You da bird! Part I

Reports & Blogs by rlloydevans about MGM Grand Posted

You da bird! Part I
For Excalibur, MGM, Hawaiian Gardens
I have been going to Las Vegas for almost ten years, although the last three years I have been limited to 1-2 visits a year for 1-2 weeks each since my wife and I are working on a cultural interchange project in Ecuador. We both work in schools. My school is out on vacation for two months, while my wife’s is still in session, so I am in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for two weeks for both some business and poker time by myself.
A word about the “You da Bird!” A year ago I bought a Tagua carving of a seagull. Tagua is also known as Vegetable Ivory, is a nut that grows on a tree located in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian regions of the Amazon Rain Forest. Native tribes pick the nut and make carvings, which resemble ivory. I use the seagull (AKA Seymore the Seagull) as a chip protector in live games. I’ve developed a schtick of talking to the bird, asking it for advice during hands, and when winning I congratulate it saying “You da Bird!” Good times, it livens the table up and the other players generally decide I’m completely crazy, all to the good.

31 January (Day 1) LA
Leave at 00:20am Sunday morning and go through a marathon air trip from Guayaquil, Ecuador, through Atlanta and onto LAX on American. Both flights were crammed full so comfort was low, although somehow I did land at LAX 40 minutes early. Ended up at my hotel in Cypress and get settled in. My plan was to go to one of the LA cardrooms and play some low limit to get the rust off my live game. I felt surprisingly okay so hit the nearest poker room – the Hawaiian Gardens.
I’ve played in most of the SoCal poker rooms but this was the first time at HG. First thing, HG is pretty dumpy. It really is just a bunch of semi-permanent tents connected together. It has almost 100 tables for anything from NLHE to Omaha, Pai Gow, Pan, Blackjack and other games. It was also holding lots of promotions. It was having a Sunday giveaway of up to $7500. There was also a bad beat jackpot for Aces full of Tens beaten by Quads or better, that was at $100,000 for a special promotion. Action was busy. The table I sat at was a $100 buy-in with $2/$3 blinds. I had considered going to one of the bigger games, but since I was at the end of a marathon travel session, plus I was simply looking for some live action to warm up for Vegas, I settled for the lower level. It was an inspired decision, because the players in the $100 buy-in games were insanely bad. All of them were experienced playing NLHE, but there was only one who played even a remotely solid game. This was fortunate, because it took me about an hour to settle down into playing anything approaching solid myself. But even when I made a bad play, the other players made even worse plays. Exemplars:
Hand #1 – I’d done nothing but fold for the first twenty minutes and was getting bored, looking for something to open with. I am in Cutoff with A9off with 3 limpers. I decide to just call and we see the flop 5 handed ($15 in pot). Flop is J73 rainbow, checked around to me and I bet $12 to see what happens, two callers ($60 in pot). Turn is a 9. Check-check I bet $40 with one caller ($140 in pot). Q on river and we both check. My 9s beat his pocket 6s for a nice start.
Hand #2 – I give back a chunk of my winnings when my flopped top set is beaten by a turned straight flush. I am actually quite thrilled because my opponent did not realize he had a straight flush, thought he had a baby flush and was afraid I might have a bigger flush. It could have been much worse, because with my top set I could have lost more.
Super Silly Hands
Hand #3 – I have been card dead for an exteneded period when I decided to try a play. On the button with three limpers I bet $20 with Tc2c. Two callers ($62 in pot). Flop is Q52 with two spades. Check, check I bet $45 one caller. Turn is a K spades. Check. I ask my lone opponent how much he has left and he shows me only $6!!! That was smart on my part, no way to bluff now. I check. River is an offsuit A. check, check. I sheepishly rollover my T high to amazement from the table. The table was even more amazed when the other player rolled over a 64 for a missed gutshot straight draw and I take a big pot with only T-high.
Hand #4 – Very next hand 4 limpers when I look down at black Rockets in the cutoff. I raise to $20 and get 4 callers ($85 in pot). Flop is horrible, 89T with two hearts. Checked around to me. I bet $50 and there are three callers. I am now done with this hand. Turn is a K hearts, completing the flush. Check around and so I have some hope I might be still good, despite straight and flushes on board. River is a meaningless deuce. Check around again and my Aces win a showdown against a host of lower pairs and busted straight draws.
I played four hours until the travelling and lack-of-sleep started to take their toll, not to mention the uncomfortable chairs were getting beyond what I could stand. I cashed out for a tidy profit of $481, a good start to my two weeks of poker.
Poker +$481
1 February (Day 2) LA
I spent the morning attending some meetings, running errands and the like. About 4:30 I freed myself up to play poker. My original plan was to play at Commerce, but the games had been so juicy at Hawaiian Gardens I decided for a return engagement.
If anything else, my table was even better than the day before. Actually, the players were a little better, but they were incredibly predictable. I had wonderful reads on everyone there. I just needed some cards. Unfortunately, my first 90 minutes I ran card dead, and my $100 buy-in dwindled. I had a couple drawing hands that fizzled. I tried making a couple of plays at some pots and had to release my hands when I encountered resistance. Finally, with about $50 left in my stack I landed JJ on a 9-high flop. The player to my left reraised AI on my Cbet and I was pretty much pot-committed. I ruefully called and saw my first buyin go away to the man who flopped a set of dueces. I reached for another buy-in and hoped my luck changed.
And it it did. I really didn’t get great cards, per se, but the rest of the table would overplay anything they had, betting big with TPTK against a highly coordinated flop. In the next several hours I made killer pots when someone slow played big PPs preflop, only to go AI after I’d made a set or other bigger hand. Twice someone with a baby flush went AI when I made the nut flush, etc. All the while I am having my conversations with Seymour the Seagull and some players are (half) joking about kidnapping the bird, or putting a Haitian Voodoo hex on it. Good times.
After four hours I cash out, the longest I could sit in the chairs, up a nice $1018. The facilities at HG weren’t the best. It also has the California cardroom tendency for low-buyins which make for some serious short stack tables. However, if you have a kitchen sink knowledge of position and pot odds there is lots of money to be made there. Play good TAG poker and value bet and the money is there.
Tuesday I finish up my work in LA, then hop the plane to Vegas and see if I can continue my run there.
Poker today +$1018
Total Trip +$1499

2 February (Day 3) On to Vegas
I spent the morning finishing up business and packing before heading to LAX for my US Air hop. Everything went pretty smooth, except the Vegas shuttle driver. Of course, since I was in the property closest to the airport I was the last to drop off. Go figure. Next time I’ll just taxi. Anyway, I checked into the Excalibur on a great rate, partially comped in one of the remodeled, wide-screen rooms.
After taking some time to get settled in, Seymour and I headed downstairs to the Excalibur Poker Room. As written elsewhere on this site, this is simply an area in the middle of the casino, although this one did have a hip wall with glass above to separate out the worst of the noise and smoke. Two 1-2NL games going and I get immediately into a game. This Tuesday evening there are no tourists, just a bunch of local regular players, many of whom I remember from past LV trips. They are not especially good, but no one is incredibly bad either, with only one player, two seats to my right, that I would consider dangerous. The trouble is, I get lots of drawing hands that never get anywhere. I have never had a run of so many suited connectors and one-gappers that I can remember. Nothing gets there, and my buy-in melts slowly away. I reload to keep enough bullets but the drain continues. Finally, I blow a big pot when I bluff with air against an old man holding TPTK on a very scary board. The bleeding continues and I begin to get frustrated. After three hours I cash out over $300 down. Even with the regulars, it is an extremely beatable game, I think. I just didn’t get the cards or situations to get it done.
I grab a bite at Baja Fresh on the casino floor of the Excal– two fish tacos – not great, but make me feel a little better. It is still fairly early, so I decide to move my game over to the MGM. They were just opening a 2-5NL game so I happily buy-in for $500. Most buy in for about $300, although one Young Asian Guy (YAG) sits down two seats to my right with about $600. Second hand there are two callers and I look down at AhKh. I raise to $20 (I know, a little low) and get three callers. Flop is J35 all hearts. BINGO! YAG bets AI ($600 into a $$60 pot). With the nuts, I call with him having me covered, hoping he doesn’t have a set. Turn is another heart, so my A high flush still seems the best. Another 5 hits. Sure enough, he shows 35offsuit. And I am down $500 on two hands. Immediately I am on tilt and make the good decision to go for a long walk.
I wander to Aria and check out City Center. It is impressive and expensive on some level, but on another level it reminds me of the “futuristic” cities I used to see on the cheap SciFi movies of the 1960s and 1970s. It just doesn’t seem to have a soul to me, like NYNY or Venetian or Bellagio or even the Wynn does. We shall see. I peaked into the poker room
Ended back in my room about 1am, still grumpy from the poker results for the day. Still, I am well up overall for the trip. In part II, I’ll have to see if I can forget the bad and work on the positives. Tomorrow I plan to hit the MGM again, with possibilities of more time at Excalibur, before doing more poker at Venetian and maybe Mirage.
Excalibur- -$366
MGM- -$500
Total Day -$866
Total Trip +$633

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  1. Nice report (so far). That beat you took is BRUTAL. YAG's raise seems a bit unnecessary but you were loving it at the time. You can't beat yourself up; good decision, bad result. Get back on the horse. Good luck

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, biggsy. It was one of those things when the head tells you all about odds and chance and getting it in good, but the reality still stucks.

    Don't worry, I am on the horse again as I write. I'll have another update in 2-3 days.

  3. Thank you for the report. I wonder if you thought about postponing your vegas trip another day and playing at HG more. Seems like you were making money. I had a run at Caesars once, and missed my flight, and gladly paid for another hotel room night and a new flight home the next day, as I was having such a great run. I look forward to Part II. YOU DA BIRD! Best wishes, Tabbyc

  4. yeah rough one there, we all got the stories. It's totally true you remember the bad beats more than the bad wins!!

    Good luck nice report!

  5. YAG musta had a mini-coronary when you called..sometimes there's just no beating luck..

  6. Wow - what an over bet by the YAG. Failing to finish flopped sets with full houses on the river has been a leak in my game lately. I need to learn how to do that like the YAG in your post if I'm going to get better at beating floped nut flushes.

    Great post good luck at the tables.

  7. Hand #3 – I have been card dead for an exteneded period when I decided to try a play. On the button with three limpers I bet $20 with Tc2c. Two callers ($62 in. pot). Flop is Q52 with two spades. Check, check I bet $45 one caller. Turn is a K spades. Check. I ask my lone opponent how much he has left and he shows me only $6!!! That was smart on my part, no way to bluff now. I check. River is an offsuit A. check, check. I sheepishly rollover my T high to amazement from the table. The table was even more amazed when the other player rolled over a 64 for a missed gutshot straight draw and I take a big pot with only T-high.

    Looks like you had a pair of dueces not 10 high.

  8. @tabbyc

    I was never going to extend the sessions at HG. The first reason I was on a very tight schedule, and really had to leave for Vegas when I did. While my trip has a lot of fun and poker in it, I am also taking care of a lot of built up business and family issues. The second reason is I am not a guy who can normally sit down for extended sessions too often, especially on the obnoxiously uncomfortable seats of the HG. My main poker focus of the trip is the UFC/SB weekend, and I want to be fresh and rested for extended sessions then. I don't want to play too long in just a few days and be burnt out for that weekend.

    Thanks for the comments, and Seymour says thanks too :laughing:

  9. @Dr.loomis

    Good catch. I must have the cards wrong a little bit. I did have T2 and ended with T high. Goes to trying to remember the hand a couple of hours later when trying to write about, My bad.