Rough ride at Venetian, 3/28-4/1


I thought I might not make it to Vegas when my Southern California conference finished on Wednesday, March 28th. I was having tremendous trouble finding reasonably prices hotel rooms, and for once, Priceline (with the help of wasn't coming through. I actually passed on a $200 total package (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights) for the Orleans I found at because I thought I could find a better deal. I couldn't, but I did find Main Street Station for $90/$90/$90, so I took it.

Checked in at twilight and headed right back out for the Venetian, based on reports here that the $8/$16 game there was (a) soft and (b) one of the only ones in town at that level.

Let's start by saying that the design of the Venetian garage is a nightmare. Come in through the back, over speed bumps, up and around sharp corners past dilapidated barriers and under low ceiling beams, it has more the look and feel of a downtown hotel garage. And from the elevator, it's not clear how to get to the casino.

The poker room itself has a nice appearance. The tables are not too close together. The chairs are *very* comfortable and adjust up and down, swivel, and are on rollers. There are some plush couches and chairs in one corner for a few people who might be waiting.

The Venetian is running a promotion currently: maximum $1 rake for limit games $8/$16 and up. And yet when I arrive, there is one $8/$16 game going. I get in and sure enough, it's the type of semi-loose passive game that I like so much. Within a short time, I'm up moire than $400. It's a mixture of tourists and locals. I fall into two bad habits: I get greedy, and I continue to play when I'm tired. I dork off most of the winnings and walk away barely awake with just a small profit. This session had a tourist from Texas who was utterly hemorrhaging money.

During that session, I get hungry and ask for a menu. The Venetian does have tableside food service, but the menu is short--and expensive. Worse, a 17% gratuity is automatically added. Not seeing a whole lot to my liking, I order the 1/2 lb. burger and fries for $11.50. It comes in this wood-like (did I mention that the Venetian has wood everywhere?) plastic lidded box. The fries inside are cold and limp and underdone, the burger is lukewarm and dry-ish, and the kaiser roll basically falls apart when I try to grab it. The whole thing is quite unsatisfying. (In contrast, I had breakfast at the Bicycle on Sunday morning from their player menu. The Sunday special was a huge mound of scrambled eggs and another huge mound of hash browns, with sourdough toast. I added a short stack of blueberry pancakes and a glass of orange juice and paid a whopping $5.50.)

The waitresses came around infrequently, so I also had to wait once I finally got my meal to get something to drink with that meal. The food servers don't get drinks. Weirdly, Friday and Saturday I got nice big 500mL bottles of Fiji water, but Saturday, I got dinky 12 oz. bottles of Venetian-labeled water.)

Friday I head to the Sahara for the 11am no-limit tournament. The poker room there has one $2/$4 limit game going when I arrive; 72 tournament entries fill up 7 more tables. Interestingly, the poker room isn't as smoky as I remember it from a year ago. The dealers are comfortable and chatty and quite competent. There is one utter tourist-newbie 4 seats to my right who basically calls almost anything, even any raise, preflop. I end up needing to rebuy when, after the UTG plyer just limps and everyone else folds, I make a button semi-steal standard raise with QJo. Only the initial limper stay in, and he min re-raises. Bells when off in my head, but no loud enough, especially on a flop of Q98, and I lose to his pocket kings when I don't improve. I rebuy, but I'm playing with a short stack and finish about 50th.

Back to the Venetian. At 2pm, not only is there no $8/$16 game, there are not even any players signed up to play. I decide to leave and head down the Strip (where I get a discount Blue Man Group ticket for that night at 10:30. By the time I returned, there was one $8/$16 game going and a short list. I signed up for both $4/$8 and $8/$16. I got the $4/$8 first and played there a good hour before an $8/$16 seat opened up.

The $4/$8 game there was all tourists. And they were all loose as a goose. The variance on this game is high, but if you can withstand that variance and play a solid game (you *will* get drawn out on), you can beat it. The only reason I left that game with a profit is because just before I left, I found pocket aces and, of course, raised. That didn't stop most everyone from calling to see a flop of KKQ. I don't remember what position I was in, but I think it was checked to me and I bet and got several callers. (I was hoping to elicit a raise here to see if someone would raise with trips.) My miracle ace came on the turn. I bet out, and got raised. Woo hoo! I was able to re-raise, got called by that one player, and he paid off with his (sure enough) trip kings.

It seems that the locals are very away of the $1 rake. I found several of them at the table Friday and Saturday, and I lost both days. It wasn't helped on Saturday when I went through a tremendous stretch of bad cards, including one 2-hour period when I saw exactly one pocket pair (kings, which I won with). Think of it: pocket pairs come, on average, 1 out of every 16 hands. With shufflers, good dealers--and most of the dealers here are good--can do 15-20 hands a down. So I saw 60-80 hands and got one pocket pair.

Speaking of dealers, yes, they were mostly quite good. I saw only one who was a bit slow. I saw only a couple of cards flipped up, one when a corner got caught in the shuffler seam. They call the action pretty well and keep the game going. A couple are even cute (special props to the gy who was working the floor Friday and dealing Saturday; I didn't catch his name, but he said he was born in SoCal and spent time in Colorado).

Meanwhile, the abundance of experienced local players make it less of a good game. Most of the game Saturday was more aggressive: Most hands were raised preflop and rarely were there more than 3 or 4 callers, even when no raise occurred. But the locals are friendly, and it pays to watch how they play and what they show down. Most also treat the game itself with respect. (One exception, and I don't know if he's a local or not, but he had a tremendous temper, threw his cards and chips around, tilted very easily, and was both a poor winner and loser. One example: we had an open seat for several hands, and when a new player came over, this guy waited until the new player literally was half-way into the seat and he spoke up to say he wanted that seat. No class at all.)

The Venetian plays 10-handed games. In the $8/$16 game, they use $4 (and $1) chips. If you're used to playing $8/$16 with $2 chips, its easy to (at least the first time) raise when you meant to call. (I didn't do it, but I saw it happen.)

Getting chips, like getting drinks, is like pulling teeth. It take chip runners an interminably long time to bring back chips.

You do get comps for playing, along the lines of $1 to $1.50 per hour, provided you swipe in *and* out with your Venetian player's club card. Comps can be used for tableside food or at the downstairs restaurants. I used this to get some chicken fingers and french fries on Saturday night. Much better this time. The chicken fingers are hos and not that bad. The fries are better too--but I specified "hot" and good and crunchy.

Seating is done by computer, and there are two plasma screen above the room entrance showing the lists. There are usually several $1/$2 N/L games going. It looks like there are rarely more than 2 or 3 $4/$8 games going and 1 or (sometimes) 2 $8/$16 game. At 10pm on a Saturday night, the room was half empty. They sometimes offer an $8/$16 HORSE game, and I also saw an interest list for a $25/$50 N/L game.

The floor folk are friendly and answer questions well. They are quick to tables when a decision is needed and seem to make quality decisions. The tables near the back door can get drafty because they are also near a door that opens to the outside.

Overall, the Venetian is a comfortable place to play, and there aren't terribly long waits for games that are going. But don't bother with most of the food, and be wary of who is in your game, at least if you're looking to make a profit, unless you have a good game yourself.

Finally, I hit the Orleans for the noon limit tournament, one of the last limit tournaments in Vegas. While I was waiting, I spent a little time in a $4/$8 game, which was overall passive and loose and looked like it was mostly locals. In about a half hour, I almost paid my tournament entry.

I like the Orleans. It has nice tables and friendly dealers. But I saw the TD when he walked in and I immediately perceived an attitude form his body language of "I'd rather be anywhere but here."

The dealers here are plenty friendly and quite good. This tournament has a good structure and I make a point to play in it on the rare occasions I make it to Vegas. Unfortunately, it seems that this experience may be going the way of the Stardust. I asked the TD if what I'd heard at the table was true: that he was considering switching to a N/L tournament. He said yes, basically because this one wasn't getting enough entries. (There were 60 on this Saturday.) I find this sad. It seems that too many people, lured by the TV-style game, hope to strike it rich in a N/L game. Limit poker, especially limit tournaments, are becoming a rare breed in Vegas.

One more note: Like the Sahara, this poker room was less smoky than I remember form a year ago.

I actually was playing well in this tournament too, making some good reads, but god crippled by 2 bad beats. One, I had pocket queens, the flop hit Q-rag-rag, I bet out and got little resistance back, read that as no one with a king--and was right, but for the guy who played his A4c and got a runner-runner flush. And then, I raised at the $200-$400 level with AQo, got several callers, and the flop came 9-high, all hearts. I bet out, and someone with a short stack raised. I thought about it and read him as having either made a pair of 9s or trying to push be out with a flush draw. He had just two chips left, so I re-raised him back. My read was wrong--to my benefit. He *was* trying to push me out: he had KQ, but no heart! I was way ahead. And he drew out one of the three remaining kings in the deck on the river to take down a nice pot.

Total trip tally:
Thursday night, Venetian $8/$16,4 hrs, $24 (net)
Friday, Sahara (tournament), 50 of 72, -$62
Friday, Venetian $4/$8, 3/4 hr., $5
Friday, Venetian, $8/$16, 5 3/4 hrs., -$267
Saturday, Orleans, $4/$8, 1/2 hr., $62
Saturday, Orleans (tournament), 30 of 60, -$80
Saturday, Venetian, $8/$16, 6 hrs., -$600

(It's a good thing that I crushed the $8/$16 games at The Bike in SoCal before I headed over to Vegas.)

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  1. Ouch. Sorry you took a beating at the V.

    Though I personally feel that Venetian is the most beautiful poker room in existance, I would agree that once you get past the comfort and the beauty, the games are simply tough a lot of the time.

    I do not find any issues with the parking, but I have heard that from others (I am a valet'er).

    It used to be my home base room, and I spent a LOT of time there playing 4/8, 3/6, 1/2NL, 6/12, and 2/5NL from April through Sept of last year. Around Sept I decided to start venturing elsewhere, and eventually landed on TI, which fits me fine, now (stricitly 1/3NL for me now).

    I am still mad at them for dumping Rich Pullen, a floor man there. He welcomed me, and made me feel extremely comfortable in that room, and now that he is gone, I am holding a stern grudge.

    Their tournaments cannot be beat, though.

    Once again, sorry you took a beating, but thank you for posting this honest report, and for giving your insights on their games.

  2. I ordered food at the V poker room, and expressly asked "can it be here in 20 minutes, because I absolutely have to leave in 30 minutes?". I specifically ordered some things that I thought wouldn't require much if any prep time. "Sure...". After 30 minutes I talked to a floor man and explained the situation (I didn't want them thinking I'd bailed on them inconsiderately)...but I wasn't really happy about it cause I really did want some food! So beware, delivery times can be excessive there. (Oh, did I say that I started the process of trying to make a food request 20 minutes earlier, and it took 20 minutes for them to get someone to my table to take the order? 50 minutes from "I want to order some food" to finally leaving without any...


  3. Thanks for sharing. Just a day to long in town it looks like.