensue. Oh, and I also sat next to a nice young guy who had a multi-colored 8 inch mohawk. Just another day in Vegas.
Monday, December 21
I slept in, did some work (curse you, remote access server!), and headed for lunch at the Burger Brasserie between Bally’s and Paris. I love this place; kind of a casual sportsbar with tasty burgers. Compared to the $27 quesadilla at Aria, the $3.50 was almost a bargain …
I wandered off in search of a random game, and landed at Mirage. Compared to last trip, the floors were very friendly and helpful, and I got into a 1/2 NLHE game in short order. The table was populated by an angry young gal (AYG) and several angry sunglass wearing guys (ASGs). I hadn’t felt this much anger at a poker table since the last IMOP home game!
I spent the first hour or so treading water, folding more than a French origami master. At one point, a guy next to me ordered a Crown & Coke and was served carrot juice; hilarity and gnashing of teeth ensued. I finally woke up with ATo, flop TPTK, and won a nice pot against an ASG who overplayed T7o. I made a small ($60) blunder when I tried a squeeze play from the button with JTs against a raise to $20 and a couple of limpers; the 3 bet to $150 from UTG seemed to signal a decent hand, and the 4 bet all-in from the original raiser seemed to signal another decent hand, so I got out of the way of what turned out to be AA vs. KK. Amazing timing there! I finally caught a nice hand when I called AYG’s preflop raise with KQo in one of the blinds. I flopped a gutshot, but floated to represent the Ace on the turn. Instead, I turned Broadway, which also gave AYG Aces up; we got it all in right there, and my hand held up for a big pot, and a bonus felting of AYG, who glared at me before storming off.
By early evening, I had more than a buy in profit, so I headed over to Venetian to play a session with notable poker bloggers Black Widow of Poker (Twitter @ckbwop), F-Train (@ftrainpoker), and the Poker Grump (@pokergrump), with a late cameo appearance by Katkin (@jakatkin). BWoP has immortalized that evening already HERE, so I won’t rehash what she’s covered. A couple of highlights merit discussion. At one point, there was a three way limped pot. Checks around until the river, at which point Broadway is on board. BWoP moves all-in for ~$550 for the $6 pot. I glare at her and call, and the third player insta-mucks! Thankfully the dealer didn’t take any further rake, and BWoP and I chop the $6 monsterpotten.
This was easily my worst outing of the trip, both in terms of luck and in terms of my play. I established my image early when I snapped a guy’s KK with 75 soooted, hitting my flush. But later I stacked off when I tried to semi-bluff Poker Grump with Ac4c on a board with two ducks and two crubs; somehow, Grump was incapable of making the easy lay down of AA, and crubs did not get there. I did SVB a nice pot when my K2s flopped trip ducks and turned a boat to snap QQ. But, I managed to stack off in a 3 way pot with Grump and ckBWoP when Grump flopped the presto set, I flopped a J-high flush, and ckBWoP was screwing around with K2s for the second nuts (who plays K2s; seriously?!?!). Vowing to play better, I laid down A8o after a raise to $15 and 4 callers; of course, I would’ve flopped trip 8s for a >$600 pot! Aaaiiiiyyyyeeeeaaaahhh!! After pressing too hard and giving away my fourth buy-in, I departed to seek fishier tanks.
I meandered over to TI, and got into the only 1/3 NLHE game. I don’t recall any particular hands of note, but I did more than double up, to regain one of my lost buy-ins from Venetian. BWoP texted me to offer to buy me a late dinner with my chips, so I met her and F-Train at Noodle Asia in Venetian. I had a very tasty $1K Noodle dish, and an hour of entertaining stories. Then it was a quick trek past the hookers and pornslappers and back to my room.
Tuesday, December 22
After sleeping in, I started the day by jumping into an afternoon game at Bally’s. On my third hand, I played 75o OTB and snapped AA when I floated the flop and turned my gutterball straight. Hilarity ensued. I was immediately lectured by no fewer than three players (the three Wise Men) about how terrible my play was; the commentary went on for over a half hour. I got a warm Festivus feeling from all of the love. One of the Wise Men was a hoodie wearing kid who literally had to leave the game when his mommy came by; the kiddie game is no longer down the street, it’s at Bally’s. I later felted another short-stacked hoodie wearing kid when my flush draw hit running trips to snap his KK, and I also flopped a set of Yaks to snap one of the Wise Men’s AA. Hilarity, and more lectures, ensued. Seriously, why is it MY fault people keep paying me off with AA/KK? In any event, I cashed out after nearly tripling up, and headed off to Hard Rock.
This was my first trip to Hard Rock, and I liked the poker room a lot. Beautiful room, lots of tables, cage, restrooms, bar, and plenty of TVs in the room. It just needed players. There was only one 1/2 NLHE game going, and I got right in. There were a couple of young Euro DBs playing who were traveling together. One was hammered, the other was wearing a black silk scarf. Scarf Boy kept putting his money in bad and sucking out, tilting a lot of the players. Eventually, I got in a pot with Scarf Boy with KsJs, and flopped the nut flush. Donkey Kong! I check-called the flop and turn, and check-raised Scarf Boy all-in on the river. He eventually called with a baby flush; gawd bless the fishies! Drunk Boy looked at Scarf Boy and says, “How’d you like getting your @#$% yanked?” Ahhh, friends!
With the Trash Talk 2/5 game not getting going (I heard later it finally started around 9:00 pm), I cashed out with more than a double up, and headed to dinner at Pink Taco, just down the hall from the poker room. I had what might be the best burrito EVER! It was called the Burrito Mojado, I chose the carnitas filling, and it was covered in cheese and the best sauce, sort of a mole’/chipotle spicy dark sauce. The three house salsas served with chips were also amazing: one was a chipotle, one was a green tomatillo, and one was a lime-avocado. All for the price of an Aria quesadilla!
I cabbed it back to the Strip, and wandered off in search of a good game. I found myself at Harrah’s, but in a pretty nitty 1/2 NLHE game. I shake the table up a bit playing 35o OTB, floating the flop, and turning the gutshot wheel. This apparently angered a leather jacket wearing Guido, who proceeded to target me. He did bluff me off a small pot with Ten-high, but I got the last laugh when my 97s flopped the nut straight, and snapped his flopped two-pair. Hilarity ensued. Later, my flopped flush held up against Guido’s KK and another player’s set. More hilarity ensued. I decided not to risk a probable knife fight without a gun, so I cashed out my double up and went off in search of a better game.
I ended up back at TI, and got into a short-handed 1/3 NLHE game. This game had several “experts” who felt the need to analyze every hand, and to constantly tell me how bad I was, even as I stacked their chippies. It’s always nice to get paid to attend class! I was eventually joined by AVPer Minton (Twitter @Mitzula), who gave me a demonstration of his #runbad superpowers. I hit a couple of nice hands, cashed out with more than a double up, and headed up the Strip.
At Bellagio, I jumped into a 2/5 NLHE game. Things started off poorly when my Yaks ran into QQ on a junk flop. But I recovered nicely with a set of 3s. Later, my first AA of the trip found a board with all clubs; of course, no Ac in my hand! But, I rallied to score a $700+ pot when I played my T9s like AA from OTB. I flopped the OESD, and one D-Bag check-called my flop and turn bets. The river was a small blank, D-Bag thought a long time about betting, then checked. I thought a bit, then decided to give up on the hand. Turns out D-Bag had 76s for a flush draw that also missed, and my Ten-high rakes the chippies! Donkey Kong!! I also got to observe a moment of insanity, when a hoodie kid’s flopped set of 9s gets it all-in on the flop vs. some Euro’s AA. Turn is an Ace, and Hoodie starts swearing and stands up. Dealer fumbles the burn and river cards, so the top 3 cards fall off the deck. Dealer reconstructs the deck, burns and turns … the case 9! Hilarity (and Euro-cursing) ensued.
Wednesday, December 23
I started the day at Mirage, so I could bet and sweat the Utah moneyline ($200 paid me $260 profit). At some point in the session, I met AVPer LVGlenn (Twitter @MissingFlops); nice fella. Early on, I was rather card dead. I started a #rungood streak by picking off a three-barrel bluff by a New Angry Young Gal with only Presto (55) in my hand. Hilarity ensued as NAYG glared at me, then promptly gacked off her stack with three straight bad hands. Later, I felted an Angry Expert when my flopped set of Yaks cracked his KK. Angry Expert spent 15 minutes explaining to his end of the table what a bad call I had made preflop. My bad! So sorry! I also took a nice pot when I raised AQ in my straddle to $30, and got two callers. I SVB’d a river Ace to take a $225 pot. Nothing else of note in my game, but the 3/6 LHE table next to ours was an absolute riot. There were three very attractive young gal pals playing, along with four dirty old men, a grandma, and a couple of young guys striking out with the gals. This table was laughing non-stop, taunting and joking around; they also hit four HHJs in four hours! They were having such a good time, I almost wanted to join the table. Tables like those are good for poker rooms and poker in general.
I got a text from the Aria poker shift manager, Daniel, that the 1/2 PLG was going again, so I headed out like a moth to the flame, or a lemming to the cliff. An Asian lady was playing, but playing badly. She stacked off with trips against a solid player’s flopped Ks full; she looked at him and screamed: “He tricked me! He tricked me!” Umm, thought that was part of the game … I played uber-snug compared to the degens and Euros at the table. I twice felted Bryan Micon (of WSOP “Thriller dance” fame); ironically, both times I had a J and flopped trip Js. The PLG game got short-handed, so I cashed out a nice profit and headed back to Bellagio for some more 2/5 NLHE. At Bellagio, I flopped top set of 9s, and rivered a boat to snap the turned Nutz Crubz. I decided to take my double up and run, since I was tired and the drunks had left the table.
I headed back to Paris, but swung by the Bally’s poker room on my way. Boy was I glad I did! I was seated at a table with two drunk spewtards who were there to gamboool. One busted quickly and left, but the other one played on. In 80% of hands, it would limp to Spewtard who would grab a random stack of red and raise $30-$80. If he got callers, he would always c-bet $100-$150 on the flop. A guy next to me told me that Spewtard had gone through $3K+; he also said, “Santa brought us this guy for Christmas!”. However, Spewtard was tilting much of the table with his inevitable suckouts; in fact, he had nearly $1500 behind when I sat down. I took $280 from Spewtard in one hand when my AK flopped TPTK.
Spewtard then headed off on a smoke and blackjack break. Several people started whining about his play, so I tried to quietly explain how not to tap the glass: “This guy is the funniest, nicest guy you know as long as he has chips.” Spewtard then returned from his break, and instead of posting in for $3, waited three hands, then promptly raised blind to $60 from his BB; this game does take discipline. Unfortunately, the gravy train was prematurely derailed when a pompous twit in a tweed coat started whining to Spewtard about his play, eventually causing Spewtard to pick up his chips and take them to the craps table. I got a measure of revenge when I promptly felted Tweedy with 62o; hilarity—and a lecture—ensued.
The crazy session continued when my TPTK ran into a rivered set for a big pot. But, I recovered nicely by felting a whiny old lady with 53s, flopping a flush draw and turning a wheel against her AK. This led to my favorite holiday Tweet: “Grandma got run over by 53 soooted!” Then, we were joined by a weird dude who seemed cracked out of his skull. In the first three minutes at the table, he managed to turn the conversation about poker into a running commentary about peeing on people (he declared he enjoyed both peeing on and being peed on—thanks so much for sharing!). A guy mutters, “That’s just weird” and Cracker responds, “Getting peed on is no weirder than your tie.” (which was a Peanuts cartoon Christmas tie). Alrighty then … Cracker continued his bizarre ramblings and non sequiturs for a while, until finally I decided the action had died and I didn’t want to die myself when Cracker went berserk after some bad beat, or when the voices in his head wanted him to play slots.
Thursday, December 24
My last full day in Vegas, so I needed to start the day shopping for the spouse pass and spousal Christmas gifts. Thankfully, there are several spouse-approved shops in the Fashion Mall, so in less than an hour, all shopping was completed. I then headed over to Wynn for an afternoon poker session. I intended to play 2/5 NLHE, but there was a long list, so I took a seat at 1/3 NLHE. There were several Euro B-Bags at the table, and the game was quite loose and juicy. About an hour after I started, an old guy wearing fuzzy slippers walked up to the guy next to me (in the 3 seat) and angrily demanded to know why the guy was in his seat playing his chips! This was a bit shocking, as the guy at the table had sat down and bought chips from a runner less than 10 minutes before. Grandpa Simpson got quite angry and started swearing as the guy at the table tried to explain he had been sent there by the floor, and the chips were his. A floor stepped over from the podium and quietly told Grandpa Simpson that he was at the wrong table, and pointed him to a table (running the opposite direction) nearby. Grandpa Simpson shuffled over to that table, where he sits down in the 8 seat with at least $600 behind. Within moments, another guy comes up, said something to Grandpa Simpson, who looked up and started getting angry and yelling again, before eventually moving to the 3 seat on the other end of the table with less than $200 in chips …
First orbit, I picked up a couple of good hands, getting paid off by disbelievers making hero calls. Soon after Grandpa Simpson left the table, I snapped off a Euro-donk’s AA with 86o, flopping an OESD and turning the nuts. Hilarity ensued. Despite thinking I should lock in my nice profit of nearly $600, I stuck around and gave some back, having top two pair lose to a straight, TPTK lose to a runner-runner flush, and an ugly hand where I trapped myself with trip 8s against Yaks full. By the time the smoke had cleared, I was up exactly $6, so I tipped that to the dealer and cashed out for an even up session. Probably my most disappointing session of the trip, as I could have walked out way up, but shot myself in the foot instead. Lesson learned.
I walked up to MGM, the last of the “big box” rooms I had yet to play this trip. I decided to play 2/5 NLHE, which had two tables running. Error. I played fine, but I was card dead and the table was extremely aggressive. Really no hands of note for me, though there were large pots being shipped with nothing more than middle pair. I hung around for 2-3 hours, but eventually left up a whole $20.
I walked over to NYNY then up the Strip to Aria. Much easier to get to Aria from the Monte Carlo side. I got into a 1/3 NLHE game, and my first two hands I am dealt AQ. I raise both hands, get multiple callers each hand. I fold on the whiffed flop first hand, but take a mice pot when I flop the Q on the second hand. Again, not much of note this session, no monster hands, no really interesting characters, just a nice calm grinder session. When I was up a buy in, I applied my lesson learned by cashing out.
I skipped Bellagio as I heard Minton had lined up a Big Game at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall O’ Apostrophes’. Sadly, the game was full, though I observed a very … sleepy … Minton play a while, including folding QQ in anger when an Ace hit the turn. Definitely another #runbad moment.
I walked over to Bally’s, and sure enough, they had a spot for me in a 1/2 NLHE game. Within the first couple of orbits, a young aggro Asian guy (YAAG) was trying to run over the table. I channeled my inner SVB and found these three consecutive hands: AA UTG, 98s in BB for flopped straight, and 77 in SB for flopped set. In all three hands, YAAG built a pot preflop, c-bet the flop, then folded to my check-raise. I never showed a single one of those hands, and YAAG was visibly steaming and glaring at me. YAAG ended up tilting off his stack within the hour. I got near a double up and decided to cash out and get a decent morning of sleep before heading to the airport to catch my flight to Salt Lake City for a few days with my brother and his family.
Altogether, a fun, relaxing, profitable, and entertaining trip. I feel I am already in prime IMOP form for tilting D-Bags!