After working a partial day, I head to the airport and take the 4:30 flight from Columbus to Vegas thanks to one of the many free tickets Mr. Lederer earns through the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program due to a lot of work travel. (Thanks, dear!) Less than half way through the flight, an annoying high-pitched buzz emanates from the back of the plane for a good while with no explanation. I am near the front of the plane and have my iPod blaring, so it doesn’t particularly bother me, but I feel for the folks in the back. Eventually a flight attendant gets on the PA and apologizes for the smoke alarm going off, but that no one can disable it and we just need it to run its course. Turns out some joker decided to light up in the restroom. Didn’t he see “Airplane”? You No El Smoko!
We land 15 minutes early, and after grabbing my luggage and getting my rental car (love those PT Cruisers!), I’m off to Green Valley Ranch for their Wednesday night $45 HORSE tournament, mainly to serve as a warm up for the Binion’s $210 HORSE event on Friday. It’s a weak structure, but I play OK and after 3.5 hours we’re down to 7 players out of about 29 starters. I think 4 places paid, with 4th getting $96. (I forget the higher payouts.) Someone suggests a chop, as we’re all fairly close in chip count, and we all agreed except guy #1 who would only chop if we gave him an extra $45 because he rebought earlier. Guy #2 was furious and said “No, it’s an even chop for $160 each! I played with you last week and you tried to do the same thing ‘cuz you need the money…yada, yada, yada.” This pissed off Guy #1 who immediately said “Forget it; I’m not chopping; now I’m out to knock people out.” During this exchange I meekly asked if the other 6 would be willing to kick in $9 off our portion to give Guy #1 his extra $45 so we’d all get something, and 2 definitely agreed, but it was at this point he refused. We then went on break and I half-heartedly tried to talk Guy #1 into the chop but he was too mad at Guy #2. We played for a bit more, but my stack dwindled and I was out in 7th place. I vowed that if I saw Guy #1 again this trip, I’d run him over with my PT Cruiser. And Guy #2 better watch his back as well. I drive to the Orleans for the first of my 2 night comped stay and discover my room is a balmy 62 degrees. I’m usually cold anyway, so I actually had to turn the heat on for a bit to get comfortable. It’s been a long day of work, travel and a tournament, so I’m in bed at 11:30.
As usual, I’m awake early (5:15 a.m.) but eventually doze off again and get up for good at 8:30. I eat a sort of healthy Orleans breakfast buffet with my $10 dining credit and decide to play the TI 11 a.m. tournament. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything going and bust out 16th out of 30. I walk across the street to the Venetian which is hopping with cash games and the DSE. I get on 3 4/8 lists: HORSE and mixed (interest) and Omaha 8 (1 table). After an hour, an Omaha seat opens up and I play from 2-4:15 and cash out up $67. Getting hungry so I walk back to TI, get the car and take off for In and Out Burger. The radio traffic report explains that Obama is in town and the I-15 is suffering due to the motorcade, so I decide this is as good a time as any to head to the east side (opposite of Obama fiasco) and tackle my personal “Excellant Adventure” of Boulder Highway rooms I’ve never played in, though I do stop at the Maryland In and Out first. No wait, unlike the Tropicana location! I take Tropicana to Boulder Highway and text Las Vegas Michael to ask what rooms are south of Tropicana. He immediately informs me that the swank Joker’s Wild, Club Fortune and Fiesta Henderson all eagerly await my arrival. I’m driving for quite a while before I see Joker’s Wild. It’s a locals casino approximately the size of my basement, but they do indeed have a poker room and in fact have a “HO-down” tournament (half Hold Em, half Omaha) at 6:30 p.m. but no cash game running. It’s 5:45, and I can’t see hanging around for 45 minutes so I leave and go to Fiesta Henderson on Lake Mead Blvd. about 5 minutes away. They are just starting a 2-6 spread limit Hold Em table so I join. These folks (players and dealers) were very nice, and 1 or 2 were even under age 60, but I lost $50 in 30 minutes and decide to cut my losses and say adios. This actually was the time when the HO-Down was starting, so I go back to Joker’s Wild and buy in for $28 and get the $10 rebuy. This was actually a fun tournament and these people were also very nice. We had 18 runners, 3 places paid, and I went out 5th. I headed back north on Boulder for my final stop at Eastside Cannery. Fancy for a locals joint. Their main game (and only game when I was there) is 2/4, so I helped start a new table and play for a couple hours, generating exactly $1 in profit. It’s now 11:30 and I’m hungry, so a stop at Del Taco is in order, as well as a visit to Von’s grocery store for some Mother’s brand cookies, sold only in the Western states. They’re not particularly gourmet, but they remind me of my childhood in California, so I always get some. I arrive back at the Orleans around 12:30 a.m. and fall asleep.
I slept a good solid 8 hours: important because I’m playing in Binion’s HORSE tourney that afternoon. I check out of Orleans and into my Rush Tower room at the Golden Nugget: my first time staying there. The Rush rooms are nice, though the brown and orange décor takes some getting used to. (Wait, those were my college colors. Maybe I’ve just outgrown it.) I eat a meatball sub from the Four Queens’ Subway, and walk around until the tournament, breaking my poker-only rule and try the video 3-card poker and nickel slots, where I make $10.50. Very TBC-esque of me. At 2 p.m. I sit down to play the tournament with 85 other folks. I had a good run early, then was card dead for a few games. I got down to about 6K and then had a fantastic 4-hand streak in Stud 8 that got me to over 30K. This structure was aggressive though, (or I’m just that bad) and though I had a high point of 42K, I ended up going out at 8 p.m. in 31st place. 12 places were paid. I chatted with Poker Grump for a while, then headed to my room to recoup and recharge with the intent to play somewhere later. I knew if I lay down, I’d never get up, and sure enough I conked out at 10:30 and stayed in the rest of the night.
I’m awake at 7:15 and watch a bit of TV, finally getting up and at ‘em at 8:45. I feel pretty well rested, which was a goal of mine this trip. I eat a donut at the Fremont’s Dunkin Donuts then join the NL game at the Nugget, my first time in this room. I play about 2 hours and make $9. Another must stop each trip is Baja Fresh, since they closed all the locations by me. So I hit up the one inside the Excalibur then sit down at their 1/3 NL game where I make $104. With the WSOP in full swing, this seems like as good a time as any to hit and run, so off I go. I didn’t recognize many pros, but I did see George Costanza himself playing. Alaska Gal tweeted that she was looking to play a 7 p.m. tourney and suggests the Sahara – another new room for me. It’s a $45 buy in and $20 rebuy, which I took early. We had 135 players. Not sure my place, but I busted in level 5. I walk around the Sahara, where I hadn’t set foot in years, and not-so-strangely enough, not much has changed. I drive to TI where I see Yappy Dave in the NL game and he asks if I’m interested in Chinese or a mixed game. I say sure, if we can get the players. He puts the word out while I eat a comped meal at Isla, but no luck. It’s late Saturday (10:30 ish) and TI has only one cash game going. I’m surprised by this and feel rather sad that my once-favorite room seems to be struggling. This is based on my observance of few cash games on my recent visits and may not be a truly accurate picture. I hope not. I head back to the Nugget, watch a bit of the KISS Fremont Experience and head to bed.
I’m awake at 6:30 a.m., and while lying in bed deciding what to do, I hear a fairly loud BOOM and the tower shakes. I just lay there for a while, then get up to use the bathroom. The room has very good curtains, and it’s quite dark. I feel my way to the bathroom, but the light switches don’t work. As I make my way back to the curtains to let in the sunlight, I hear sirens. From my window on the 19th floor, I can see smoke coming from a building about 9 blocks south. The fire department is on the scene, but it takes a while to get the fire out. The power is still off an hour after I got up. I skip a shower and get dressed and pack by sunlight (still pretty dark in the bathroom), hoping I don’t leave anything behind. I phone the front desk to see what to do, and they said that security is on every floor and they’ll lead me down the service elevator. It’s actually the maid that does it, and I just tell the clerk I’m checking out. He writes down my name and room number and I’m out of there. The casino was already getting uncomfortably warm, though the slots were up and running. We know where their priorities are!
I choose Aria for my morning session, stopping first for an apple crepe at Jean Phillippe (?). Not sure why, but I choose 4/8 limit over NL and lose $98 in a sucky game with sucky players. I think I won 3 pots in about 90 minutes. I text LVM, who says he’s playing at the Mirage, so off I go. He’s actually playing 3/6 waiting for a NL seat to open up, which it does right when I get there. I rail him for a bit and he introduces me to Local Rock, who I’m surprised to learn is not a crotchety 75 year old dude. The Mirage eventually starts a new NL table, and I take a seat with $150 while LVM gets a table change and joins me. This session turns out to be quite a roller coaster. I was card dead for a loooong time, winning 2 pots in about as many hours. I was down to about $50 with A8, and I call a small raise to see a flop, which comes 3 3 8. EP bets (maybe $10, I forget) and I raise to $20. It’s folded to him and he calls. Turn is something like a 6, he checks and I go all in for my last $30 or so. (This is aggressive for me, and I thought I represented a 3 well, considering how tight I’d been playing. I don’t know if a move like this is standard or stupid, but it’s definitely rare for me, a relative NL newbie.) He calls and tables QQ and I bust. I rebuy for $100. I get down to about $30. I forget the cards, but I know I turn a straight on one hand and get up to about $90. Next hand I have QQ and over raise preflop to $50 and take down a few limpers. (Prob a dumb move, oh well.) A few hands later I have Ad4d and limp from EP. MP guy raises but not very big, maybe $10 or $12, and gets one caller plus myself. Flop is all diamonds! I check and MP guy bets $40, other guy folds and I look at my stack, “contemplating” what to do, then push for my remaining $80 or so. MP guy doesn’t think long before calling and tabling AA. Fortunately, my flush holds. Soon after this I cash out with $313 for a profit of $63. Quite the comeback, if I do say so myself!
I leave to check into the Rio for my final 2 comped nights and buy the 24 hour buffet pass using $35 of my Total Rewards points. I stuff myself silly at the Rio Buffet and head to the IP for the Sunday night 3/6 mixed game…always the highlight of my Vegas visits! I meet AVP’s DapPoker and play all those wacky games until 1 a.m. when I was getting very mentally tired and knew I had to quit. I’m happy to say that I (finally) made a profit at this game, and walked away $220 richer. I also played a little Ultimate Pay video poker and made $32 after a few 11x pays. Back to the Rio and asleep by 1:30 a.m.
For breakfast I drive to the Paris to use my 24 hour buffet pass, but the line is uber-long, so I go to Pho instead. Still need to wait a bit, but eventually eat a pretty good breakfast. I want to check out the WSOP one more time, so it’s back to the Rio. Just before noon it’s young DB central as the players flood toward the convention area. I walk around a bit, and only recognize Vanessa Selbst. Back in the Rio casino, I play the Asia Poker pit game. It’s like Pai Gow, but with 3 hands: a 1-card low, 3-card medium and 4-card high hand. You must beat the dealer 2 out of 3 hands to win even money. It was a $15 min table…high for me, so I quit after winning $15 after just a few hands. I remember seeing that the Gold Coast next door has Asia Poker, so I walk there and indeed they do for $10. I play again, but this time lose $80. I check out WSOP one more time after learning that Cindy was dealing. I also play a little NL in the Rio poker room, losing $42.
I consider what to do on my last night. I really like playing tournaments, but have had no luck this trip. Cash games, on the other hand, had treated me well. I finally decide to have a last crack at a tournament, and I’ve cashed twice at Pho before, so I head there. Upon buying in, I realize that Harrah’s has changed the tournament since taking over, and it’s only 3K starting chips. We have 31 runners and 5 places paid. I start off well, building a nice stack. However, it dwindles more and more until I am down to a single 1K chip with 11 of us left. I know this is beyond an ATC situation, but I joke that I want to make the final table so I never play a hand. Finally, someone at the other tables busts and we’re down to the final table. I even high card for the button! My chip and my chair are ready! The blinds are already 1K/2K, so I have half a BB. LOL I fold until I get A8 and plop my chip in the pot. Four of us see a flop which is 8 5 x. Turn is an A. River is a blank. I win the main 4k pot. Another guy wins the rest with 8 5. A Q guys gets zilch but is still in. Somewhere along the way I get to 5K. Blinds go up to 2K/4K and on my BB it’s folded to the SB who calls. I don’t look and say “All in blind” with my last 1K chip and he calls. Turns out I have 10 6. I forget what he had, but I know it was nothing special, and I turn a 10 and win the pot! With 6 of us left, I’m playing tight and just hope that one or more of the guys will get crazy and bust first. In fact, this happens when a guy with KQ calls 2 all ins and wins against A 4 and some other mediocre hand when a Q flops. We’re down to 4! I have 8K vs. 3 others with over 13K. I call a bet that put me all in with Ac4c, but I get no help on a Q high board and lose to pocket 10s, who bet out and got a 2 pair hand to fold when 4 hearts were on the board. I was very happy though: not only do I cash, it’s not even a min cash! Profit of $101. So always take “a chip and a chair” seriously! I moseyed over to Bill's for a little NL with Alaska Gal dealing and got tired at midnight, so headed back to Rio to sleep.
Last day. Check out of Rio and text LVM to see where he’s playing. Mandalay Bay it is. I get on the NL interest list and we start 4 handed as a couple more guys and LVM arrive about 11 a.m. We tweet PokerGrump who says he may show up a bit later. I buy in for my usual $150. A couple hands of note. I get AhQh and limp, MP guy raises to $21. He has been aggressive, and my read is just that he’s aggressive for its own sake. Doesn’t mean he has a hand. I call and we’re heads up to the flop which is J 5 6 with two hearts. I check and he goes all in for $85…about double the pot. LVM later tells me this is an instacall, especially against that guy. I do indeed make the call after considering for a bit. To my great surprise, he has J 6 for two pair! He raised to $21 preflop with that, conceivably to steal $3 in blinds?!?!? Uh, ok. Turn is a blank, river is a lovely 7h and I take down the biggest pot we’ve seen. Played a similar hand against LVM when I had position on him with AdQd. Flop was 3 low cards with 2 diamonds. LVM bets $40 and I laugh to myself about the similarity of the situation and how he said “instacall” earlier. I call and he announced that he has the nuts, but do I want to check it down? I say sure, and get no diamond. Later, LVM has a hard time laying down JJ to my big bets on a raggy flop and turn when I have KK. An A on the river and he says “I’m checking if you check” so I do, winning a good pot. I feel guilty for not offering to check it down as he did for me, but he’s gracious about it. I had to cash out at 2:30 p.m. to head to the airport and was pleased with my $110 profit. Flight home was uneventful except for the cold cup of Coke I spilled in my lap. We land 30 minutes early and I arrive home to see a week’s worth of dishes in the sink needing to be washed. Sigh. Back to real life. At least I’m going back next month!