Day 1 (Sunday):
Drove from OC to LV and headed straight to Hard Rock for a lunch at the Pink Taco and watch some football (motherfreaking Chiefs!). On our very first trip to Vegas together (in 2000), we ate there, so it has become kind of a tradition to make a stop there. After lunch we checked into our Forum Tower room at Caesars ($90 per night, NO resort fees due to Platinum status. Could have stayed at Aria and gotten a $150 resort credit for a little more money, but I like taking advantage of the no resort fee **foreshadowing alert**). I tried the $20 trick hoping for a room upgrade and the agent simply placed the bill on the counter and said, “I have to place this in view of the cameras and I’ll see what I can do for you; if you want to tip me on my service after that, it will be appreciated.” Has anyone else had that experience? In the past, the agent has never mentioned it and just did the job. First time for me to hear that. but ok. She ended up moving us to an Augustus Tower room which was 200 sq. feet bigger and my wife loved it. It’s the room I wanted to book, but it was about $30 more per night when I was securing the reservation in September. So far so good.
We were meeting friends at Mandalay Bay for dinner, so we watched some football (c’mon Giants: we need points dammit!), got ready and headed to a restaurant called Fleur. Dinner was met with mostly positive reviews. They have a lot of different types of food (Spanish, Asian, American). You can order different tapas, or you can get individual entrees. Average meal price with one drink would probably be in the $40-50 range. I excused myself from the table several times to check out the football game (Patriots Moneyline!!!).
After dinner we played some pai gow at Bellagio; I didn’t really lose because I had great hands all night. I did, however, pay $100 for a Corona. Long day, bedtime.
Day 2 (Monday)
The wife and I like to hit the gym pretty much everyday whether we are at home or traveling (makes us feel like we earn the food and drink we are about to indulge in). The lady at the desk tells me it will be a $15 charge to the room to use the gym. I am incredulous. I say to her—in my douchiest, mid-roller voice—“I’m a Platinum member, so my resort fee is waived.” She says--in her robotic, CET drone, “I understand, but it will still be a $15 charge to your room.” After ignoring her and working out, I headed down to the front desk where I engaged in a 45 minute semantic argument about the word “waived.” I could tell you the whole story, but it would only serve my need to vent; suffice it to say, that they must have changed their policy recently. I have stayed their two other times in the last 4 months and there has never been a charge for internet usage or fitness center (items covered by the resort fee). Now, however, the company line is this: “Platinum, Diamond and 7 Star members do not pay the resort fee, but you can ‘opt in’ if you would like to enjoy those amenities.” When I asked what the advantage of being a Platinum member is, the robot—err, manager actually said these words, “Since you are not paying the resort fee automatically, we will not charge you for any of these things unless you use them.” I—in my sarcastic voice—replied, “that’s like saying, we won’t charge you for eating at Mesa Grill as long as you don’t eat there?” In the end, she comped us the resort fees, but warned me that it would not happen next time. I left the verbal vortex miffed, and will re-evaluate my future stays with the behemoth of LV properties. End of rant; on to poker (but welcome any questions, comments, and relevant anecdotes of your own re Caesars and resorts fees).
My buddy and I met at TI for the 11:00 tourney. This tourney fits my eye well: $55 entry, relaxed, comfortable room (see recent review). We had 17 runners IIRC. I sat immediately to my buddy’s left so it was nice to be able to shoot the sh*t and catch up while we played. It did lead to a couple of situations where I wondered if people thought he and I were soft playing each other. If we were in late position, and he would raise an unraised pot, I always found easy folds, but not because of soft play. Just about every time he raised, I would see 10/3 or J/2 garbage. He probably also had garbage, but I could almost never call. Eventually, we tussled once or twice, but no real damage was done. It made me realize how it could look to other people, but honestly, mine were easy folds. I would have expected the tourney manager to place us at two different tables or at least seat us away from each other, but I don’t know if that much thought goes into it.
Interesting hands of note:
Hand #1: 3rd level, in MP, I look down and see queens so I raise to 3.5x BB. Older Asian guy to my left calls to see a pretty innocuous flop (J/5/3 rainbow, I think). I bet out; he called. Turn = 9. I bet out a decent size to see what he might do, hoping he was frisky with a strong jack. He called. River was a queen. I bet enough toput him all in and he thought. And thought. And then called. He flipped over Ace/King. My buddy and I talked about it during the break and we can’t figure out what he was thinking. It’s possible he had no idea he was playing poker. Oh well, thanks very much. I took those chips to the final table and was one of the bigger stacks. My buddy was holding his own for awhile, but ran into some really bad luck. On one hand, he got it in good with top pair after the flop and got called by a big Ace. Did the ace hit? No. Runner, runner for the straight. Yech. On the very next hand, his Q/4 flopped a queen and he went all-in again only to be runner, runnered with a straight AGAIN. I felt bad, but that’s poker. My only regret was that neither of those straights belonged to me. It would have been nice to needle him about it for the next 3-14 months.
We finally got down to about 5 players (paying 3) and the blinds got to the point where it was push or fold for everybody but the two BIG stacks (two friends from England). Unfortunately, I was sandwiched in between with my medium stack and had very few moves to make. In a way though, it worked to my advantage. I could almost guarantee that one of them would raise 3-4000 chips and I just had to see if I could play anything back. They knocked out the other two guys pretty quickly and I made the obligatory “3-way even chop?” joke. I went all-in a few times to try to chip up and actually got it in ahead, but was chased down to finish 3rd and cashed in for $120. Dominick (DMuz) was my dealer for a lot of the time and was a blast to play with, especially at the end when he was busting balls on everybody, imitating the British guys and calling them John and Ringo. The Brits were really cool guys and it was fun to watch them battle heads up.
From there I had a few hours to kill before dinner so I stopped by the Mirage for a little cash game. I sat down immediately at a 1-2 table and saw that my dealer was Alaska Gal. Sadly, she only dealt one hand before switching tables. I always like when I get to sit at her table. She is friendly and really good at her job. Anyways, I have to admit to something here that I did: after playing for almost 3 hours in the tournament, I forgot to tip the dealer in my first win at the cash game. Has that ever happened to anyone else? I felt bad and made up for it with subsequent pots, but I’m sure I missed another toke just because of all the tournament play. Sorry to my dealer.
Anyways, I was doing ok, had played about 30 minutes, and had won a couple of smallish pots when THE HAND happened. I was sitting on about $180 when I found Ace-Jack in MP. I raised to 7 and was re-raised all-in for $37 by a short stack. That was called by another player and I made the call (should I have raised?); pot = $140. The flop comes 9/3/jack and the player to my right bets out $50. I read this as a blocking bet (“Get outta here kid,” he seemed to be saying, “I’ve got a big jack”). Well, I obviously had the biggest jack so I am thinking about pushing or considering his chances of a set. I don’t see him betting out with a set, so I—wrongly—pushed for my remaining ~140 and he couldn’t call quickly enough with his 9/9. Ouch. After only two orbits, I am busto. I’ve run it over in my head and I am willing to say (1) I made a bad read, (2) overplayed top pair, or (3) was outplayed by a better player. You tell me.
After that, I decided to cool my jets and head back to Caesars. I will rarely rebuy. I am usually too mentally stuck on the hand I just lost to make good decisions, so I up and left to rest up for dinner and watch some college hoop games I had bet on. Luckily, I went 4-1 on those games and also won a 49ers first half bet (thank you Washington Professional Football team for your offensive ineptitude). Dinner that night was at Spago in Caesars Forum shops. The wife and I really like this place. I had a great salmon and a couple of cocktails. Mmm mmm. We headed across the street to the Flamingo’s Margaritaville casino for a little Pai Gow and hit the sheets about midnight.
Day 3 (Tuesday):
Woke up a little later than usual, made my way down to the VP bar by Mesa Grill and continued my Vegas ritual: reviewing possible sports bets over a cup of coffee and some video poker. I like the morning in LV because it’s quiet (excepting a few random drunkards) and I am still thinking straight (read: not drunk).
After a workout (sans fee) and lunch at Sushi Roku (Forum Shops) with the wife, I headed back to TI to give the 2:00 tournament a whirl. We had a few more runners on this day (19-20 total I think). My first table was a lot of fun. A few dudes my age, a couple of young guys and three women (a Midwestern grandma (MG), a middle-aged table vet (MAV), and a rather attractive local (RAL)). The rather attractive local’s boyfriend was also playing with us and it struck me immediately that he resembled a younger, thinner Tom Hanks. Not Tom Hanks from “Splash” per se, but circa “Joe Versus the Volcano.” It was fun to watch the two of them play because they both obviously knew what they were doing and weren’t afraid of tangling with each other. It made me realize I would have no chance playing against my wife (she knows whenever I’m fibbing, so bluffing would be impossible).
Anyways, no memorable hands at the first table, but I had managed to chip up to an above average stack without any serious trouble. When we combined tables, MAV, RAL, Tom Hanks, and I made our way to the final table. I hit a big hand when a small stack raised all-in. Tom Hanks called the all-in and I peeked under the cards to see Aces (hell yeah!). I made a decent sized raise hoping Hanks would push his remaining which he did with Ace/King. I faded both of the all-ins and we were now down to 7 players and I am a BIG stack. A few hands later, I was facing a raise from a British guy with a decent sized stack. I didn’t really want to tangle with another big stack, but what do I do with pocket 10s? I know I am probably in for a race, but I raise all-in hoping he has just a weak ace. He makes the call for all of his chips with Ace/Queen. Queen in the window and we have a reversal of fortunes; I now have a very small stack. I manage to hang around until we are down to five players (RAL, MAV, Brit, Nice Old Guy, and me). Brit is sitting on the biggest pile and the rest of us our just shifting money between ourselves taking turns at going all-in. Someone brings up the idea of a chop, but British guy is not interested. Eventually, we eliminated the Nice Old Guy and then we decided to pay off the bubble person. The group voted to pay the 4th place by taking $55 straight off of first place’s money. Is that a normal procedure? I would have thought that we should have split it up among the top 3 somehow, but everybody agreed (I certainly did since I was still pretty short). Anyways, we knocked out MAV and then I went on a little tear of getting good cards right when I needed them. I took a bunch of chips off of Brit, RAL found her way to the rail and all of a sudden, Brit and I were going mano a mano.
Our stacks were pretty close and then I just went medieval on his a$$ and won the whole thing in about 8 hands. Since we decided to take 4th place off the top finisher’s money, I only won $345, but I was happy with the way I played and it took the sting out of the Ace/Jack hand from the day before. I tipped $20 to the dealers (was that enough? Too much?) and met the wife back at Margaritaville for some celebratory Pai Gow and we finished our night in style: pizza in the Caesars Sportsbook watching Illinois cover 1.5 against the Runnin’ Rebels. A perfect ending to a great trip. Woke up the next morning and headed back to the OC (after a stop at the Primm Outlets for some Xmas shopping.
Won’t be back until my (22nd) annual March Madness trip. Thanks for reading.