Music/mood accompaniment for this review:
Had a pre-planned Vegas trip for my niece’s 40th birthday, back when there was only COVID-18. As the “good” Uncle, I volunteered to be the virtual Uber driver for a girls party van. There were going to be 7 women on my mind (one says she’s a friend of mine) who were going to be playing slots and Bingo all night. Well, by the time the birthday rolled up, we were down to 3 subdued partiers. Because the partying ended at 10:30 or so, there was still some time for one session on Tuesday morning, though I did check out the Venetian mid-day on Monday.
Not your Daddy’s poker room anymore. The obvious weirdness was there at the Venetian – mandatory masks, no drinking except through a straw, no food at the tables. 5 players at a time with a rather high $4 rake, which included some lame promotion of a big prize if you lose with 4 10s or better – like that’ll happen in my one hour session. Other surprises came with every 5 minutes hearing Clean Up on Table 15… and for the first 15 minutes I kept looking over thinking that someone had spilled beer on the floor. But again, no drinking beer seeing as no one wants to use a straw. Instead, it was a player leaving and a dealer reduced to being a Windex Woman – scrubs and sprays coming out. Then, as a frequent freebie person, I always liked the unlimited coffee and drink refills, but those are now blocked off also. A lot of griping from the players, where occasionally a nose would be sticking out or a player would step 2 feet from the table and take their mask off as if they were playing full court basketball and needed a breather. Cowboy Up man! You’re on a chair playing poker. The Lone Ranger wore his bandana 24/7 and never complained. https://www.endeavorcomics.com/largent/ranger/lr5.html
From the Old West to the Jetsons, the next stop was the Bellagio where the Table rake was only $3 and there were 6 players at the table but everywhere you look - Plexiglass! The only gaps were for your hands to reach into the pot. You end up looking at most players through 3-4 layers of plexiglass and can only hear the person on either side of you. I don’t mind because I’m totally introverted (my wife calls me emotionally unavailable, which I THINK is a complement after spending the weekend with 3 drinking / partially hungover women). There were 3 resort arguments I had never heard before on a guy trip – (1) when best to do dishes, (2) when best to get clean towels, and (3) discussions over the toilet paper quality. Anyhow, kudos to the Bellagio for investing though. We were allowed to remove the mask once inside our plexiglass bubble, which even afforded the luxury of sipping drinks out of the glass. But they were diligent too – no person allowed to sweat a player from behind, instant wipedowns when someone left including a dash of windex on the plexiglass windows and a scrubbing of tables, chips and cut card every 30 minutes at a dealer change.
Anyhow, all the tells are partially gone too. A look in the eye isn’t the same and you can’t hear the table talk. But like a cat with a sense removed, another grows stronger. The gent with the delicate hands to my left, the lady with surprisingly large hands to my right. The way they check, the way they reach for chips. I think I was getting more tells than I ever had. It was one of those illusion sessions, where every hand plays like a winner. Gee, my 4-7 plays well into the 5-6-Ace board and then, sure enough, an 8 on the river and we’ve got a Bingo. 4 out of 6 pockets pairs flop into trips. An Ace – 8 suited nails the flush on the river and before I can even reach for chips, a fella 2 doors down goes all-in with his K-4 suited. I entered with $180 at 5:30 AM and walk away with $1,000 at 8 AM for a breakfast date with the ladies. Best and luckiest session of my life with so many unfamiliar scenarios – Gee, I nailed the inside straight, how much should I bet or How do I best disguise that I flopped a set again? At one point, the fellow to my right says “every time you bet or raise, I’ve decided to just believe you”. At which point, easy bluffing becomes available every 10th hand or so. So yeah, the competition seemed soft or maybe desperate to play again, a little impatient to make things happen. If you’re willing to take a risk, might be worth a trip.