My lovely wife gave me leave to take yet another solo trip to Vegas from 3/26—3/30. I’ve done about 15 of these trips over the last 4 years, but I decided to do things a little differently this time. Typically, I nail down a room on the strip for cheap, take cabs to and from the airport, and rely on my feet for transport. This time, I rented a car (nice little Mustang Pony convertible,,, $150 total after taxes, fees, etc., - same price as economy car- thought it was a great deal), and split my time between two free nights at Ballys, and two nights at the JW Marriott in Summerlin.
My flight on SW got in on time, and the shuttle got me to the car rental center pretty quickly. The rental process at Thrifty seemed a little slow (a lot of staring at the computer screen by the agent), but the agent didn’t hard-sell the insurance or GPS so I can’t complain too much. The drive to Bally’s was a little hellacious in the 5pm traffic—took me nearly an hour. However, Caesars decided to give me a Diamond card, supposedly for my loyalty to Harrah’s St. Louis prior to its sale last year (even though I’d never played enough to get Diamond status), which allowed me to bypass the HUGE line of people in the normal registration line. It’s nice to feel a little special.
Got up to my room and contacted two friends of mine who happened to be in town at the same time to see if anyone wanted to eat or get a drink. Went down to the Bally’s poker room and played a little 1/2nl while waiting to hear from them. I played for a while before one friend met me there—no hands of interest—missed a few draws and was down a little. Went to Burger Brasserie in Paris with my buddy, who I hadn’t seen in about 10 years—had a California burger and a few barley pops before he had to leave to get ready for his trip early the next morning. Walked over to Flamingo and played a little $1/2, but my heart wasn’t in it and I was exhausted, so I left after about 1 hour.
Next morning I got up and went to the Bally’s gym for a quick workout (free—thanks again shiny new Diamond card!). My other friend proposed that we meet at the Mexican place at the back of Bally’s for lunch at 1pm, so I went and bought in to the 10am Flamingo shove-fest tournament. Went out after a couple of hours when my A10 flopped an Ace, but lost to a flopped set of 6’s. My friend and his wife and I shared an order of nachos from the Mexican place at the back of Bally’s—it’s about $15 for the order, but it’s absolutely massive, and the three of us couldn’t even finish it. Buddy and I (sans wife) went over to Venetian to play a little 4/8 Omaha hi/lo. We got on a table pretty quickly—play was pretty solid except for one drooling slope-headed moron. One interesting hand. I was in the big blind with 4455 during a ½ kill pot (made it $6/12 limit). Action was around to me with about 5 callers, and I completed for $2—flop was something like 3 7 J, and I had a baby flush draw. I checked, but there was a bet and a bunch of calls—so I call with the straight draw and decent low draw should an A or 2 kill someone else’s better low (and a ton of money in the pot). Turn was a 2—great card for me, but I didn’t bet. However, there was a bet and raise in front of me, and maybe one call—developing a huge pot with me drawing to a couple nut hands so I call. River was the beautiful A, with no flush possible. I fire out and get a couple grudging calls and scoop a $200+ pot. Lose another hand holding A9 on an A99xx board when drooling slope-headed moron is holding AA (and didn’t re-raise me!). Finish the session up about $50.
I played the $70 7pm tourney at Mirage—I went out after a couple of hours—was short-stacked and shoved about 5x the BB into a limped pot with A4 or something on the button. Got called by KQ and lost—Nothing else memorable except that one of the other players had an AVP chip identical to mine, and we introduced ourselves—it was BillyCanuck (Hey Bill!).
The next day I went out to the JW Marriott to start the second part of my trip. The JW Marriott is very nice, very nice service, rooms and grounds are beautiful. Would be a nice place to stay if you were coming with your family. There’s a casino attached (Rampart Casino), which is very small—has a sports book but no poker room—and is filled with mostly grumpy locals. Nice little Irish bar with good and reasonably-priced food and good beer on tap. The day I checked in (they gave me an early check-in around 11am) I drove out to Red Rock Canyon—which is a national conservation area about 12 miles from the JW Marriott, maybe 20 miles from the strip. It has a 13 mile scenic drive, and a number of hiking trails. The weather was beautiful and I brought my boots in anticipation of a hike, and did the Turtlehead Peak trail. This trail is about a 5 mile roundtrip hike, and is listed as strenuous. For an experienced hiker I’d say this is a nice, somewhat challenging hike, with about 2000 ft vertical increase after the first ½ mile or so on a lot of loose rock. However, this is not a good hike for the casual and/or inexperienced hiker. The trail is not really marked up the middle third of the hike, and although it’s not very dangerous in terms of hidden drop-offs or anything like that, it can be frustrating, and a slip and fall on the loose rock could cause an injury. I went past one couple where the woman was basically having a panic attack on the way up, and one family where the teenage girl was sitting down and crying. However, the payoff is an amazing view from the top, where you can see all of Red Rock Canyon and the Las Vegas valley. If you go, wear good shoes (preferably good hiking boots), sunscreen, a snack, and at least a liter of water (at least 2 in the summer). On my second day I took less strenuous but longer hike up to La Madre spring, backtracking, then around the Willow springs loop (about 8 miles total). This one could be done in good sneakers, and has some elevation change (I’m guessing 800 feet) but is very pretty, especially in the middle section of the loop. The round-trip up to La Madre spring is about 3.5 miles by itself, and would be good for a casual hiker who wants a nice hike with a little bit of a challenge.
Both of my Summerlin days I went out to the Red Rock Casino to play some poker. On day one, I played 4/8 limit with a bunch of old local dudes. Most of them were pretty nice and pretty predictable, and I hit some nice hands including a straight-flush and flopped quads from the button. One guy was clearly trying to bully me—the young whipper-snapper at the table (I’m 43, which put me at least 20 years younger than the next youngest guy)-- but I just folded my bad hands and called him down or raised when I had the goods, and I think eventually gained his grudging respect. Finished that session up about $200. The second day I played 4/8 Omaha hi/lo against a bunch of locals, most of whom knew each other well. They were friendly, though, and mostly solid. Left about even. My overall impression of the room was that it is very busy, has a lot of games, and LOTS of locals. I experienced some locals-favoritism when I was trying to check-in for a game on the second day I was there (the guy at the desk basically acknowledged and added two locals to the list who approached the desk after me, and only acknowledged me after I lost my patience and started talking over him while he was acknowledging a third local he knew by name). I have no idea how common that is there… just that I experienced it that once. But the dealers were good, and the cocktail service was good. Saw one case where the floor supervisor was asked to come over and make a ruling, which he did, but then he proceeded to engage in an argument with one of the locals unnecessarily.
Although I played less poker on this trip than typical, it was nice and relaxing trip. I strongly recommend a side-trip to Red Rock Canyon for the scenic drive or a hike if you get a chance—very beautiful.