Turns out winning is more fun than losing


Planned my 10th or so solo trip to Vegas on somewhat short notice for Oct. 15-18. My wife has been terrific about letting me go to Vegas to drink, chase tail, and play poker while she watches the kids by herself. Actually, there’s no tail-chasing—just a little drinking and a ton of poker.

I decided to stay in St. Louis the night before my flight out, which gave me a chance to play a little at the Lumiere casino in downtown St. Louis. A pretty nice joint, with good action at the tables. I sat at 1/2NL around 7pm, and noted a couple tight players and a couple spewers pretty quickly. One spewer in particular was on my left—tended to fire big bets (too big) at a lot of pots, and bet pre-flop with weak hands. One hand of note: I’m in the BB with AKd. Action limps to me with about 4 callers, and I make it $12 to go. Spewer on my left calls, then a short-stacked woman goes all-in for about $60 total. Action folds to me, and I call (having seen her make the same push a couple of times without premium hands)—spewer on my left calls as well. Spewer and I are head’s up, and pot is about $180. Flop comes low cards (maybe 732) but with two diamonds, giving me the nut flush draw. I check to spewer who throws in $30. I call. Turn comes the beautiful Jd, giving me the nuts. Having watched spewer for a couple hours, I’m confident that he will bet here, so I just check (I’ve got about $220 left, and he’s got a little more). Spewer goes all-in. To say that I snap called would be an understatement. I think he was still articulating the “n” in “all-iN” when I mutter call. Spewer has Q4 of diamonds, says nice hand (he was actually a nice guy), and calmly walks away. I call it quits not long after, happy to be going into the Vegas leg of my trip +$300, and ready to get a good night’s sleep.
I get up Friday morning, take a run, and hit my direct Southwest flight with no problems. I arrive at Bally’s at about 12:30p and I’m able to check into my room right away (sweet). I’ve never stayed here before, but Harrahs gave me a pretty good rate on a North Tower room. It was certainly no Trump or Palazzo, but very nice, and clean--- similar to standard rooms at MGM I’d say, but for ½ the price. After getting settled, I decide to get some lunch at an outside table at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris--- I love the location there, and have usually liked the food. But, the chicken, apple, and brie crepe I ordered was kind of underwhelming—a little tasteless—but I’m full and ready to do battle.
For no particular reason I choose to go to the Aria for my first game. I know some people really plan out where they’re going to play, but I typically just decide on a whim. In fact, I sometimes experience a little paralysis given the multitude of good options. Anyway, I get in a pretty good game…. People calling too much and not giving others enough credit for good hands. After about 3 hours I leave up $200 without really ever getting in particularly interesting hands. Sat next to a nice Swedish guy (solid player) who was in town for about 9 days.

Then I head over to the Monte Carlo. I’ve never played in this room before, in part because people on this site have generally seemed unimpressed. I got seated right away at a table that included a group of friends who were playing together, and calling each other down with really bad cards. I played pretty straightforward poker, and caught some decent cards, and ended up another $200. But sitting with that group of friends made me identify a phenomenon that I hadn’t really put my finger on before. Specifically, I think one is much more likely to see a group of friends sit down together at a poker table, play fairly casually, drink quite a lot, and most importantly, donk off a lot of chips. And it’s like a cascading process: one of the friends gets felted, gets up and walks around (leaving 2-3 friends), another makes a bad play (felted) and gets up to join the other friend, and then the others follow suit shortly thereafter. Once the cascade of bad events begins, it seems like they collectively resign themselves to a loss, and play in such a way to ensure it. Rarely have a seen a group of 3 or more guys sit at a table together where most or all of them didn’t leave substantially down or felted.

I head over to Pho, another room I like for some reason. The only hand I recall was flopping a set of 4’s from early position, which doubled me up. I think I left there +$270. I hit the hay, pretty happy about how things are going so far, and noting that winner sure is more fun than losing.

Saturday morning I get up and go for a run on the strip to clear the cobwebs, shower, call the family, and head down to the sports book. Unfortunately the Missouri/Tex A&M game is already going, so I don’t get an opportunity to bet my Tigers, who end up slaughtering A&M. I put down a couple other small bets (Nebraska -10 to Texas, ouch…. Sorry Grange; and Wisconsin +4 ½ to Ohio State…. Sweet). I enter the Mirage 11am tourney and bust out somewhere in the middle of the pack. I go eat at the Mirage buffet, which was pretty good, then decide to go see Jackass 3D at the UA theatre down by MGM (a guilty pleasure, and one I’m sure my wife wouldn’t want to join me for!)—it was exactly how you would think it’s going to be-- mostly gross and stupid, but kind of funny nonetheless. After that I head over to the MGM poker room and get seated pretty quickly. Having a hard time getting anything going, although the table definitely had a number of exploitable players. I limp in a hand with J10, and nail a flop of 7, 8, 9 with two spades. I bet out something standard/pot-sizedish (maybe 15) and get called in one spot. Turn is inconsequential (e.g., 2 clubs) and I check to my opponent, being pretty sure he’d fire here given past behavior (seemingly always betting at pots when in position). Sure enough, he bets $20, and I check-raise him to $60. He tanks for a while and then calls. River is a 5 of spades, putting both a flush and a lower straight on the board. I check, and my opponent bets $100. This feels kind of like a steal to me, or that the guy is betting a lower straight, or perhaps a set or 2 pair, so I call. He rolls over the nut flush. Ugh. I re-buy, and before too long I’m stuck for $500, with only $28 left. I shove a flush draw on a flop, get called in two places, and triple up, then double up a few hands later. Eventually I leave -$270 but not totally unhappy with the outcome given how far down I had been. So, day 2 not so good, but not disastrous.

Sunday morning I get up and walk to the Mirage to cash my winning Wisconsin bet, but there were only 2 cash games going and both were full with waiting lists. I decide to walk back toward Harrahs and put my pro football bets down there and play the 10-am $60 buy-in tourney while keeping an eye on the games. In the second hand into the tourney I look down at 66 under-the gun, and just limp in for $50. The next guy makes it $150, and the big-blind calls to my right, so I call the extra $100. Flop comes down K 6 2 rainbow (woot!). BB checks, and I check thinking that original raiser will fire a continuation bet. He doesn’t. Turn is another K, giving me a boat. BB checks to me, and I bet something like $400. The original raiser folds, but the BB raises it (to something like $1200—I think we started with $7500 chips). I think for a minute here, trying to size up whether this calls for a shove, or just a raise. I decide to shove and say “Well, this might be my earliest exit ever” and kind of meaning it. The BB thinks for a minute then calls, turning over KJ—I fade the remaining K, and the2’s and J’s, and double-up. I end up chopping 4-ways, for a $175 share.

I decide to head back over to Pho, and get seated pretty quickly again. A few tight aggressive players at the table, but also so weaker players. Young Chinese (YC) guy to my right has a pretty substantial chip stack (e.g. 700), and seems pretty solid. About an hour in, not having played many hands at all, the following hand occurs. I have A6clubs in the SB, action limps around, and young Chinese (YC) guy to my right (on the button) limps, and we go to a flop with 3 players. Flop comes out with 3 uncoordinated clubs (woot!) and I check—action goes check, check. Turn is an ace (non-club obviously). I bet a tentative $10, hoping to look weak. Lady to my left makes it $20 (curious), and YC makes it $40. I’ve got about $150 behind at this point, and debate a smooth call to try to suck in the lady. On the other hand, YC seems to be indicating strength. I decide to push. Lady fold, and YC calls with the K-high flush, and he’s drawing dead.
YC leaves soon after, and a new guy (NG) sits down with just $100 in front. In his first hand, he makes an overbet shove into a pot, which seems like a steal attempt, but he takes it down. In his second hand, he raises, and gets called in two spots. Flop comes down all spades. NG is aggressive and gets called down by the other two players, and triples up when both players call his shove and he flips over the A-high spade flush (still the nuts). So in two hands, NG takes his $100 to about $450. He proceeds to bully a little bit, and catch some cards, and runs it up to about $700 over the next hour. I look for some opportunities to take some back, and do end up taking some money from him by letting him bluff a little and calling him down. The most interesting hand of this session was toward the end for me. I was in a blind, up about $400, and called a $10 raise with A5 diamonds—not the best call, but I was up and ready to gamble a little. Flop comes out with the 2 and 4 of diamonds and a Q, giving me the nut flush draw, and gutter-ball straight and straight-flush draws. PHo has high-hand jackpots, and I think I remember that the diamonds were the big payoff for non-royal straight flushes, so this adds a twist to the hand. I check, and a young aggressive kid who’d been playing for about ½ hour makes it $10 or $15 to go. I’m happy to smooth call. Turn is a blank (doesn’t pair the board), and I check again. Aggro kid makes it $35, and I think for a minute but call. The river is a non-diamond 3 (giving me the wheel), and I check again, pretty confident that he’ll bet, having put me on a whiffed flush draw (and being kinda right about that). Aggro kid kind of quickly grabs a stack and shoves it in (about $70, leaving him with maybe another $100 behind). Now at this point, I feel kind of guilty, and I’m happy to be taking his $70, and even though it was stupid for me to NOT put him all-in (and I regret it in hindsight), I just call, and quickly table my straight. I know, I know, these are the hands that you wait for, since it was so well hidden… dumb play, blah blah blah, I can’t argue with that. Aggro kid doesn’t get particularly loud or belligerent, but it is clear that he is apoplectic, and he is muttering in an animated way to the guy next to him. I think he’s just as steamed that I didn’t raise and that I check-called him as he is about my play. He proceeds to give me the serious stink-eye for the next 15 minutes or so, and I rack-up and leave +$500.

I head over to O’sheas, which I’ve walked by about a million times, but never played. I sit down and catch some good standard hands, and take a number of medium pots down pretty quickly. There were a number of guys (friends) from Ohio state playing at the table…. Solid, but not particularly creative…. One guy bleeding chips. Also, a couple directly to my right who seemed to be locals just out for the evening. She was playing pretty tight and well, but he was just spewing chips and chasing losses. In one hand, spewing husband limps, and I raised in EP to $8 with KQ suited. One Ohio State kid raises by accident to $12 (was trying to call, but thought one of his red chips was white), and the dealer makes him complete to $14. Spewing husband decides to shove for his remaining $50 or so. I’m pretty sure he has diddly squat, and that if I call, the accidental raiser will fold—so I do, and he did. Spewing husband tables Q3 off, and misses his 3. Now spewing husband is steaming husband, and he gets up and leaves, followed by his wife. I stick around for another hour or so, having a nice chat with a young guy named Clint or Cliff, who people call John because he looks a little like the singer John Mayer. I end up calling it an early-ish night because my flight on Mon. morning is early, and I leave O’Sheas $+130.

All-in-all, a very enjoyable trip, especially since I won all sessions but one, and cashed in one of the two tourneys in which I played. Winnings more than paid my expenses, which is always nice and not always accomplished.
Oh, and the funniest thing I saw….. They’re doing some work on the south side of the Paris hotel, and the sidewalk is kind of diverted into the road a little, and there’s a concrete divider between the sidewalk and the strip. One time while walking through this sidewalk detour, the Bellagio fountains were going off on the other side of the strip. While this was happening, a little old lady (maybe 75) was trying to climb over the concrete divider to cross-the road to go watch the fountain show. Had she been successful, she very well might have been plowed down by the traffic on the strip. Luckily, two other ladies with her were able to drag her off the divider. I’m not sure whether to attribute her behavior to dumb, drunk, or senile, but it was kind of funny seeing these two ladies wrestle this old woman off a concrete divider!

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