I got into Las Vegas on December 17 for a three-night poker trip. I was surprised that there were as many people as there were, considering that I was going during what was supposed to be one of the deadest weeks of the year.
I checked into Harrah's late afternoon and headed to one of my favorite poker rooms, Bally's. The Bally's $1/2 NL game had been especially profitable for me in 2006, and I came expecting the same.
About three hands into my visit, I got pocket 9's and hit my set on the flop. They held up, and I was on my way ... or so I thought. The next 27 hours the poker gods forgot that I existed.
Shortly after hitting the set, I called a small raise with A-10. The flop came A-3-4. A player to my right raised and I called. Being new to the table, I had no idea what kind of player was in the hand with me. I was concerned that he went in with A-3 or A-4. The turn was an Ace. The player to my right again bet, and I again called. What did he have? The flop was a Jack, and he increased his raise. I was guessing that he had A-J and just made his boat, but I called anyway. I was thinking that I was probably beat, and I was right. However, I was shocked to see that the guy had pocket Jacks and continued betting with two Aces on the board. He hit his lucky two outer, and now I was back at ground zero.
The next hand I had top pair, okay kicker and raised. I was called by one person, who unfortunately hit his gutshot. Then ... the cards stopped coming.
I was surprised to see so many local players at Bally's that night. The play was obviously going to get tougher and I was getting no cards, so I decided to watch the Survivor finale on tv and return afterwards.
When I returned, the tables at Bally's were full, but I was able to get into a $1/2 NL table at Paris. This was my first time at Paris, and I did have a good time and played against some decent players. There was only one NL table, though, so options were limited. I played for several hours and came out even, getting virtually no playable hands. I decided to call it a night.
On Monday I returned to Bally's and again saw very few playable hands: 9-2os, 8-3os, Q-4os -- you get the picture. It was frustrating sitting on the sideline so much. I finally gave up at dinnertime, decided to catch a quick snack, then try the Sahara 7:00 pm tournament. I was looking forward to the change of pace.
The run of bad cards continued, however, through the first hour of the tournament. After the first break, I immediately had a hand with promise - a nut flush draw after the flop. The turn did not help, but the river brought a diamond, completing the nut flush. Unfortunately, in my excitement at finally playing a hand, I failed to recognize that the river also paired the board. Yep, you guessed it - it completed the full house for someone. He raised, I re-raised, and he went all in, which I naturally called. I was shocked to see that instead of doubling up, I was on the rail. What a day!
I called my wife and my brother to try to change my mojo, and then decided to hit the Wynn.
When I got into the Wynn, I was put on the waiting list -- number nine for $1/3 NL. A few more people signed up, and Wynn opened a new table for us. I was surprised that the wait was so short.
I bought in for $300, as did a few others. A few people bought in for less, and I was wondering how they would measure up. I got my answer on the first or second hand. Two people (each less than $300) went all in and were called by a third player. The winning hand: two pair! I had a feeling this might be the table for me.
Seeing as how I was down and had been fighting bad luck with cards, I decided to start playing very tight. Now -- when the guy playing tight makes a big bet, do you think you should call with a mediocre hand? These guys didn't figure it out, and soon I was rolling in chips. I then opened up my play and just kept building my castle of chips. Within a few hours I was way in front and decided to call it a night.
On Tuesday morning, I was awakened at 8:30 am by a loud alarm with flashing lights. The intercom system announced that Harrah's personnel were trying to locate the source of the trouble, but when I saw security guards searching all over my floor, I thought that it was time to get out. I threw on my smoky old clothes and stumbled out of Harrah's and into Aladdin.
I was pretty tired and decided not to play in the morning tournament, so I hit the Aladdin buffet for breakfast. It was excellent, as always. I felt fatigued and decided to go back to Harrah's and sleep.
After waking, I was anxious to head back to Wynn, but I wanted to give the Venetian a try. The Venetian was all that I had heard -- a very nice poker room, although not very crowded. I played some $1/2 NL and saw a lot of risk taking. People were hitting all kinds of hands on the river, including my all in getting called (I had a straight) and losing to a made flush on the river. I left down only a few chips, but had an excellent time. My only complaint was that the swivel chairs would turn and hit you when someone got up to leave the table.
I wanted to spend the last night at the Wynn, so I left at 10:00 pm and looked forward to a repeat of the night before.
There was once again a wait list of almost ten people, but a new table started quickly. One of the guys was a good ole boy from Texas (said that his name was Lance) who announced what his hole cards were each hand. At least, we though he was being truthful most of the time ...
I remembered reading about a similar thing happening in a previous trip report, poker room report, or in a forum post. Did someone else run into this same guy?
He made big bets and raises, and was at first very irritating. As the night went on and he drank more and more, he became funnier and funnier, and really made for one of the most fun poker nights I have ever had. I usually prefer to play serious poker, but this one night I was willing to trade in my usually serious game to have fun. It was a riot. He had a few dealers who really disliked him, which made things even funnier.
I played through the night since I was having so much fun, but a few crucial hands where my opponents got the cards they needed and I didn't kept me from having another big night. All those hours of poker to only come out even, but I had one night I'll never forget.
I was able to sneak in a few hands of $1/2 NL at Flamingo before I left, and did enjoy the fun banter at the table. I wished that I had had a few more hours before my plane left.
My quick impressions of the rooms where I played NL this trip:
Bally's: Friendly dealers, fishy tourists, but an increasing number of good locals, meaning that making a profit is not as easy as before.
Venetian: Fishy and daring players with a few good ones thrown in. Good dealers but not personable, nice chairs, and a generally nice and well-run place.
Wynn: Fishy players who don't hesitate to reload along with a couple of solid players. Dealers need personality transplants. Nice place to play, well run.
Flamingo: Fishy players with a few good ones thrown in. Dealers were funny. I will try this one again when I have more time on my next trip.
I will be heading out to Las Vegas for more poker at the end of January or the beginning of February. If you have never played poker in Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and book your trip today. You will not be disappointed.