Arrived at Vegas about 1 p.m. on 5/31 with my wife. We decided to hit Vegas at the same time my sister-in-law and a few other friends where there for the giant jewelers convention at the Venetian. We had met them there during this convention last year as well so I'm trying to convince my wife this should be an annual event (I'm always looking for reasons to hit Vegas and it helps if I take my wife and she has others to do things with while I play poker!). Our flights on Northwest were free due to using my remaining frequent flyer miles. This was a good thing since the Flamingo was more expensive than ever due to several huge conventions and the WSOP being in town. We checked into the Flamingo at the airport (which I highly recommend), picked up our bags, and took a shuttle to the hotel at a cost of $5/person plus tip.
After heading straight to our rooms and unpacking, we hit Margaritaville for sandwiches and an iced bucket of 5 Landshark beers. I had the meatloaf sandwich just because. Ok, it wasn't great, lol. I was briefly inclined to go play poker at that point, but the beer and the look in my wife's eyes made me realize it was time to head to the room for some "R&R", lol. She'd been on the road on business (she's a part time travel director) for about a month in Australia and Hawaii so we needed some quality time... We then headed to the Venetian to see the Wayne Brady (Who's Line Is It Anyway?) show (90 minutes of comedy, improv, dancing, singing). I would highly recommend this show. We were second row center with the tickets about $95 per person. My favorite part was when Wayne followed a drunk out of the theatre and into the lobby while still talking into the microphone asking him why he was leaving during the middle of the show and if he was going to take a piss. After the show, I escorted my wife back to the Flamingo and our room and she gave me permission to head back out and play poker. I went down to the Flamingo poker room and played $2/$4 LHE for a couple hours and finished up $15. Exhausted, I headed to bed.
Day 2 we got up reasonably early and my wife headed to the Flamingo pool for the day and again released me to play poker. (We stay at the Flamingo because it is center strip, has an excellent pool which is a requirement for my bride during warm weather, has a solid but under-rated poker room, and USUALLY isn't too expensive.) At that point I FINALLY (after several trips to Vegas and other poker rooms) decided it was time to move from LHE to LLNL. I figured I'd worn out the LLNL books (Mastering No-Limit Hold 'Em by Fox & Harker and No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em by Angel Largay) and also learned a great deal from AVP'ers on this site, so what the heck. I bought in for between $200 and $300 for a $1/$2 LLNL game at the Flamingo. I intended to buy in for the max but didn't realize until buying chips that my wife had treated my billfold as her personal ATM. I was admittedly nervous but after a few orbits I realized that the other players weren't much different than me and my end of the table had some nice folks so I was able to relax. I did my best to play a TAG game and finished up in the neighborhood of $75 after a couple hours. My biggest realizations were that it sure is nice to play a game where a raise actually makes some or all people fold, it isn't as hard to keep track of what is in the pot as I thought it might be, and LLNL keeps you much more focused on the game than LHE. While I can't remember hands of significance, I think I did a decent job of raising or folding and seldom calling. Standard opening raise seemed to be $10 or $12 (higher if there were a few limpers). Here and elsewhere, I basically followed a strategy of raising 4 or 5 times the big blind plus whatever the limpers had put in and that seemed to be effective. I tried to keep my re-raises to around 2.5 to 3 times the raiser's bet. If I bet out on the flop, turn, or river, I tried to make sure I bet no less than half up to the total amount of the pot. In any event, it was a great confidence boost to have my first LLNL session end on the plus side. Had to end the session to meet my wife and head to the Venetian for the Gordie Brown show (tickets about $70). He is the Venetian's version of Danny Gans but less expensive. Great show which I would also recommend. Also, I can't remember whom to thank, but I remembered a AVP trip report that said you could find cell phone chargers at the Fashion Mall. That knowledge came in handy since my wife had forgotten to pack either of the two she owns. After the show we met our friends at the Flamingo for drinks and my wife donking off some money on video poker (she finished down $180 on that game for the trip....I never play slots or video poker....heck I don't even play blackjack or any other table games anymore...maybe just a $10 sports bet here and there if one of my teams is playing). After some R&R (I need to take her to Vegas more often!), she went to bed and I was off to play poker again. I planned to head to the Venetian but popped into Imperial Palace on the way. The IP poker room is right inside the front door and I watched the lone $1/$2 LLNL for a bit and decided it was an ok game for me. I made sure and sat in the open seat just to the right of the one very aggressive player at the table. I'd watched him win several hands without a fight by frequently over betting the pot. Not long after sitting down I got pocket aces and was delighted when he was first to raise pre-flop for around $40. I re-raised him and my aces held up. If I remember correctly he showed his cards and was on a bluff. I ended the session up around $85 I think. Two LLNL sessions and both winners! Off to bed!
Day 3 we again followed our routine of my wife heading to the pool and me heading off to play poker, followed by dinner (this time at Oceans One at the Planet Hollywood shopping area...or something like that...food was good and reasonable price....with our friends on their expense account and after free drinks at a reception they hosted as part of the convention), R&R, and more poker. I played two $1/$2 LLNL sessions at the Venetian and one at the new Planet Hollywood room on this day. Following the strategy mentioned above, all 3 sessions finished ahead. I think it was on this day at the Venetian (ok, it might have been day 4 but the days blur after awhile) that I hit my biggest hand. I was dealt a pair of queens and re-raised an early raiser. He called. The flop was 9,9,Q. The early raiser went all-in and I insta-called. He flipped over nothing/bluff and I flipped over my queens for a full-house. I have to be honest, I hadn't even noticed the pair of nines when I called. I just saw the queen and called. One other hand of interest was when I was in late position and raised two limpers to $15 with ace/jack offsuit. The two limpers called. Flop was Jack and two "rags"....well, rags unless someone stayed in with 5/6 connectors hoping to draw out on the turn or rive. Both limpers checked and I bet $50. Both called. Turn made a straight for anyone playing 5/6 connectors. First limper went all in. Second limper went all in. Hero folds, lol. Both limpers flip over their 5/6 connectors. One suited spades, one not. River is 3rd spade much to the chagrin of first limper (same guy I had felted previously so he lost his buy-in twice). My thanks to AVPers (Cactus Jack in particular?) who said never go broke with top pair, top kicker, lol. Up $500+ for the trip so far.
Day 4 we followed our routine of pool/poker, dinner, and more poker. No R&R due to late dinner at the Range Steakhouse (Harrah's) with our friends (again on their expense account, thank you very much!). I recommend this restaurant as this was the second time we had eaten there and the food was great both times. We were so full we went back to our room and to bed. I was able to set my mental alarm and get up after a 2 hour nap and head back out. On this day, my poker was made up of a PH session, a Venetian session, and a final late night PH session. Kept to my strategy and once again, each session was profitable. Ended my initial $1/$2 LLNL venture up $710 for the trip!!!
I'm not naive enough to think I'm a good LLNL player but it was sure great to do so well my first try. I'd like to thank the AVPers on this site for the book recommendations, hand analysis/thoughts, and encouragement in earlier posts to give it a shot. I'm now looking forward to gaining more experience, even if some of it may be the "school of hard knocks".
A few comments on the various casinos and poker rooms:
Flamingo - Excellent location, great pool, under-rated poker room IMHO (with additional improvements planned according to a dealer). By the way, a dealer mentioned that the plans are to demolish IP, Harrah's, and O'Sheas and then build a new Harrah's and a Horseshoe casino. He said the Flamingo would not be demolished. Anyone know if this scenario is accurate? Average competition at LLNL.
Venetian - Best Vegas poker room I've played in. The room was generally packed due to cash games and the Deep Stack tournaments (which appeared to me to be very popular). Thumbs up on Wayne Brady and Gordie Brown shows in the Venetian Showroom. I learned they were also offering poker room rates at extremely low prices for the Venetian during the WSOP in return for 6 hours of play per day or Deep Stack play. Wish I'd known! I'd also note that they have a bar with live bands that had some excellent entertainment from 4 p.m. on. Slightly above average (at least more aggressive) competition at LLNL.
Imperial Palace - Ok, its IP. Poker room isn't fancy or all that busy but the free donuts and cookies were nice. Slightly below average competition at LLNL.
Planet Hollywood - I think this casino has a chance to be successful. It has a younger/"more hip" vibe than most of the other strip casinos. Certainly seems to appeal to a younger crowd. Nice that the casino remodeling is done and part of the front is done. Poker room has great potential. Excellent poker room location for tourists walking in off the strip and attracting railbirds. I'd prefer the didn't have the racetrack on the tables and I'd prefer autoshufflers (although the lack of autoshufflers didn't bother me as much when playing my beginners level LLNL since I liked the breather between hands, lol). They also need to get their plasma TVs installed and need to add a computerized wait list, IMHO. I didn't play their while the karaoke was going on so that wasn't an issue for me as for others on this site. When I was there during the day or late night, they had very few cash games going. They seem tournament focused right now while they build their clientle. They do allow their dealers to play there (which I discovered after the young "impressed with himself and his play" player left the table and came back with a dealer's shirt on). Management didn't do anything wrong but they could come across as a little more friendly. With some tweaks, this could be a great room, particularly appealing to the MGM/Hard Rock type crowd. Far below average competition at LLNL.
Paris - Checked out their new room put didn't play there. New location won't attract railbirds and its a little dark, IMHO. Otherwise ok and now feels at least somewhat like a "room."
Ballys - Checked out the room but didn't play. No changes since my last visit. Lack of any "room" feel to this place just doesn't make me want to sit down and play although it should certainly attract railbirds.
Treasure Island - Checked out room at about 2 a.m. on Sunday night/Monday morning. Just thought LVM might be there! Guess he was home with his family at that hour, lol. This is a decent room although it doesn't appeal to me to the extent it does to many others on this site. I wish this room wasn't so dark. I'd play here (and have) but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so (although it might be worth it based on the level of LLNL competition described by many on this site).
Ok, my fingers hurt from typing. Sorry this is so long! Again, many thanks to everyone on this site for your reports, room reviews, and posts. I've found them to be invaluable for planning my trips to Vegas. Can't wait for my next trip!