NCAA Weekend Trip- Busy Town (Long)


Again, my saintly wife gives me leave to take a 3 night trip to Vegas to scratch my poker itch. Traveling alone is SOOOO easy compared to traveling with 2 small children, and I enjoyed my Southwest Airlines trip direct from KC to Las Vegas (nobody puked on me), arriving at about 1pm on the first Saturday of the NCAA tournament. The last time I was in Vegas was about 2 months ago, and compared to then, it was incredibly busy. Good sign for Vegas. I know this is supposed to be one of the busier weekends of the year because of the tourney, but the fact that it was still busy on Mon. and Tues. has got to be something of a relief for the town.

I checked in to Harrahs, where I got a pretty good deal for the three nights—about $170 for Sat night, but only $50 or so for Sun. and Monday. My room was on a lower floor, but it was at the end of the hallway adjacent to a little courtyard that nobody was ever in, so it was VERY quiet. It was also reasonably clean and nice. I picked Harrahs because of the price and central strip location, and wasn’t disappointed.

My goal for this trip was to visit some of the rooms that I missed on my first trip to Vegas in January. I started with Caesars, arriving around 2pm and getting seated at a 1/3 table around 2:30. It was VERY busy in the room and continued to be busy until I left around 8pm. The table was generally pretty fun with a couple local rocks, and a handful of loose aggressive players coming in and out. There was one young guy in particular who sat down, buying in for $100, and proceeded to bluff it off within 2 hands. He bought in for another $100, and lost it just about as quickly. Now he buys in for $500—this stack lasts about ½ hour. This was one of those situations where EVERYBODY at the table was gunning for this guy and waiting for a reasonable hand to go up against him with. Mine never came. After losing the $500, the guy buys in for $300, but this time, he tightens up considerably and actually starts playing a relatively normal game. Damn. I liked the Caesars room a lot, the dealers were competent, drinks came pretty quickly, and it wasn’t smoky at all. In fact, I noticed that the air felt very fresh rather than stale and musty as in my poker rooms that are adjacent to casino floors. I was card dead (a repeated theme throughout most of this trip), and left down about $350.

Based on information from this web site, I decided to grab a little dinner and check out TI for the remainder of the evening. The pedestrian traffic between Caesars and TI was horrific. I literally was at a standstill at times because people were so thickly massed. Something you notice when you’re walking in Vegas by yourself is that people who are walking in groups walk incredibly slowly, and create these walls that are almost impenetrable by more destination minded single pedestrians. I finally make it there and sit at the bar at the Steakhouse at TI and have a beer and the shortribs (pretty good, especially the sweet potatoes)—then I head over to the poker room. It’s a small room, but I found the staff to be very friendly and genuine and attentive. I was impressed. The table I sat at played pretty straightforward poker, and I was able to make up for my loss at Caesars by having a nice run of cards—nothing remarkable, just good starting cards that improve a little or hold up—I leave + $350 and even for the day. I head back to Harrahs, and hit the hay.

On Sunday morning, I get up around 8am (can’t sleep much more due to the time change), hit Starbucks in the lobby for some breakfast and head to Harrah’s poker room to check that out. My 1/2NL table was mostly locals—pleasant enough guys—and also a 60ish Asian man named Joon who was very aggressive and got involved in a lot of pots—throwing in a lot or big raises and re-raises and taking down a lot of pots. I miss the flop big-time a whole bunch of times, and leave down about $135 before buying in to the 11am tourney. Play is pretty predictable and the competition is average—about 25 runners. But, lo and behold, no decent cards after the first couple of levels, and I’m out after about 1 ½ hours. Hit Chipotle for a little lunch. While standing in line the manager announces that they’re out of tortillas for burritos, and that they could only make bowls and tacos. The guy behind me yells “And you do this for a living!!!!????” and turns and storms out. The manager says, loud enough for everyone to hear “what an idiot.” But of course, I’m thinking, that guy was right…. Vegas is finally busy with people lining up for burritos and you run out of tortillas at noon! I scarf down my “bowl” and walk over to check out the IP. Its pretty busy with a tourney going on covering most of their 6 or so tables, and I’m second on the list for the 1/2NL game—but I wait 20 minutes without any movement, so I decide to head back to Harrahs and try the IP some other time.

I sit down quickly, and my transition lenses are still dark from the sunshine when I catch pocket kings. I raise to 15 from middle position and get 5 callers. Flop comes out ragged, Q 6 2 rainbow. The first guy checks to me and I fire about 50 at it. The next guy goes all in for his remaining 72. Interestingly, the next woman CALLS the 72 (with about 100 more behind), one guy folds, and the final guy calls all-in with his remaining 20 or so (I call the 22, but can’t re-raise). Normally, I’d be worried about the woman who called (possible set?) but I sat next to her in the tournament earlier, and found that she had a tendency to overplay her cards. Turn comes another 2. I push my remaining 130 or so, and the woman insta-calls. River looks like a blank. I ask her “you have a set?” She says “no” and I take down most of the pot. The guy who was all-in for his last 20 had A2 for trip 2s. Really the only sizable pot I took down during the whole 3 days.

I play for a couple more hours at Harrahs while I keep my eye on the Mizzou-Marquette NCAA game. I’m from Missouri, so I put $40 on Missouri, giving up 3 ½ points. With 5 seconds to go the score is tied, and I’m begging for OT to give Missouri a chance to win by 4 or more. However, a Mizzou player gets fouled quickly, sinks both shots, and a Marquette player steps on the line while inbounding and turns the ball over. Marquette has to foul, the Mizzou player sinks both shots, and Mizzou wins by 4. Go figure!

I head over to the Venetian to play the 7pm $120 buy-in tourney. Love the room, but never really get anything going. End up pushing a small stack with QQ, get called by AK, Ace comes on the flop, I’m out and I’m off to the Wynn! I check in at the Wynn to play 1/3NL and sit after about 20 minutes. The room is really nice, but I found the atmosphere kind of subdued despite the fact that it was pretty busy. Also, cocktail service was REALLY slow (the waitress had way too many tables). My table was pretty fun. Two young ladies from Texas sat down and we started trading bad jokes. Their names were Ashley and ….. the girl who follows the guys who follow Ashley! No hands of note, though I chased a few too many and left down about $100. Hit the hay.

I check out the Harrahs buffet for breakfast and pay with Harrahs points. Pretty good quality, but the hot food was a little cold. I decide to check out the Caesar’s Forum shops across the street. That place is pretty incredible. Mostly swanky shops with squeaky clean marble floors, huge sculptures, gleaming displays, spotless windows, and perfectly manicured sales people. This place just screams “YOU CAN’T AFFORD ANYTHING HERE!” so I head over to check out the IP for some table time during Aces and Kings cracked. The place is packed, mostly with 2-4 limit players, most of whom leave at 11 when the AA and KK cracked finishes, as if someone dropped a deuce in the middle of the room. There are only two 1/2NL tables. I get on in about 10 minutes, and the table seems really fun, even at 10am. There are a couple guys who seem really aggressive, and I watch about 5 all-in moves and calls (with sizable stacks) in about 15 minutes. One guy in particular, a Scandinavian guy, seems to be betting to drive people out of pots, and ends up showing down a couple hands with pretty weak holdings. Hand of the trip—I’m in the small blind with AJ, and Scandanavian guy makes it 12 to go under the gun. It folds around to me and I just call. Flop comes J-4-2 or something like that, with two diamonds. I check, looking to trap Scandinavian guy. Sure enough, he fires 20 at it. I re-raise to 60. Scandanavian guy thinks for about 5 seconds, then declares all-in (he has my remaining 130 or so covered, barely). Given his aggressive play, I don’t necessarily put him on AA, KK, or QQ, though an all-in is pretty bold without that, or at least the nut flush draw. I think there’s a pretty good chance he also has AJ, and a decent chance he’s got air (AQ, AK, A10 or an underpair to the jacks). I’m not happy about it but I call. He says those lovely words “nice call” and turns over pocket 10s. Turn is a blank, but river is, you guessed it, a 10! CRAP. He’s apologetic and everybody sends condolences for taking such a bad beat after making a great call. I buy back in and play for a few more hours there with a couple guys from the Univ. of Illinois on spring break, and a nice local guy named Max with spiky blond hair. We yuck it up and have a great time without anybody getting particularly aggressive.
Around 4:30 I head over to the Bellagio to try to get a game for a couple hours before going to a show at 8:00. I get on the list, and wait, and wait, and wait. After about 1/2hr I’m first on the list, but I still wait, and wait. I’m starting to get annoyed, particularly because it seemed like there were enough people on their list (a paper list on a clipboard???? What’s up with that!) to start a new game, and empty tables, but they didn’t really seem too interested in managing their list. Around 5:30 I informed the manager that he should take me off the list. He said, “but you’re first!” and I said “I’ve been first for ½ hr and I’m tired of waiting” and I left. Seemed like a nice room, but the management didn’t seem to be “customer focused” and they seemed to be more interested in their higher limit games. A female manager (didn’t catch her name, maybe Joy?) just seemed to be oozing negativity, particular toward the staff, and it was really distasteful when she’d dramatically roll her eyes and shake her head. It wasn’t a horrible experience, but there are plenty of rooms I like in Vegas, so I’m not anxious to go back.
I head down to the Luxor to get my tickets to see Carrot Top—a recommendation from a friend—before the show I play in the Luxor poker room for an hour or so. Not the greatest room—or “area”—again, given the options in Vegas, this is not on my list for a return trip, particularly given how out-of-the-way it is. No hands of note.
So I go to the Carrot Top show at 8, not really knowing what to expect, but being a little skeptical given what I’ve seen in ads and brief clips. But I’ve got to say, it was an AWESOME show. From the video clips of random stuff shown before the show, to the warm-up act, to Carrot Top’s act, I laughed really really hard for about 2 hours straight. Not every joke or every bit was great, but he is just so fast-paced, you just didn’t have to wait long. I know he’s kind of strange-looking due to the plastic surgery and body-building thing, but if you want to go to a very professional show, laugh your ass off, and want a pretty good value, I’d recommend it highly.
I walk back up the strip to Paris (still chuckling to myself most of the way) where I sit outside and have a nice glass of wine and steak frites while I watch the freak-show parade and the Bellagio fountain shows. Decide to put in a visit at Bally’s and sit down at a very “live” game with people who were WAY overplaying their cards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get much going myself. Sitting on the button with AK spades and about $100 behind, the action limps to me and I make it $17. One guy folds, and the next guy (who had limped) makes it $100 to go, putting me all-in. It folds to me, and I call. Flop is J 10 2, one spade (not good), turn comes another J spades, and the river….. is another spade! I’ve got the nut flush!! Yahoo, right? NOT! As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, my opponent had pocket jacks for the quads. Goodnight!
Wake up on Tuesday, and have an hour or so to kill before I’ve got to head to the airport for my return flight. I hit the Harrahs poker room for convenience and play for about an hour. I see Las Vegas Michael on my way out the door and introduce myself, and promise to post a trip report.
Overall, very good trip although not much luck at the tables other than a good ½ hour run at TI. Bound to be better next time!

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  1. Great trip report, reminds me of my own solo trips ... so much fun! Sounds like I need to check out the Paris sidewalk cafe next trip, nothing better than a glass of wine and some steak frites for lunch.

    BTW, the chronic shortage of tortillas was an issue I encountered at Paco's in Sahara a couple years back. I mean seriously, how do you run out of tortillas?!?!?

  2. Nice Report. You arrived in Vegas about 18 hours before I left. My buddy was also on MU at -3.5 but since I had left town I didn't bet any more games (wanted to protect the win). We CLEANED up on the Cornell game though. This was a great year in the tourney to be an MU fan because we were underrated by the "experts". Friday after that cover and a few cocktails we were on both ends of the "MIZ - ZOU" chant running into fellow fans on the Strip!

    Sorry you didn't come out with more cash but it sounds like you had a nice trip.

  3. Good report. A lot of it sounds familiar. However, I cannot believe you would go to Vegas for poker debauchery and waste 2 hours on Carrot Top! Look, I know you said he was funny, but c'mon. I was a bit disappointed in you for that.

    Your impressions of many of the rooms were very, very similar to mine, especially Caesar's, TI, and Bellagio. I don't care for Bellagio because they treat guys like us like garbage because we aren't rolled enough for Bobby's Room.

    As for IP, I stayed there last year for a weekend (it cost me a total of $172 to stay Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night in July) and I thought their poker room was terribile. I could never make their AA or KK cracked prmotion because when I go play I stay out until 5 am and then sleep until 2pm.

    Thanks for the good read.