This was kind of a weird trip because I was scheduled to be in LV for three nights, but not consecutively. The school district I teach in gives us the entire week off for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, my wife had to work Monday-Wednesday so I took the opportunity to visit my Dad in Page, Arizona. As it turns out, Las Vegas is about halfway between my house (in SoCal) and my dad’s so… I decided I would drive to Vegas on Sunday 11.23, spend the night and drive to my Dad’s on the Monday morning. After two nights in Page, I would drive back to LV and meet my wife, mom, and stepdad who were flying in on the Wednesday night at which point the four of us would celebrate Thanksgiving together in our own dysfunctional way. Anyway, here’s the report:
I arrived for my one night stay at the Flamingo, checked into a regular room, and headed over to the IP to check out the mixed game I have heard so much about. I put my name on the list and at exactly 7 pm, my name was called, and I was on my way to feeling like a complete idiot. I knew going in I was probably going to get my butt kicked, but I wanted to meet some AVPers and see what the game was about. I recognized Las Vegas Michael and introduced myself. He was a really nice guy and everyone at the table was very welcoming. I was lucky enough to sit next to Karapet, who I had met a few months earlier during my last trip to LV. The game is very well run, LVM makes a point to announce the games as they change and explain the rules…they even supplied me with a handout of the rules. I had prepped a little bit before the trip so I was somewhat familiar with the rules, however, it’s hard to play each game and figure out the relative strength of your hand, let alone try to decide if it’s worth $12 to chase a draw that may or may not even be enough. In the end, I won a few small pots, but over the course of two hours, I lost half of my $200 buy-in (the biggest hit was during an Omaha game where I hit a little set vs. Karapet’s bigger set). Luckily, my second half bet for the Colts (+3) helped offset some of the loss. Truth be told, my bet was more against Norv Turner than it was for the Colts, but ol’ Norv played it as he usually does and earned me the victory.
After that, I went back to the Flamingo, played a little Pai Gow Poker (lost another $70 somehow) and hit the sack by 11:00 for my early departure for Page.
After spending a couple of days catching up with my dad (turkey dinner, some golf, a plane tour of Lake Powell), I returned to LV on Wednesday afternoon. The wife and I had reservations at The Venetian (she requires a lot more of the hotel than I do, but I was excited about the place, as I had not stayed there before). Our reservation was for a standard suite (no view), so I tried the twenty-dollar trick, curious to see what it might get us. The young woman behind the counter said, “Let me see what we can do for you…yes, I think we can accommodate that request.” Fairly excited, I grabbed the bags and headed up to check it out. To her credit, it was a view of the strip, however, there was a HUGE, red construction crane obstructing the view. Knowing my wife as I do (this would not be her idea of a good view), I returned downstairs, talked to someone else and was switched to a different room with a partial view of the strip. Overall, not sure I can say if the twenty-dollar trick worked. I feel like she must have known that the crane would be less than satisfactory, but maybe her tastes are different. I will try it again in the future. Nice room though.
The wife arrived around 7 pm, we had some drinks in the room (I always like to set up a little bar), then we had a small dinner at the Mexican restaurant along the Venetian’s canal shoppes. The dinner and service were competent, but that’s about the best I can say…nothing special there. We went downtown after that to meet up with my Mom and stepdad who had recently arrived. We met them at the California, which is pretty much a dive, but we thought it might offer some cheap BJ or Pai Gow. We all found space at Pai Gow poker table and proceeded to watch all three dealers throw down good hand after good hand until we had all lost our budgets for the night. We hit the hay around 11 pm looking forward to a big day.
My wife loves the spa as much as I love to gamble so our traditional Thanksgiving Day usually finds her in the spa from late morning until late afternoon, while I alternate between poker, football, and the tables. Yes, she is a great wife. This way, I pretty much can anticipate what she will spend and I can spend the day trying to win it back. First, I hit the sports book to make my football plays for the day: Titans, Dallas first half, Dallas over, eagles, Eagles over. As you can see, I went 4-1…a good day in that respect. After a good workout in the Venetian, I showered, watched some of the Titans game and decided to play the TI 2 pm tournament. In the meantime, I cashed an old NFL ticket (Buffalo Bills-week one) from the Planet Hollywood sports book. It was nice to be outside for a while. I ducked into Bill’s Gambling Hall to get away from the rain for a couple minutes, lost $30 playing what was now being referred to as “g*ddammned Pai gow poker” and then made my way over to TI where my stepdad was coming to sign up for the tourney as well. While we waited for the tournament to start, we hit up the TI sports book to watch the start of the Dallas/Seahawk game and I hit a lucky exacta on a Hollywood Park race. I was bored so I picked the 1-3 horses and that’s exactly how they came in. It paid $58 dollars and that just about covered my entrance into the tournament so yeah baby! I’m freerollin’! (Oh yeah, I also ate the Italian sub from the deli—AWESOME.)
The tournament had 21 runners I think. My stepdad and I were put at the same table, which I wasn’t really crazy about, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying so. You see, the last time we played in a tourney (Aug. ‘07 @ The Golden Nugget) we were down to 8 or 9 players when I re-raised all in with QQ. It folded around to him, and he pretty quickly said, “I call,” throwing over a King/7 (not even sooted). Of course, the King came on the flop and I walked away from the table muttering to myself. It was at that moment I realized how bad a player he was (trust me there was NO reason for him to make that call). At any rate, I sat down at the table at least knowing how bad one player at my table was.
What’s funny is the first hand of the tournament and he gets involved on a flop of A 6 6. He called every bet and threw over pocket Aces for the winning full house. How the other guy in the hand (with trip sixes didn’t lose all his money I’ll never know). The first hand brought my stepdad a lot of chips, but he gave a lot back even before the first break. I made it a point not to mix it up with him too much because he obviously could have the nuts or garbage…what’s worse is he has no idea between the two. There was one hand that I hurt him pretty badly, when I bet my middle pair against a King on the board. He later told me that he had the middle pair as well, but was sure I had the king. He went out soon after the first break.
As for me, I played a pretty passive game (easy to do when your avg. hand is 10/4 off). One interesting hand from early in the tournament: I am in the BB with Q 2 and it limps around. I checked my option and the flop comes out QQQ. I checked again, there was a decent sized bet that got everyone to fold and then I just called. The turn was a jack. I checked again and the bettor checked behind. The river was a blank and I checked again trying to show weakness. I guess it wasn’t working because he checked too. He threw over Ace/little and said he was worried I had a jack. I turned over my queen and raked what I had hoped was a bigger pot. I would appreciate any advice here. I figure he would have folded to any bet, but maybe if I came out with a quick river bet looking like I was trying to steal he might have called. I don’t know. Thoughts?
I managed to make it down to the final table and eventually we were six-handed when an interesting situation came up. I was one of the small stacks with the smallest stack to my right when this happened: The blinds were at $500/$1000 and it folds around to the small blind (let’s call him “Chubby Brit”). The Big Blind was already all-in for his $900, but the Chubby Brit (who had a decent amount of chips) was paying more attention to his buddies on the rail and folded without even realizing that the BB was all-in blind. I have no idea what either of them had, but my feeling was that the small blind should have called the $400 with ATC just to try to get us down to 5 players. Of course, I say this knowing what transpired next. In the very next hand the same guy—now the small blind—goes all-in for his last $1400. I look down at A4 and make the $400 call. He flips over KK and I lose the hand. It doesn’t completely cripple me, but it put me in the mindset of a man who felt he was burned by Chubby Brit not paying attention. Maybe, I should have folded to the $400 raise like CB. After a few hands, we lose another player (in some sense of justice it was Chubby Brit). A few hands later, I look down at AK hearts and go all in for my last $4200. The big stack button calls me with 10/7 diamonds. The flop is J x x (two diamonds). The turn is a blank, and then the river is the most hideous 4 of diamonds which of course sends me out the door. I wasn’t upset or anything. I managed 2.5 hours of play, almost cashed and played fairly well. The players had agreed that fourth place would get his money back, but even if I had lasted until then I wouldn’t have been that thrilled with breaking even. Overall, I do like the TI room. Very comfortable, great staff, good drink service and a nice, friendly mix of players. I recommend the tournament for any average players looking for a low buy-in and solid service.
After getting knocked out, I went back to the V to get ready for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at…Benihana’s. We had a great time at dinner, ate a ton, drank a little, reminisced about times past, drank some more, and then decided to hit the tables. We couldn’t find anything to our liking at the LV Hilton so we ended up at Bill’s Gambling Hall where I knew some $10 pai gow poker could be had. The four of us found an empty table and proceeded to play for four hours resulting in wins for everybody. The wife and I each cashed in for $150 in winnings. By 2 am we were all pretty tired so we hit the sack.
On Friday morning, I cashed my football tickets and decided to squeeze in a little video poker. I bought in at a quarter machine for $20 and was down to nine dollars when I hit four Aces for $200. I cashed out, tried my luck at a roulette table for one $20 spin (no win) and we checked out and readied ourselves for the long ride home.
*The final tally:
Sports betting = +200
Poker = -165
Table games(mostly pai gow poker) =-50
Video poker = +180
All in all a great time. I should have logged more hours at the poker table, but between family and football I just didn’t find the time or urge.
Thanks again to LVMike and Karapet for their hospitality. Thanks also to the TI staff for a well run tourney. Good luck everyone and thanks for all contributors to this site—I really enjoy it. I hope my trip report didn’t bore you.
*these are estimates and in no way meant to be understood as exact amounts—the numbers get fuzzy after several Coronas and MaiTai filled porcelain Buddhas from Benihana’s.