This trip actually begins before Vegas, but the non-Vegas part involves poker.
Every year in the late winder/early spring, I attend a conference for software user assistance. Actually, I do more than attend. I volunteer, I produce a daily printed newsletter, and I tweet and blog. And I take the rest of the week off. When the conference has been in the southern west coast (once it was actually even in Vegas), that rest of the week is in Vegas. This year, for the first time ever in the conference's 20-year history, it departed the Left Coast for Memphis. I still planned a long weekend in Vegas as part of the trip back, but it turns out Memphis is about a 45-minute drive from Tunica.
Some would say my itinerary was crazy. Fly out on Southwest (on Friday, March 9) from SFO to Little Rock viz San Diago & Phoenix, then a rental car from Little Rock to Memphis, a 2-hour drive. But I'm telling ya, the entire flight (which included a 3-leg jaunt to Vegas via Houston & Dallas, and then back to SFO) on Southwest AND the cost of the rental car was less than a direct flight from SFO to Memphis--and I didn't have added baggage fees.
Got into Memphis around 9pm, but I didn't have my hotel there until Saturday, so I'd booked a cheap hotel near the casinos. Got down there, checked in, and found only 2 casinos on the Bravo app, Harrah's and Horseshoe. It was Horseshoe that had most of the limit games, so off I went.
The $4/$8 game there turned out to be mostly locals who knew each other. Not terribly good players either. After a short wait, I opened a new table at 11:30pm. Didn't really get a whole lot going though. Got AsKs, which looks nice until all red cards flop. It took me an hour and a half to get my first pocket pair, 55, which of course went nowhere. I did get AA to hold up vs. 2 cold callers and a QQx flop. Finally decided I'd had enough at 2am (which was still "only" midnight my time), whereupon I hit a nut flush on my last orbit to be able to leave up $21.
So I was looking forward to getting one more night in before the conference started. Unfortunately, it was not to be. A slow start was exacerbated by my not picking up on a tell: a loose player who I'd already seen play any 2 sooooted cards suddenly opened the river betting on a backdoor 3rd heart. Could have saved myself $8. Got myself heads up with a good pocket pair vs. guy who had AK & a K flops, then awhile later see same guy flop quads (not against me). I hadn't dragged a single pot in my first 2 hours, open-raised w/ A9 suited, and a very quiet player 3-bet. Oops. I'm way down & finally get AA in my BB & can 3-bet PF. Have little left to bet K-high flop though, but the aces do hold up. Still, after 3 1/2 hours, I'm down $48. I'm sure I can outplay these guys, but it's an early day on Sunday, so I have to leave shortly after 10pm.
That Wednesday, I look forward to getting in one last session. Unfortunately, the dinner with friends drags on late (unfortunately regarding the poker aspect, not the opportuinity to spend time with far-flung friends), and I don't make it down the the Horseshoe until about 10pm. Unfortunately, there's just one table of $4/$8 going. At 10:30pm, I get a seat and wait for the button to go by. Meanwhile, I'm watching the table, and I really don't like what I see. There's one guy raising almost every hand preflop, and getting 4 or 5 callers of 3 or 4 preflop bets. I get total crap hands for the first orbit, see lots of wild and stupid action, and decide I really don't want that kind of fight, so I just pick up my rack and leave. On a positive note, I'm even for the night. But I drove for a total of an hour and a half to sit at the table for a whopping 15 minutes.
Thursday morning, I drive back to Little Rock and get on the plane that will eventually get me to Vegas.
Let me tell you about one of the dumnpiest dives in Vegas. This being the first weekend of March Madness, bargain room rates were hard to be had. I ended up going through Hotwire, for what was described as a "2-star" property in the "near-east area of the Strip. Betterbidding.com suggested that there were two 2-star "winners" in that area, and I was hoping for the Super 8 on Koval, which got good reviews on TripAdvisor. But I got the other one, the Best Western Mardi Gras, behind the Encore on Paradise.
We'll start with the complimentary airport shuttle--that was late. The property turns out to be not really a "hotel," but a motel, where all rooms open to the outdoors. Once I found the dirty, dilapidated, and tiny elevator to get me to the third floor, I walked the stairs from then on. Gross. The room, while large was dark and dank. The bed barely comfortable. The door with huge gaps between it and the frame. In short, I wouldn't wish this place on anyone. When the bean counters at Best Western were looking to add to their chain, they were really slumming when they put their name on this one.
So I get freshened up, it's still light out, and I decide to walk to the Wynn to see how far it is. It's a hefty walk, as it turns out, one that I don't really want to make again. Interestingly, when I go to get a player's card, I'm told it's not good for the poker room, but when I get in the poker room, it's taken and swiped.
I get seated at a $4/$8 game right away. Not long after I get in, a guy sits down on my right with 5 racks. Huh??? I had my big blind raised by another new player, found 10-10, and flopped a set. Nice. Unfortunately, the game starts getting short. We're down to 5, and I'm thinking of leaving, but we get a couple of new players, and I soldier on. Two of those new players were a couple of Asian women who sat down to the right of 5-stack guy and who seem utterly incapable of folding preflop. One of them calls my preflop 3-bet cold with what turns out to be 55, whiffs the flop, and catches a turn 5. A bit later, she wakes up with KK after I raise PF w/ AQ and she 3-bets it. I do flop a set with 22 in the SB and was able to wait until the turn to CR. I hit a monster pot when a call a PF raise by an aggro guy with Q-10 in the BB and flop KJ9 rainbow. The same Asian women goes wild on a blank turn, going 4 bets, then calling my river bet. She had flopped a set. That pot was huge, as we had several preflop callers of the initial raise. By 10pm I was hungry and tired and decided to cash out up $140.
Friday morning I made the 10-minute walk to the convention center monorail station only to find that the 3-day pass wasn't the $25 advertised on their website, but $28. I bit the bullet and made it to the Mirage just in time to get a 2nd $3/$#6 game started. My second hand in I go 4-bets preflop vs. Bob with QQ, and when he leads on a AK9 flop, I can't call. Meanwhile, the Mirage has tweaked its AA cracked rules: There now has to be $40 in the pot. I talked with Chris to understand the reason. I hope things get worked out. And then I go ahead and get AA cracked for $75. Later, I try a limp with Q9s, but it gets raised. Hit a miracle 99x flop. And I crack same-color aces. Shortly after noon, I get QQ three times over the course of a couple of orbits. They hold up twice, and once chop with....QQ. I call it quite at 1:45 up $20.
I return in the evening to give the tournament a try. In the early rounds, with blinds at 100/200, I make it 925 to go. The SB goes all in for $3100, and the BB flats with about 2K behind. I reason that it's very likely that (a) I'm facing a medium-to-big pair with one hand and a big ace with the other (making me less of a coin flip), so with 5K still behind, I decide to fold and wait for a better spot. I think, in this situation, this early in the tournament with a decent structure, this is the right move. Which meant that it took me 50 minutes to win my first hand, open-raising to 900 with 150/300 blinds--and everyone folds. I called a bu8tton raise w/ AcQc & got a beautiful flop: an A & 2 clubs. The continuation bet folded to my CR. And after a horrendous start, I'm actually up a bit at the break. After the break, I'm seeing some strange bet sizing. For example, one guy min raises, then leads 600 into about a 2K pot. I get QQ to hold up vs. QJ all in, and I make it to the 2nd break with about 17K. There's one 48K stack to my left though. And I finally get felted when my A-10 falls to AJ, finishing 14th of 38.
Saturday I awake to not feeling all that good. My face feels all stuffed up and a bit itchy. I attribute it to sinuses or allergies, and off to the Mirage I go--where I have to wait until l9:45am to get the first $3/$6 game going. NOt a really productive day. I did get AA cracked by a runner-runner gutshot for $75, and I give up the ghost at just after 3pm up a whopping $7. With the room so busy with tournament action, even Chris puts some shifts in on the box.
I walk all the way down the Strip thinking that the non-Walgreens drugstore is closer than it is. It's not. I get some allergy eye drops, thinking that they will help, and notice also that they have a clinic. I think that if I'm still feeling lousy tomorrow, I'll go back and see someone there. Big mistake.
I head back up the Strip to the Wynn, but I'm still feeling punky, even after using the eyedrops. I get to a slightly short table full of loud drinking friends, which does no good for my head. I'm just totally card dead, spending most of my time folding trash hands, and I give up after 2 1/2 hours down $80. I open raised a straddle w/ KK and everyone folded, but I was 0 for 3 with nut flush draws.
Not feeling much better the next day, so I plan to head back to the pharmacy after a Mirage session. I get it going at 9. I realize the sweetest workd you can hear when you value bet the river is "I wanna see it." I flop bottom set w/ 55, but I have to check-fold the river after a bet and a call w/ 2 to flush and 4 to straight on the board. I get AA--and I go up against KK, which means every one else is out. J-high board gets ma decent pot. I get on a little run, first 3-betting KK preflop, getting 3 callers, and having them hold up, then flopping trip aces w/ A-10 in a raised pot. Then we get to two short games, neither small enough to break. I 3-bet a straddler w/ AA, but get just heads up, and he's all in for a small pot. After a bit, there are more $2/$5NL games going in the room than $3/$6 limit games. I flop a set w/ AA and a flopaholic turns a flush with sooooted cards. Of course it'a after AA cracked hours. I hit a rather precipitous drop over a couple of afternoon hours, but then a manage to get KK hold up. And after trying to grind my way back, I head out "only" $20 down at 5pm, ready for the IP mixed game but too late to hit the pharmacy. I'll have to muddle my way through.
Now understand that I've planned this trip to catch an early morning flight out of Vegas (so I can get to work at a still-reasonable hour) and that for some reason the monorail was closing at midnight that day. I had played the mixed game until 3am the previous time, so I was kind of unhappy that I'd have to leave early. But the reason I try to squeeze all this in is because the mixed game at the IP is waaaaay too much fun to miss. In fact, I think it's just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I have a good run, at one point taking the high hand in Stud/8 with 10-10 after starting with 2345, and I run to catch the monorail at 11:45up $111.
Overall, I finished the trip up $178, and that's not counting the bonuses. And it was another trip of poker, poker, poker, and not much of anything else. As usual.
And as it turns out, I definitely should have hit that pharmacy clinic. After feeling worse when I got back to the Bay Area, the symptoms that I recognized from previous outbreaks (and I was somewhat in denial about because I was on vacation) turned out to be an outbreak of shingles, this time, unlike previous times, and likely because I delayed getting treatment, turning painful rather than the uncomfortable itchiness of previous experiences.