After some morning shopping, I headed out at 1.30pm to the final establishment on my itinerary – the Flamingo. They were just opening a new 2-4 limit table (making it I think 4 in total) and I got immediate seating. Bought in short for $60 and I was in business.
Whenever I walk by the Flamingo poker room, I always think it appears to have such a soul-destroyingly depressing atmosphere – maybe like the lounge in a down-on-its-luck retirement home. However whenever I actually play in it, it always seems a far far better experience than I imagined. Maybe the lounge in a down-on-its-luck retirement home is nicer than I think, too.
Today was no exception. A wide age range playing at the table, but everyone was there to have a good time. Dealers were friendly. Drinks service was good for the first drink, but after that very slow – as bad as I had experienced at the Excalibur. They have replaced the progressive high-hand jackpots for a flat payout rate – not that it troubled me though. It does mean however they have replaced part of the hand-written white board with a printed poster which probably smartens the place up a little. Nothing much memorable in the hand department, and moved on after 3 hours $30 down.
With that my mission was complete - I have been to the 8 poker rooms I am aware of on the strip that regularly offer 2-4 limit (or 1-5 spread in the case of O'Shea's).
So where to now? Didn't take much thought at all - headed back to O'Shea's shortly before 5pm for some more 1-5 limit action. The whole Friday night party atmosphere was kicking off, yet the drinks came as quick as before. And I took full advantage over the next 7 hours.
The quality of the drinks themselves was for the most part good too – it was one of the best Bloody Marys I'd had (they had even bothered to put pepper in it, which many of the others this week had been lacking). But then they through their reputation away when I ordered a jack daniels on the rocks and they brought something that certainly wasn't jack. It has only ever happened to me once before in Vegas – at the Flamingo. Cheapskates. (wait, coming from me that's probably a compliment).
I was having some more nostalgic moments, thinking back to my 1-3 spread days at the Excalibur. The table had a very familiar feel: there were 3-4 players who knew what they were doing and knew who else did too, there were 3-4 players who played an acceptable game but didn't show much greater insight, and there were 2-3 players who didn't have much of a clue. And one of these guys was playing aggressively with it too. It was the first time in a long time that I had seen the dealer have to explain the string bet rule, the oversize chip rule and about table stakes to 3 different players within about 10 minutes.
In my opinion the best thing to do in circumstances like this is to wait patiently for a hand (hopefully before the aggressive player runs out of chips), and then play it as aggressively as you can when you hit.
Finally I got my opportunity. I was holding KJ, and called a small pre-flop raise by the aggressive player (AP).
Flop was QT9 rainbow for the straight.
V1 bets 2, V2 raises to 7, I re-raise to 12, AP calls, V1 folds, V2 calls.
Turn is a harmless 6, though now there are 2 clubs on the board.
V2 checks, I bet 5, AP raises to 10, V2 folds, I re-raise to 15, AP calls.
River is another 6 – at least it wasn't a club, but now I'm in trouble if he hit trips on the flop. Experience though had shown you can't read too much into his pattern of bets.
I bet 5, AP raises to 10. Hmmmm … maybe he did hit trips on the flop. Or maybe its a complete bluff. I decide to call.
He shows Q6 offsuit for the full house.
The guy sitting next to me is mad: “What business did he have playing Q6 at all, never mind calling a 12 dollar re-raised bet on the flop with top pair no kicker?”. I am more philosophical - I'm sure he'd have called me to the river even without the runner runner 6's – and I'd much rather be playing against someone like this even if they suck out from time-to-time. Still, one hand like that going the other way makes a difference of around $100 to your roll.
Despite continuing to have more than my share of bad beats, I also hit (and very occasionally bluffed) some hands, and finished $12 up after a 7-hour session. Hey, a win's a win, and it could have been so much more.
Flamingo, 2-4 limit 1.30pm – 4.30pm (3hrs)
Time to be seated: immediate
Time to drinking first beer: 15 minutes
Total drinks consumed: 1 x Corona, 1 x Bloody Mary, 1 x Margarita (Bloody Mary rating 7/10, Margarita rating 7/10)
Room management: 9/10
Ease of competition: 6/10
Fun-ness of dealers: 7/10
Fun-ness of table: 7/10
OVERALL RATING: 7/10
O'Shea's, 1-5 spread 4.45pm – 11.45pm (7hrs)
Time to be seated: immediate
Time to drinking first beer: 10 minutes
Total drinks consumed: 3 x Guinness, 2 x Bloody Mary, 2 x Pina Colada, 1 x Captain and Coke, 1 x Whisky sour, 1 x Car Bomb, 1 x Gin and Tonic, 1 x “Jack Daniels” (Bloody Mary rating 8/10, others don't really remember)
Room management: 7/10
Ease of competition: 8/10
Fun-ness of dealers: 7/10
Fun-ness of table: 9/10
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
So that's it. My mission is complete. I have been to the 8 poker rooms I am aware of on the strip that regularly offer 2-4 limit (or 1-5 spread in the case of O'Shea's). Please tell me if I have missed anywhere out.
I feel I have had more than my fair share of bad beats this week, but still find myself after 37 hours cash play only down the equivalent of 1 buy-in at 1/2NL. If you count my tournament results too, then its the equivalent of 1 buy-in at 2-4 limit.
Technically my results are still within the expected spread of a winning player, but deep down I don't think that's the case here, I think in the long term I would have made back the rake but not covered the dealer and drinks tips. But I've been forcing myself to play a lot of places I wouldn't otherwise have done. By being selective I am still confident you can make a few dollars an hour playing these stakes, and have a lot of fun in the process. But if you want to make a living at 2-4 limit, become a dealer.
My room ratings are of course somewhat subjective, and reflect the people I played with on the day, (which of course will vary from visit to visit). But my mission was to find the funnest rooms to play low stakes on the strip, so here goes. I have factored in the constants (room ambiance, dealers etc.) whilst trying to look beyond the actual people I played with and variations in time of day to give my general impression of where you are most likely to have fun. And here is my list, ranked funnest to least fun:
None of these places was truly bad – I am sure with the right people you could a perfectly wonderful time at any of them. And the dealers were universally competent and professional throughout. Interesting, though, isn't it - the first three have high-hand jackpots but not free-rolls, the next three have both, and the MGM has neither. Remember those fun-killing freeroll chasers?
I think Excalibur benefits greatly from the wheelspin, especially with such a low qualifying threshold. It would though have scored higher though with a better drinks service. Planet Hollywood comes third, and was the funnest of the “quality” casinos. The Monte Carlo just pipped the TI to 4th place, partly as they had a higher proportion of charismatic dealers, and also because I felt it was unfair to mark the MC down too heavily for what I experienced in an afternoon, as I am fairly sure at the TI I would not have been able to get a limit game at all. MGM Grand and IP bring up the rear, partly because the fun element is wholly reliant on getting the right people to the table. For me MGM managed it the time I was there, the IP did not and that's all I've got to go on, but I accept it might be different next time. So don't write these places off on my say-so alone.
Tomorrow I give up my low-rolling ways, and enter the Harrah's $150 megastack.