The fiance’ and I headed out to Vegas July 4-7 to hang out with my brother and his wife for a laid back vacation. Given the company and purpose of the trip, I wasn’t expecting a very lengthy “spousal pass” for poker playing. In hindsight, it might have been better if poker had been completely barred …
Travel was a breeze on July 4. We had literally no wait for a taxi at the airport, and we were sipping our first mojito at the Japonais bar at Mirage within 45 minutes of landing. That day was mostly about hanging with the brother and his wife, eventually winding up at MGM for pre-dinner “free” cocktails while playing blackjack (up $140 for me), then on to dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s casual café there. Prices were quite reasonable, and we had one of the best appetizers I’ve ever tried (truffled potato chips with bleu cheese). I also highly recommend the pineapple mojito and the prickly pear margarita for those who are a little more adventurous in their cocktails. After dinner was the Cirque du Soleil show “Ka”, also at MGM. The show was just as amazing as advertised by several people on here. Some breathtaking gymnastic feats, including a showstopper with two guys who did a variety of flips and tricks while running around the outside of two rotating cylinders (hard to describe, but let’s just say the crowd was constantly “oohing” as they did yet another amazing jump or flip, without any safety harness). Another scene had maybe a dozen people “battling” on a near vertical sheet of metal, flipping around on pegs before sliding off completely. Dazzling! Post-show were a few more drinks at Centrifuge at MGM (love them dancers!) and then on to the dueling pianos at Harrah’s.
Thursday started with the traditional sleeping late on vacation. Then, while the other three went off to get hammered at the Mirage pool, I set off on what I thought was to be my one 4 hour poker pass. I started at the Mirage around 10:00 a.m., but there were only two 1-2NL tables going, and a couple of $2-$4LHE (I think). I was also ignored for 5 minutes by the retired Amway sales rep. who was apparently doubling as the room manager. With only a $200 buy-in, I moved on, figuring I would check out TI or Venetian. Because there was a tram from Mirage to TI, I took that, and was dropped off a short escalator ride from the poker room—how convenient! There were no games going, but I was told there was a tourney at 11:00 and that the cash games usually started up right after that. So, I bought in to the tourney and went out and played blackjack to kill some time. I started at $5 a hand, but quickly bumped that up as the deck got hot. Twice I split out 8s four ways against a dealer bust card, and both times got to double down on two of the splits, then held on for the dealer bust. Hiiigghh Fiiiive! Sexy time! Tourney time arrived too fast, as I walked away up $550.
I entered the tourney with the idea that I would push hard early with my first strong hand, and hope to chip up early (almost a necessity given the tourney structure). I didn’t have a hand and folded until about 18 hands in I find pocket deuces on the button (OK, not an officially recognized strong hand, I know, but this tourney only paid 4 spots, so I decided this was my hand). The BB, a fairly loose player, called my raise. The flop was A-7-3 rainbow, I bet out around half the pot, got called. Turn is a 5, giving me the gutshot draw. Check to me, so I go all-in … and get called by a set of 7s! Hmmm, guess that’s why he didn’t fear the A on the board … But I didn’t mind busting out as a juicy cash game was just getting started.
The TI spreads a 1-3NL with a max $500 buy-in, which is perfect for my cash game style (what I like to call the Altoids approach—curiously strong). What’s not perfect for my style is being utterly card dead. For the first 4-5 hours, I basically saw enough trash to start my own junkyard. When I did catch a hand, I invariably ended up either: a) missing the flop, continuation betting, then folding; b) missing the flop, checking, and folding; c) hitting a small piece of the flop, betting, and folding; or d) hitting a great draw, paying through the nose to see the turn, then getting priced out of seeing the river. Woo hoo! Fun times! At least I was getting free Coronas …
Only two hands were particularly noteworthy. The first one was about 5 hours in. I had not played a pot in at least two orbits. I get Ad-Kd on the button, raise to $15 (standard table raise at this point), get 4 callers (also standard). Flop is Qh-Js-2s, check to me, I bet $50, get one caller. This is a guy who has chased a lot of draws, and he did not re-raise me, so I put him on the spade draw, with possibly a straight re-draw. Turn is 6d. Check to me, I bet $80, he thinks for a while, then calls. River is 7h. Check to me, I figure he missed his draw and will fold to any decent bet, so I put out $75, trying to make it look like I am milking him with an overpair or A-Q. He goes in the tank for 3 minutes or so … then finally says, “I’ve folded too much” and calls … with 5s-6s! That’s right, small pair, no kicker, and he calls knowing about the only hand I have that he can beat is A-K! I don’t know if it was a great read on his part, or if he was just a calling station, but definitely an expensive hand.
The other hand of interest was more fun. I find 10-10 in the SB, call a $15 raise from an EP player which has already been called by 5 players. Flop is 10-8-8, bingo! I check, EP c-bets, folds to LP who raises (aha! there’s the 8!), I call, EP goes all-in for around $100 total, LP and I call. Turn in a small blank, I check, LP bets around $100, I put him all in for roughly $220, he can’t wait to get his money in the pot with A-8. River is a blank and I take down a monster pot I really needed to stop the hemorrhaging. Unfortunately, I give a lot away a few hands later when my flopped baby flush runs into the A-high flush when a fourth heart falls on the river. Final stats: 9 hours of play (the crew passed out after drinking the day away at the pool, so I got an extension on the poker pass), 0 pocket As or Ks, 2 pocket Qs that hit A-K flops, 1 flopped set (8s) that ran into a four flush board, 1 turned set that ran into two-pair turned into backdoor straight on the river, down $345 for the poker day.
Thursday evening was fun as we had dinner at Isla, an upscale Mexican restaurant at TI. The food was terrific, and they even had a lengthy tequila menu that rivalled some of the better wine lists I’ve seen. Pretty reasonably priced, so I highly recommend it. After dinner, we wandered the Strip for drinks; ‘nuff said.
Friday started off with some pool time in the morning; three monster screwdrivers later, we were all ready for some food. So we wandered over to Margaritaville for lunch, then did some window shopping at the Venetian and Caesars (the fiance’ wanted a watch … *le sigh*) until my brother and his wife had to leave for the airport. The fiance’ and I ended up at the late show of “O” at Bellagio; fantastic, possibly even better than Ka. Then we hit Carnegie Deli back at Mirage for a late dinner—let’s just say that the sandwich size is ridiculous. There was enough pastrami on my plate to feed my brother and I two meals each, and as good ex-farmboys, we can really pack it away. Hated to let so much good food go to waste, but … yegads!
Since it was already 1:00 a.m., and we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 a.m., my fiance’ suggested we just stay up, and even gave me a second poker pass! I headed back to TI to just check out the scene, figuring I could hit Venetian if TI wasn’t hopping. Turns out the combination of the weekend night and the WSOP had the room packed. Three ladies were final tabling some tourney, and there were three 1-3NL and three 2-4LHE games going. I got on the list, thinking I would bail if I couldn’t get in a game in 10 minutes or so. Turns out they opened a new 1-3NL table after about 10 minutes, so I stayed and played. Error!
I actually did well early, as the table was pretty tight, and I was able to grind up to about $750 ($500 buy-in) without catching much more than TPGK. Then the drunk maniacs arrived around 3:00 a.m. Three guys and a girl who all apparently know each other sit down, and start throwing out huge preflop raises and reraises with fairly marginal hands. It was typical to see a $20 raise and reraise to $50 with 3 or 4 callers preflop, with an all-in and fold around on the flop. I watched this go on while I folded away for about 3 orbits, and I finally decided to see a flop with my next decent hand. There is a $15 bet and reraise to $40 preflop when I find Q-Jo on the button. Now, I know this is a marginal hand, easily dominated, yada yada yada, but I was in position, had chips to play with, and had no respect for the hands these two maniacs are likely holding. Heck, I might be way ahead for all I know. So I throw in my $40, initial raiser calls, and we are off to see the wizard and a flop of: Q-6-3 rainbow. Initial raiser leads out for $60, other player folds, and I reraise to $150. Villain calls, we see a blank (8 or 9) on the turn. Villain goes all-in for his last $240ish. I think for a bit. There aren’t any obvious draws or redraws out there, so I figure he could have me beat with A-A, K-K, A-Q, or K-Q, possibly a weird two pair (but not likely for that much money). I’m ahead of Q-10, A-K, A-J, A-10, and all the pocket pairs J-J and down, unless he hit a set, and that’s a tough sell with the all-in move. I figure that I need to take a stand against this guy at some point, or I might as well cash out. So, I call (talk amongst yourselves about my play on this hand!). He doesn’t want to turn his hand up, so we see another baby card hit the river. He looks at me and gestures to me to flip my cards. I’m pretty sure I am good at this point, but I still tell him I called him. He glares and flips up A-Ks, and I turn over my hand to take the pot. Villain then says to his buddy at the other end of the table, but loud enough so everyone can hear, “I thought there were good players at this table. Guess we’re the only ones.” I just smile and stack the chips. This yahoo goes totally tilty, muttering and glaring anytime someone dares to play with him. In no time at all, he ends up getting busted by the table rock with TPTK against a set, rebuys, and gets busted again by the rock with top two pair against a set. He tilted off into the night down a full grand and generally unhappy with life.
The table calms back down and we return to something resembling poker, just in time for my card death to return. It’s around 5:30 a.m., I haven’t played a hand past the flop in maybe 3 orbits, and I’m starting to think about leaving (up around $250 in profit at this point). I’m in the cutoff, and look down at 3-3. Three or four limpers to me, I limp, as do the button and the SB … and BB raises to $15. Now BB has been a pretty solid player, so he has something, but everyone calls around to me so I figure take a look at the flop, hit my set or fold. Five of us see the flop: Qs-8d-3d. Yahtzee! BB leads out with a bet of $30. Folds around to me. Not sure what to make of this bet, but based on his past patterns, it looks like a c-bet to see where he is at. I put him on A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10, less likely but still possible Q-Q, or J-J (although I would expect a bigger preflop raise or a limp preflop, along with a bigger bet on the flop with the draws on board), and remote but still possible K-K or A-A (though again I would expect a bigger preflop raise and a bigger flop bet). My first thought is to raise, but I start to think maybe I can milk the hand a bit, particularly if he puts me on the diamond draw. It’s a gamble, but I doubt he can call much of a raise here unless he has the nut diamond draw, Q-Q or J-J, and I can always shut down later if another Broadway straight card hits and he looks too interested. Turn is another 8 … I now want villain to hit his straight (or flush if he has that draw too). Villain checks, I decide to check too, continuing to represent a flush draw, plus I am worried that he might think I called the flop with middle pair and now have trips, and a bet would make him lay down a lot of hands I put him on. River is a non-diamond 6. Villain checks, I bet out $50, hoping he thinks I am bluffing with a busted flush draw. Villain thinks, then raises to $150! Hmmm … that is an odd turn of events! I immediately think of raising, but fortunately have this silly habit of thinking upon occasion. I start to worry I have undervalued the possibility of Q-Q and J-J, and he could even be playing 8-8. Since I only have a canoe instead of a battleship, I opt to call. Villain flips over 6-6 for the rivered catamaran! Aiii-yaah!! I am hereby nominating myself for the Greedy Bastard Worst-Played Hand of the Week award.
In the last half hour before I had to leave, I donked off a few more chips with a couple of suited connectors that suited and connected with the flop, but failed to improve. I ended up cashing out for $385, so I managed to turn a $250 profit into a $115 loss in under 45 minutes of donktastic play. However, I had a fun, relaxing vacation, and I enjoyed the TI poker room immensely. Not to mention my blackjack profits covered my poker losses, and the fiance’ couldn’t find a suitable watch ($0 spousal variance!—a new Vegas record!), so my bankroll remains undamaged.