Original report (regular print) written by Santa Claus, with commentary (italics) added by Grange95 based on his Blackberry notes (memory also “aided” by a martini).
Ironman of Poker – Inaugural Tournament of Champions
Spousal Corruption Edition
For those not already somewhat familiar with the first four chapters of the Ironman of Poker events held in March each year, this trip report will not mean a lot to you and may not make a lot of sense. For those reading this on allvegaspoker.com, please do a search for “Ironmen of Poker” and it should pull up those reports. You may find them mildly humorous and full of dumb stories and odd poker hands. Basically, it’s what happens when you get a bunch of Iowans/Nebraskans/Illini out of the Midwest and into America’s playground. Here are the characters for this new event, the exclusive “Tournament of Champions”.
Grange – Legendary in his own mind and those of internet trolls, twitter addicts and those who can’t afford his legal fees. His poker style and drink preferences clearly indicate more money than IQ points. However, thanks to questionable attire and inability to care about anything, he has managed to win two of the four IMOP events.
He completely forgot to mention my status as Master of Time & Space. The rest seems accurate.
Just Jack – Semi-legendary as Grange’s sidekick in other trip reports. Extremely proficient at heavy drinking and incendiary commentary thereafter to random passersby. Also claims to have vast knowledge of Hollywood gossip, but some of us were skeptical after Saturday’s dinner at Stack…
Lucky the Leprechaun – The winner of the very first IMOP event back in 2005. There is no more fun person to watch tilt, if you can get him to do it. The good news is that it doesn’t just happen at the poker table. Sadly, Lucky was on his best behavior this trip and was outdone by…
Giggly the Leprechaun – Wife of Lucky. It’s hard to imagine Giggly being an HR manager and accompanying this group, but she did it. And she might have done some of the more questionable stuff of all of us. Giggly isn’t much of a gambler, but she wound up being the key to her team’s success.
Giggly is a closet degenerate. Seeing her in action in Vegas was a lot like your kindergarten teacher walking into a biker bar.
Santa – your author and inventor of the IMOP. Sadly, I didn’t win it until March of ’09 – my fourth attempt – AND I’M THE ONE THAT WRITES THE RULES!!????!! I suck. Anyway, I put this little contest together as well. It proved tricky as it required full spousal participation, an attempt at balancing gaming with eating actual meals with spouses and staying sober enough to remember how to navigate the Venetian.
Mrs. Claus – Long time putter-upper with the IMOP shenanigans and wife of Santa. The idea for the IMOP Tournament of Champions was born on a different Vegas trip when she and Jack got hammered on Fat Tuesdays shopping at Caesars while Grange and I donked it up at the great pink chicken (Flamingo). She was too funny not to include in some sort of return trip contest.
Mrs. Claus also assumed the role as mother hen, the responsible member of the group who made sure we ate at semi-reasonable times and didn’t get arrested. She also has a sixth sense that can locate the nearest Fat Tuesday whenever one of the spousal units approached a dangerous level of sobriety.
The contest this time around featured a team game of spouses working together. Categories included prop bet wagering (will Jack fall down more than once, will Giggly snort more than twice, etc), football pick ‘ems, and several events. The events were: Kick-off Team Craps, Mullet Hunter (best one captured on camera), Video Poker Palooza and the “Big Ass Contest” (biggest booty captured on camera). The stage was set, the champs and their spouses were booked. Let’s get to the game.
Santa’s prop bets this time were lame. The mullet hunt and big bootay contest were roaring successes, and should be added to the official IMOP events.
Grange and Jack were already on their merry way, thanks to Grange not remembering to actually book his trip when he looked it up on Allegiant. A week after realizing this, the prices had skyrocketed and he thought he was cooked. However, like the luckbox he is, Grange managed to find a flight-and-hotel package on Southwest out of Omaha. Other than the two hour drive to get there, he managed to do the whole trip for he and Jack staying at the Wynn for three nights for nearly what it cost the wife and I just to fly there!!!???! We were already receiving twitter messages from Grange at the tables before the rest of us had left work. For as much fun as I made of Jack for his potential to fall down, Grange managed to bang his head into a window while shopping. He messed up both remaining hairs in the process.
I indeed managed to find a great deal on Southwest, two of us flew round trip and got three nights (Thursday-Saturday) at Wynn for $905 total. Considering the flights alone on Allegiant would have cost north of $650, I was quite happy with that deal. Also, our flight was non-stop and arrived by noon Vegas time, which is better than the Allegiant late afternoon arrival.
There was no taxi line, so we were checked in to the Wynn and on our way to lunch less than 45 minutes after touchdown. The $20 trick got us an upgrade to a “view” room overlooking the Strip from some floor in the 50s. Had a great view of the Mirage, Caesars, and Rio. We headed for lunch at BLT Burger in Mirage, one of our favorite spots on the Strip. Then, we headed back to the Wynn where Jack went to the spa for a haircut and sauna, while I went to the Wynn poker room.
The table was playing pretty loose, but stacks were rather short, so the action included a lot of all-ins. Early on, I take down a nice pot with A6s beating a stereotypical hoodie-iPod-spikey blonde hair-sunglasses kid’s AQs—flop is Ace-high with two to my flush, we both turn trips Aces, and I river the nut flush to stack him. Kid rebuys for $200, and a bit later, I stack him again when my pocket Yaks flop top set to bust his AA; my bad. Kid rebuys for another $200, and I stack him again when my KQs OTB flops the nut flush. As he makes a very reluctant call of my all-in reraise, kid says, “God must want me to give you all of my money.” Me: “I’m tight with God.” Kid shows 98s for a flopped smaller flush. My bad. I run a luckbox play three-barreling against an annoying yahoo with K8o in the BB; fortunately I hit a runner-runner straight. Regrettably, I lose a chunk of change when I run into the PokerGrump special deuce-four; I wound up making aces up against his wheel. Still, a very profitable session, even taking into account spousal variance from the spa trip.
Jack and I head to Dos Caminos for our anniversary dinner. On our prior visit, he had trouble remembering much of the experience, so this was almost a first visit for him. We had a bunch of tasty margaritas (pomegranate-blueberry were the best), spicy guacamole, enchiladas (Jack), and roast pork carnitas (me). After our anniversary dinner, Jack headed back to the Wynn for a nap, and I headed to the Venetian poker room to await the arrival of the crew. While I was waiting for chips, nice middle-aged woman sitting next to me flops a royal flush (she had JTs)! She got no action, so her big hand made her maybe $10 net (no HHJs at the Venetian). She was so excited, she had to go find her husband who was playing in a tourney in the room. She came back and asks, in all seriousness, “Would my hand have beaten a full house?” Despite the soft game, I made a couple of stupid plays and cash out down $95 when noted poker blogger ckBWOP arrived. I had a couple of drinks trading poker and law war stories with CK (a very nice lady … and very attractive for all you single mid-20s types) until the rest of the crew arrived.
After a healthy amount of wine at the Leprechauns, we made our way to the airport. As usual, Allegiant was late. We didn’t get into Vegas until late, but at least I wound up winning baggage carousel roulette when my bag came out first! Good omen!
By the time we finally checked into the Venetian, it was Friday. Jack had too much to drink at dinner and could only manage a couple of taunting text messages to me before passing out (his official quote to Grange was “If it weren’t for the tequila shots, I’d be fine”). Grange was already down at the bar while we were getting settled. Lucky and I had both booked higher end rooms with views since the poker room rate was so outstanding. Our room was fine, but when we went to pick up the Leprechauns, they were not pleased as their view was of the parking garage with a gigantic Rita Rudner basically peeking into their hotel room. I told them they were wrong and that they could indeed see the Strip and pointed out the backside of Imperial Palace in the distance. Giggly was not amused…
We were supposed to have done the Kick Off Craps event, but since Jack was unresponsive, we set off in search of food for Giggly who was about ready to gnaw her own arm off. I will say that Vegas has become a tough place to find a late snack. After searching Venetian, TI and Harrah’s for a place that would have nachos at 2am, she settled on the nasty pizza at Casino Royale. A glamorous start to our couples trip. Everyone was gassed so we hit the sack and planned to meet up later.
I woke up two hours later and continued a tradition of quietly slipping down to the poker room while Mrs. Claus continued her peaceful slumber. This accomplishes a few different things. First, it allows me to grind away the poker room hours while playing at prime-drunk time as the too-much-hair-gel losers who couldn’t hook up at Tao come down and give away their money. Second, it allows Mrs. Claus to get some extra sack time without small children demanding pancakes at ungodly hours.
As I get seated, I see that Grange has been up and playing at Wynn and was actually just retiring. Last tweet was “guy just asked me to high five him because his friend ‘is a bitch’”. These are the things that are said at poker tables in Vegas at 4am.
Nothing really materializes for Lucky or I at the early morning session. The girls finally roll out of bed mid morning and meet up with us for breakfast. The “continental” breakfast included with our rooms at the V wasn’t anything to write home about so we wound up with standard fare elsewhere. Grange and Jack meet up with us and Grange immediate “dusts the crops” and we hastily head to get our craps session in at Casino Royale before the smell kills us all. The Clauses take that one down by virtue of being the only couple to hit ANY bets in all of about 15 minutes. Lame!
Jack and I rolled out of bed late morning, and head over to meet the crew for the craps kickoff. While waiting for the crew, we hit a $1 Wheel of Fortune slot at the Venetian, which is Jack’s degenerate vice (he actually is not much into gambling). He asked me to pick a machine, then when I did, told me I picked the wrong machine. He played my $10 and lost it all. He then went over to the “right” machine I should’ve picked, and put in my $20, and promptly gets a wheel spin for $100. He then cashed out … and refused to refund my buy-in money on the basis that I had cost him money by picking the wrong machine! Spousal variance.
Mrs. Claus, Jack and I head over to the Wynn for an afternoon at the pool while the Leprechauns shop. Grange grinds away more hours at the V on his own. Confirms my suspicions of his vampire-ness (though more like Twilight-style vampire than 28 Days of Night kind).
My Venetian session went very well. My AhYh rivered a flush to crack an old guy’s KK for $545 pot, hilarity ensued. Later my K4s flopped a flush draw, picked up an OESD, and rivered a straight for a $460 pot to beat flopped altos dos pairs. More hilarity ensued.
I played one more short session with Lucky and Grange at the V before heading to dinner with everyone. This was the scene of my self-inflicted slow roll at the hands of the worst possible opponent. I am in BB with 73off and get to check my option. Flop comes 3-5-9. One small bet and Grange and I both call. Turn is 7 for my two pair and I lead out for $25. Grange comes along with a flat call that doesn’t feel right. Turn is a paint card, no flush. I think for a few moments knowing that Grange will raise a bet here whether he has it or not. I decide pot control and check to him. He bets $65. I sit and ponder, mumbling nonsense that he makes fun of. I decide he’s got either nothing at all or 7/5s for two pair. I call and say, “Do you have two pair?” He replies, “No…” and before I can let him finish I proclaim, well I do and flip up my hand. He then grins and finishes his sentence, “…no, I don’t have two pair. I have a straight,” And flips his cards over one at a time showing 6/4s. I was tilted for about 10 seconds before I realize I did it to myself. Sigh…
In addition to the hand Santa described, my notes show that I also felted Santa again with 6c4c, flop the monster draw with 5cTc3s, crubs get there (as always) on the turn with Ac, river is 8h. Not sure what Santa had, maybe aces up? Anyway, hilarity ensued. But the slowroll of Santa was classic. I kinda drug out my sentence for dramatic effect, and was getting ready to give the Sammy Farha line, “I have … straight” when Santa rolled up his dos pairs like he made some great hero call. Ahhh, the beauty of flying 1000 miles just to take Santa’s money ….
We got suckered in by all of the promotional signs for Emeril’s Stadium sports book and grill over at Palazzo and the crew headed over there. It’s an interesting concept, but easily the most disappointing food experience I’ve ever had in Las Vegas. Tiny portions of cold and/or bad appetizers. Emeril really has sold his soul.
Easily the most disappointing meal ever for me in Vegas. The spinach-artichoke dip was runnier than soup. The Stadium looks like a great place to watch a game, but be sure to eat ahead of time. Also, the spousal units went to Caesars Forum shops after Emeril’s and proudly reported back how they had negotiated getting a half drink at Fat Tuesday. Sometimes, it’s best to just nod and not ask questions …
Since we all had been drinking off and on all day, it was not going to take much for us to go over the edge that evening. Naturally we headed to Margaritaville and things did indeed get silly. It is hard to figure out who started ordering what, but the next thing I know, I began showing everybody how to “gleek”. Gleeking is where you sort of spit out of your saliva glands and little tiny droplets go flying in a semi controlled fashion over everything in your path. Nothing loads that gun better than citrus! Mrs. Claus was least impressed – and needed an umbrella.
After several forgettable photos at M’ville, we began the Bataan Death March to Ellis Island, home of the $6.99 steak special. Now, given this group’s normally snooty tastes, it is quite a testament to Mrs. Claus’ persuasiveness that we wound up there. In what seemed to take 4 hours of walking, we found ourselves ambling aimlessly in no person’s land behind Bally’s. As we neared our destination, we were joined by a couple of jolly homeless fellows. They proceeded to tell us that the barbeque was the best in the city. One says, “You know, they give you a lot so if you have leftovers, could you bring them out to us? We’ll wait right here.” Sadly, we did not have leftovers.
Amazing food for the price (take notes, Emeril!). The walk, however, is a little sketchy. Jack probably mentioned half a dozen times, “We’re gonna be murdered.” Also, $1 draws of home-brewed beers are worth the trek.
After the customary hour long wait to get a seat and several micro brews (we didn’t need) and a $100 craps victory later, we scarfed down another surprisingly good meal. A small fight about money between Grange and Jack ended in Jack insisting on picking up the dinner bill to make a point. I knew he thought it would be much more than $68 for six people, but point well made sir!
Things once again got foggy after that as I don’t have great recollections of Bataan March 2 – Electric Boogaloo back to the V, but I assure you we got there.
True to form, I woke up from my three hour nap and headed back down to the V poker room. I see that Grange did not go to bed and has been twittering random hands and observations from the comfort of the Wynn poker room. He may have come up with a new trendy Vegas term. As he gets on his elevator, it stops at a random floor going up. Drunken club whore gets on looking more than disheveled. Doesn’t push a button, elevator goes up to Grange’s floor. He goes one way, she goes the other and knocks on the door to presumably have her friend/boyfriend/husband/pimp let her in. The term: Elevator of shame!
I walked Jack back to our room, but he stopped to play roulette first. He hits black and red correctly, and cashes out +$200. My late night Wynn poker session was up and down. I gacked off $150 early when my overpair with OESD failed to catch up to a bigger overpair. But, I got all that back and more when my set of 3s cracked a Scandi’s AA; hilarity ensued! Speaking of hilarity, some tourney must have been running, because some young yahoo with a Bluetooth headset stood by our table relating a dozen or so bad beats, coolers, and donkey plays to some unknown shrink/staker/annoyed girlfriend. Lots of short stacks again, but mostly young drunk guys pushing with random trash like it’s a tourney, so good for the game. I have another SVB moment when I have A2o in the SB, and hit an Ace on the turn and a 4 on the river for a nice pot. Later, my Yaks get cracked by running dos pairs, so the statistical variance gods were appeased.
Meanwhile I begin the long, slow grind of death. Play QQ like a complete donkey into obv KK (or AA). Need coffee, instead order Red Bull and Vodka. Luck immediately improves.
Lucky joins me before pattern of wives waking up and heading to breakfast continues. In a surprise move, the women decide they will shop on their own and leave us to play until lunch. We place a few sports wagers and Grange, Lucky and I hit the tables again. Grange plays first hand of 84s and snaps off QQ for a big pot. Labeled table maniac, he makes good coin during the afternoon session.
Thank you Joe Pa for beating Illinois and making me $200. Santa hit a 3 team parlay for a nice score of his own.
The gals return and we head to Café Luxe for lunch. Finally, some pretty good grub! I interrupt polite conversation with a shriek as I realize Iowa State loses on a blocked extra point to the Kansas St. Mildcats (who managed to both play for a trip to the Big 12 championship – yet not make a bowl game-on the last day of the season?!?!?). Luckily that wasn’t a part of my parlay that came in later!
We are once again left to our own devices and the three of us wind up at the same table. Grange hitting everything in the world to begin with. He’s incredibly happy when his image starts getting everyone’s money. I manage to get away from his turned quads when he check raises my bet:
Grange: Wha??? How do you bet and not call a min raise!??!!
Santa: I was only showing passive-aggression.
While Grange, Lucky and I managed to sit around the same table and swap bankrolls, the spouses were busy out spending them. Giggly Leprachaun managed to coin a couple of new phrases by referring to her foot as having “toe cleavage” in a pair of shoes she was considering. Giggly also took our other two IMOP-TOC contests seriously. The first was “Mullet Hunter”, a popular game where you take photos of kick-ass mullets seen while walking the strip. She captured a real gem of a mullet in a guy wearing a rather nice suit? I guess it was business in the front mode at that moment…
Giggly also coined another phrase during the “Big Ass Contest” (same as mullet hunt, but you’re looking for large…you get the idea…). The winning photo she named “The Hungry Pooper” as it was apparently trying to gobble up the pants which were trying in vain to cover it…
Jack again proved to be an SVB lucky charm. I had been card dead for quite some time when he returned with the gals. I immediately flop a set of 6s for a nice pot. Jack wanders off to the Wheel of Fortune slots, comes back a few minutes later, and I immediately find AA … and flop another set! Those two hands turned a bleh session into serious profitability. BTW, Giggly’s winning pic of the Hungry Pooper was an image difficult to burn out of my retinas; the subject clearly thought she was hot stuff, strutting around like that, ready to go clubbing … Let’s just say she could star in a Sir Mix-A-Lot video.
After cleaning up as best we all could, we headed over to Stack at the Mirage for dinner. It was an interesting experience. I had called over and had no problem making a reservation on relatively short notice. When we all walked up, we were stopped by a large bouncer type at the bottom of the stairs/entrance area who asked if we had reservations. We then proceeded to the desk area where they asked us the same question. We were told to “wait over there” in the bar area. Looking around, there were plenty of scantily clad stripper/escort/club groupie types along with the usual hair gel kid crowd. But since this was Vegas, nothing seemed unusual, other than being ignored by the wait staff. Apparently we didn’t look thirsty.
Anyhoo – upon getting seated at our table, we are informed that it is celebrity central in stack that night. Some guy from Sum41, a porn star named Stormy Weathers, Matt Sorum from GNR, Benecio Del Toro and even a rumor that Leo DiCaprio was there. This created a fair amount of conversation at our table. A semi quiet debate raged on that Leo was at the table directly next to us. Jack was convinced it was him because he reads all those trashy Hollywood magazines and was going on about how he changed his look, or got fat, or became a woman – or something. Turns out it wasn’t him but it was fun watching the girls take turns pretending to take pictures of each other while they tried to frame up celebs in the background. We had a great meal and our servers in the restaurant were a hell of a lot better than the bar. When we told him we were from Iowa, he said, “Well, I certainly know you aren’t from LA!”
The last event on the docket was Video Poker Palooza. We headed over to Harrah’s to compete and everyone put in their $10 to see how long they could make it last. Mrs. Claus actually ended up winning by virtue of hitting a couple of key ands and probably playing one quarter at a time and being the only one with money after 15 minutes. The crew was once again gassed by midnight and headed their separate ways.
YEOOWW!!! I sat straight up in bed at roughly 2:30am with the worst leg cramp in the world. Apparently nothing but vodka/red bull and John Daly’s will do that to you in a desert when you don’t have any water at all. Well, I was awake. Might as well get one last poker session in! I headed down to the poker room and learned Grange would be joining me shortly. I got a seat at a table with “White Trash Fergie” which I realize could be construed as redundant, but it was fitting. She was surly as hell any time someone would dare to raise or check raise her. So, I started doing it fairly liberally because a) I have it out for pseudo-hot women because of all their ignoring me through the years and b) I’m an asshole. At one point after I show down a check raise bluff with a missed flush draw she says, “Keep it up, I’ll bust your ass.” I’d like to say I had a snarky reply but it was still 3:30am so I lamely say, “OK.” The very next hand she raises PF and I shove all in behind her w big slick. She angrily wings her cards at the dealer and starts to collect her chips to leave. At this point I only manage a feeble, “Guess I get to keep my ass after all.”
By the time Grange joins me I’m at a new table. The table includes the following characters:
*Middle aged guy with sunglasses AND glasses, complete with wife sweating him and his multiple short rebuys.
*Idiot sitting to his right giving lectures as to why online poker is rigged.
*Guy who comments on every hand and why the winner played it incorrectly.
*Large chested, cute but degenerate grinder gal who also will not shut up.
*Young DB looking guy who talks about “straddle pride” every orbit.
*Young, undersized degenerate DB who spends his time hitting in grinder gal.
This was easily the most bizarre and entertaining collection of misfit toys at a poker table on this trip. The guy whose wife was sweating him was a total DB, whining non-stop. The “online poker, is rigged” guy would absolutely not shut up about how he knew that online tourneys were fixed, so I had a good time throwing a lot of snarky comments his way.
No remarkable hands, but semi-amusing situations and quotes:
1. Rigged-online poker guy has big hand snapped by K3o and Grinder Gal says, “Live poker is SOOOO rigged.”
2. In the middle of another series of “smooth lines” from pint sized DB, Grinder Gal turns to the table and says, “I think he even gets laid. It boggles my mind, but I think it happens. Annoying!”
I have Grinder Gal’s quote word for word on my Blackberry as well; it was hilarious how he reacted when she said that. Here’s another good quote from Young DB: “I’m the best tournament player. I hate playing for hours just to finish 9th. You guys would be happy with 9th, but for me, it sucks.” Apparently he was that “Isildur1” guy who has been in the news …
I did pick off a big bluff attempt by Lucky, but no real other hands of note. I did get a good line in after winning a hand against Santa: “If there were a Special Olympics for poker, you’d be a silver medalist.” Santa gave me a courtesy glare …
We finish off a boring session and head back to check out. The trip finishes with a quick shopping trip to Fashion Show and some sushi at some joint in there. I was pretty much on fumes at that point so the details are hazy. All I know is that thanks to superior football picking and Giggly’s ability to photograph strip freaks, the Leprechauns were the inaugural winners of the IMOP-TOC and received the commemorative trophy of a Vegas themed ceramic mug I picked up at Goodwill for 25 cents. Display it proudly!
Jack and Grange had some time to kill before their plane so they headed back and made serious coin betting football. Meanwhile Mrs. Claus, the Leprechauns and I got on the germ filled petri dish that is the Allegiant airplane. Lucky and Giggly spent the entire trip dodging swine flu as some woman hacked non-stop all the way home. Mrs. Claus spent her time snapping pictures of me drooling all over myself on the flight home and has threatened to include them with the Christmas letter if I don’t behave myself.
After lunch, Jack and I did some Fashion Mall shopping. I had gone 4-1 in NFL early games ($100 each), so I went by the Wynn sports book for an afternoon pick or two. I decided to let Jack pick from my 3 possible plays, and we ended up taking the 49ers for $250 total ($200 for me, $50 for Jack). It was the easiest cover of the day! Jack took his winnings to the roulette table and managed to hit black back to back spins, to pick up an extra $100. Not a bad finish to a fun trip!