Limit, limit tourneys, and a bit o' no limit


I had three nealry three full days after my Wednesday through Saturday conference in Palm Springs, and after lots of Internet research, I chose Vegas over SoCal. But limit tournaments are on the wane, sadly.

Thursday night, I arrived a bit later than I had planned after playing the 10:00am tournament at Morongo, which was a hint of things to come. This low-buy-in tournament changes from limit to no-limit after the first hour. Sucks.

IMPERIAL PALACE: Their web site says they have limit tournaments on Thursday nights. I checked in to the El Cortez and headed down to the Bellagio parking garage, then made a quick walk over to the Imperial Palace, a longer walk than expected, only to find out that all their tournaments are no no limit. A huge disappointment. Didn't even bother to go in to the poker room.

BELLAGIO: Y'know, from the outside, the poker room at the Bellagio looks swanky, but if you're a low-limit player, you're wedged in worse than sardines in a can. Worse, the felt on the tables is worn and stained, and the tables themselves are way too small; they are really 0-player tables with 10 people squeezed in. I gave the $8/$16 tables a try (I usually play $6/$12) and had a horrible 4.5 hours. It probably wasn't helped by my playing after (a) a long drive and (b) the Imperial Palace disappointment, and it was an expensive lesson.

LUXOR: Their noon "limit" tournament turned out to be limit only for the first hour, like at Morongo. I caught no cards and was out before the tournament even went to no-limit. But the cardroom itself is nice. The tables are well spaced and in good condition and the chairs are comfortable. The tournament has no visible clock or even a chime; the tournament director just calls out the change to a new round, and checking my watch, it seemed as if the calls were usually off by a minute or two.

BELLAGIO: I played a looong 12-hour stretch here. Arrived around 3:30 and got a $4/$8 seat fairly quickly. A big tournament was this weekend too, and others were star spotting. I didn't notice any, and the ones pointed out to me were too far away, but I wasn't really looking anyway. One of the big problems with the tables being (a) too small and (b) too close together is taht there's not room for tables, for food or drinks. Nor are there any cupholders. Anyone who wants a drink is forced to just stand it on the felt. Whem people finish, they put their drink on the floor, or sometimes on the small molding on the wall. More than once, glassed were knocked over from both of those places. Whe I was getting ready to leave, a dealer came to my table who looked really dogged. I engaged in a bit of conversation to find out he'd been dealing something like 9 tables without a break and had put in a long day. And during his shift at my table, apparently without asking him, he had been put in for more work. He spoke up with who was apparently a shift manager and it was straightened out. Even being so obvioulsy tired, this dealer was competent and professional, and I sympathized with him being put in such an untenable position.

ORLEANS: Finally, a true limit tournament. I'd already heard from conversation elsewhere that this is a well-run tournament. The only qualm I have is that they don't print round sheets. I like to have one in my pocket so I can glance at it during play. But this is a *nice* room, even if it is off the strip. The room is way in the back from the front entrance. The tables are well spaced and the chairs are very comfortable. The tables are big enough to comfortably accommodate 10 players, yet they don't feel huge. The tournament director ran an efficient tournament. The Saturday tournament drew 71 players and I actually did well here, finishing 3rd after my pocket 2s went all-in (raised and re-raised) against AQ offsuit and an ace fell on the flop. This is also a bounty tournament and I added six $5 bounties to my take. This tournament allows to to buy an additional amount of chips for an extra $5, which is supposed to go to the dealers, a nice bonus, I presume, on top of the 6% tip I left.

BELLAGIO: I arrived about 5ish on Saturday and found a loooong list. Talking to someone while I was waiting, I was told that the best time a bit earlier or a bit later. I finally got seated at an $8/$16 table at 6:30pm. Not only are the tables at Bellagio way too close together, the limit tables are near the rail where the wait line for "O" stands. They often smoke. The smoke drift over the nearby tables. Cough, cough. Not a pleasant experience. Ended up to the left of an older, friendly gentleman whom I'd played against the night before (who is also pretty doggone good). Another grind-it-out night where I took a small loss. But had one of the worst poker experiences ever. At one point, we got a new dealer, who asked that we all adjust our positions. I pointed out were were square at the table (I was in seat 6). She (it was a smaller Asian woman with a name tag the read "Wendy") took a pink chip and literally drew a line down the center of the felt with its edge. She said that she needed to be "comfortable," even though previous dealers were working without difficulty, and I spoke up and pointed out that it was most important for the _players_ to be comfortable. The gentleman to my right spoke up and asked her to clean off the line she drew. She refused. He asked her to call the floorman to clean it off. She refused again. The gentleman finally got the attentio nof a floorman, who dampened the corner of a cloth and scrubbed it mostly off. But I have never, ever (in my short poker career) see a dealer so obstinate, controlling, and rude to the table. I did something I have never done before: I didn't tip when I won (and I won three pots on her shift). A couple other of the old timers recognized what had happened and they didn't tip either, and when she left, and the experience came up in table conversation, I said that I tip for good performance and good service, and she provided neither.

BELLAGIO: I wanted to play for a couple of hours on Sunday before the long drive home. I arrived before noon and there was one $4/$8 table going--with a long list--and no $8/$16 tables going. There were holding them for an afternoon tournament and no tables would be freed up before about 1:30pm, I was told. I eventually decided to bite the bullet and risk a couple hundred dollars on my first-ever no-limit ring game, the lowest they had with $2/$5 blinds. It was, to say the least, an interesting experience. First, the tables were on the otehr side of the room from the limit tables and were not so crowded together. Second, unexpectedly, I saw a lot of limping in. I had a nice run, pushed my good hands, annd more than doubled up in an hour and a half. In that time I saw an all-in bet only once, and it was by someone who was playing rather loosely and aggressively two seats to my right, and it was against me. He'd called my pre-flop raise, and then check-raised my post-flop feeler bet. I folded, as I hadn't hit, and I think that wa a good thing.

While I like the *idea* of playing at Bellagio, the actual experience is far from the best I've ever seen. The low-limit players run the gamut, from folks who have been aorund the game for years to newbie fish and youngsters who learned from watching TV. But to be jammed in like sardines, to have long waits for service and for chips, to see the tabels worn and stained, it all adds up to a far-from optimal poker experience. Whenever my next trip to Vegas is, and even though I enjoyed meeting a former Bellagio dealer who's now a graveyard floorman (and he even recognized me after nearly a year away), I think I want to find a better place to regularly play.

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