I had high hopes for poker going into this Vegas trip. The stories I’d heard of easy fish (with money to burn) at certain tables in Vegas had me salivating a little, and my practice sessions prior to the trip had gone well. Unfortunately for me, things did not go according to plan and I took a series of bad losses that threatened to put me on the worst tilt of my poker life.
My first Vegas poker experience was perhaps not the ideal time to play. It was our first full day in the city and we started off with breakfast just off the strip at the Ellis Island Casino and Brewery. This little joint had been recommended for their off-menu $6.99 steak special, but our first visit was for a solid American breakfast. Chicken Fried Steak, Poached Eggs with Tabasco and some solid sourdough toast later I had my caloric intake for roughly a week and was ready for some action. Unfortunately for my heat-stroke susceptible self, it was unseasonably warm in Vegas for May. A long walk down Las Vegas Boulevard to the MGM grand, combined with a giant margarita meant that after the walk back I was feeling the onset of serious headache/nausea. Since I’d just spend $90usd on a ticket for KA, I figured I’d better fight it off and let the other boys start on the poker.
About an hour later (after a lukewarm shower, 3 Advil and about 2 gallons of water) I made my way downstairs for my first session. The first thing I learned is that Bally’s poker room sucks. It’s not a room; it’s not even a corner of the casino floor. It’s simply a roped off midline section with noisy table games on one side, a bar on another, and a flimsy half wall that doesn’t block much slot machine sound on the other. Far from the best setup, it’s pretty sad when even Club Regent has the poker tables more isolated than a Vegas room.
My first table was pretty tame. I more or less just watched the blinds roll by for an hour and stole the occasional hand. My buddy Dan was at the same table and in a pretty similar situation, though he played more than I did. The highlight of the afternoon was definitely seeing the guy sitting next to me hit a straight flush on the river and pick up the ~$500 High Hand bonus. After a while Dan took off for a nap and our table ended up merged with another pal Noah’s table just in time to see someone hit the diamond straight flush for a ~$400 High Hand bonus. Sadly after another 20 minutes that table started breaking up. Definite sign of the downturn of both Vegas and the poker boom that they couldn’t even keep 2 solid tables of $1-2 NLHE going in the early evening. It was buffet time anyway in order to catch KA at 9:30 so I took my meager profit and ran.
The next day we checked out the substantially swankier room at the Venetian arriving just as the daily noon tourney was starting. Given the size of the tourney we elected to just play a cash game as a new table was opening up. We had reservations at Rosemary’s that night and I didn’t want to miss it because one of us was locked in an unending tourney. While open to the casino floor, the Venetian’s room is on an outer wall and has three solid walls keeping out most of the noise. Perhaps it’s just me, but I also felt like the closer slots had the volume down a few notches as well.
As we sat down at one end of the table the other end filled with several overly serious sunglasses players and one “thinks he’s much funnier than he is” smart ass. Unfortunately for me, the smart-ass took a big chunk of my chips before I had him figured out. It was probably my worst hand of the entire trip and I’m still kicking myself for not calling, but I was nervous. I found cowboys (KcKd) in fairly good position and raised to $10 pre-flop. I got a few callers, including the smartass and the flop came out 3c 7c Jd, the smart-ass bet $5, 2 people folded and I raised him double, he called. I was a bit worried about him having fishhooks obviously, but he checked when the turn came out 2s and he checked to me. I bet $20 and he simply called. Unfortunately for me, the river was the Jc giving any Jack the trips and putting the flush on the board as well. To make things worse he bet the equivalent of the rest of my stack. Looking back at it now I had so much money in the damned pot I should have just called… I pussed out and folded, the asshole turned over 8d6h. Argh, I’m still so pissed while writing this. Had that hand occurred even half an hour later I would have called in a heartbeat after seeing his play. It was such a retarded hand, 86 unsuited and out of position? You’re going to call a raise and a bunch of bets with that?
I eventually recovered after re-buying and got out of that session only $50 down, but I still wondered what might have been. I played much better as time went on and made a couple bluffs of my own. We ended up getting a couple of pretty erratic players at the table that I wanted to take a bite out of, but after busting one in a heads up battle with AK vs JJ I decided to get out. Thankfully the Bouchon bakery is in the Venetian, and after we finally tracked it out… a couple TKO’s eased the pain a bit.
Rosemary’s (review to follow later) was fantastic and along with another profitable session at the (Las) Vegas Club downtown I was feeling refreshed and recharged Saturday morning. We’d already set Saturday aside as tourney day but still managed to pick up some cheap Penn and Teller tickets for that night. Caesar’s was definitely my favorite room of the trip. Though hard to find, it’s a completely enclosed room hidden away behind the sports book with comfy chairs and great dealers. Drink service left a little to be desired, but you can’t have everything. We managed to get in as some of the last few players for the 3pm $70 tourney. Without question I played my best poker of the trip in this tourney.
I started out by sitting out the initial crazy hands that seem to be part of every sub $500 tournament. Sitting at my table were a couple total donkeys with no clue what was going on, a grandma who was a mouthy, solid player but who spend as much time reading her book on some psychic as playing, a dangerous guy in a Chelsea jersey who loved to chase and a couple former frat boys out for someone’s bachelor party. Unfortunately for the rest of us, about 10 mins into the second round, the Chelsea Chaser got paid off with a river flush after going all in against QQ and 10-10 and had a significant amount of cash to throw away. Things seemed even crazier at another table as 5 people busted out in 3 hands and their players were spread out among the rest.
My best early hand came with Jc-8c in the BB where I got to check and the flop 7 handed. Sure enough, Jd-8h-3s. I bet 3x min, hoping to cut out a few people but still get a caller or two. Two callers later, the turn came out 8s and a little bit of my soul shouted “houray!” as I tried to look nervous and check. #2 checked and the young kid who was last to act, threw in about 2x minimum. I didn’t want to see another jack come out in case he had one, so I raised him triple… making it about 60% of his stack to call. The guy in #2 folded immediately, and the kid called without thinking. From the way he’d been playing so far I really doubted he wouldn’t have raised pre-flop with pocket jacks and he hadn’t seemed like the type of player to go chasing a straight that hard either. I watched his eyes as the river came out (a total blank 5h or something) and he didn’t react at all. At that point I figured he had an 8 or J and was hoping to out kick me if we tied. I didn’t hesitate and bet him all-in. Sure enough, he turned over As-Jh and I turned over 8’s full of J’s to scoop a pretty sizable pot that put me in the top 5ish for chips. A few hands later I limped in with J-8 suited from the small blind against a wimpy table and flopped two pair for another decent pot, it seemed to be my lucky hand for the day.
Caesar’s was good to me and I outlasted my fellows, but sadly I busted out in somewhere around ~13th out of 50 when my stack was dwindling and I pushed with A-K and was called by JJ and AA. There we no miracle kings, but I did almost see a straight before the river coughed up a 7s and ended my day. No regrets though, I lasted longer than I thought I would and had nothing to be ashamed of.
I still felt good when I headed back to Bally’s and with no guarantee that my roommates would be around (and with me being sans-room key) I decided to play a bit more poker before I headed upstairs. Financially? A mistake… Entertainment value? Through the roof…
Even on a Saturday evening I had no problems just sitting down. I ended up being sat next to a loudmouth greek dude with a stinky unlit cigar and a giant stack of chips that he had apparently just acquired via a horrible beat. This guy was the single biggest character I met on the trip. His face looked like it was made of leather, and not leather of the rich Corinthian variety. It was more like the wrinkled hide of a booth at a strip club, a place that had once been a classy joint that Sinatra might have hung out at but that was now slinging watered down 2-for-1 draft corona with dancing girls on the wrong side of 40. He was the kind of guy you could easily imagine slinging grey market electronics in the east end of London. As I slid into my hard seat I heard him receive another warning from the floor boss for language as everyone around the table (even the guy who’s stack he’d just halved) laughed along at his last riebald joke.
The crazy fool acted like he was at a blackjack table, calling out the card he wanted half the time, offering the dealers tips if they’d pull out a 7 and basically playing with any two cards. He seemed to be 100% telling the truth on what he wanted as well, yet he kept winning. I admit to being kind of in awe of this oddball. I’d never want to play like him, but he managed to loudmouth his way to a substantial stack.
In one of the better hands we saw he was in the pot along with a husband and wife and a third short stack. He decided that the lady was going to win and continuously harangued her hubby and the short stack until they folded. He then called her to the river and folded without showing, but I spotted what I think was a 4-7 when he did. A few hands later he told Curtis (our dealer) that he could marry one of his daughters if he gave him a jack. Curtis complied and he turned over a boat to beat a flush. Annoyingly enough he pulled the same trick later to give himself a straight over my set of 10’s and I had to fold. I wasn’t very impressed (and I must say that seeing his daughters later Curtis should really pass.) and again took a series of unlucky 1 outers to end my day. P&T cheered me up endlessly though.
That was pretty much the end of poker for the trip. I’d still give myself about an 8/10 for play quality, I definitely suffered from a solid 4/10 for card luck though. Hopefully when I next go to Vegas I’ll be travelling from a city with a live poker room to have a practice session or two at first, the two hour journey to Caesar’s Windsor, Fallsview or Casinorama just isn’t worth it when the wait time to get at a table is so high. Still thanks to Craps and Blackjack I came back up ~$50us, so all is right with the world anyway.