I recently returned from my annual poker bender in Las Vegas during the Western Veterinary Conference at Mandalay Bay. The conference was very informative and I actually did attend the meetings – at least most of them. I definitely learned a few things I plan to implement in my practice. I played mostly cash games again this trip as it is difficult to commit the 8-10 hours necessary to take down a well structured tournament. I did play two turbo tourneys and chopped one of them breaking even on my tourney buy ins. Overall I played 50 hours of cash games in 11 different poker rooms cashing in 16 out of 23 sessions for a total profit of $1897 and an hourly rate of $37.94. Those are the cliff notes for those with ADHD. What follows is definitely tl;dr …………
This turned out to be a solo trip. My wife was planning on flying out for a few days, but she ended up in San Diego instead. My daughter Katy and her Marine husband Jeff are expecting my first grandchild in early May. He was scheduled for deployment in late May. Unfortunately, they moved his deployment up to late February. My wife flew out to help them pack up and move Katy back home during his deployment. Their poignant goodbye made the cover of the L.A. Times:
Camp Pendleton Marines headed to Afghanistan - Framework - Photos and Video - Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times
I flew out of Tampa on Saturday Feb 18 once again burning frequent flyer miles for the first class upgrade. After not having a day off in over 3 months, I was definitely ready for some R&R. That first beer on a plane always tastes great and my flight attendant earned some accolades by bringing me a cold Heineken before takeoff. Once in the air I switched over to rum & coke and was really enjoying the flight. I had a surprisingly good meal of steak quesadillas plus a salad with cilantro dressing and pita chips with hummus – quite tasty. This was followed up with warm chocolate chip cookies for dessert plus a double Bailey’s. I arrived in Dallas feeling quite toasty.
The week before my trip, American Airlines had sent me a free pass for the Admiral’s Club. This made the 3 hour layover at DFW much nicer. More free drinks and snacks, big screen TV’s, computer access, and comfy chairs. I don’t travel often enough to join, but it was a nice free trial.
The flight for Las Vegas left on time and the atmosphere on the plane was buzzing with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning. The second in flight meal was very good too – grilled salmon, broccoli, salad, and cheesecake. The flight attendant was bringing the rum two bottles at a time and I was definitely flying high. I will need to sober up before I hit the poker tables.
My flight arrived at 7:30 PM and despite the time change and large quantity of alcohol I had ingested, I was primed to play some poker. I made my way down to baggage claim and my bag was one of the first ones off – bonus !! I took the shuttle to the rental car center and experienced my first bad beat of the trip. I had reserved a small car with Budget and all they had available was a minivan or a 15 passenger van. Since I had left my posse back in Tampa, I opted for the minivan with the plan to exchange it the next day. I was pleasantly surprised to get a brand new Toyota Sienna minivan. My kids are older now and my minivan days are behind me, but it drove nicely and I decided to keep it for the week.
I headed down the strip to my luxurious boutique accommodations for the week – Chez’ William – otherwise known as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall. I was excited to find no line whatsoever at registration, but then I got my second bad beat for the trip. Although I had reserved a nonsmoking room with a king bed several months ago, all they had were smoking rooms with two queens. I tried the $20 trick and even claimed I had asthma but no luck. I was relieved to at least find out that I was not actually required to smoke, but I might as well have anyway. I was able to move to a nonsmoking room the next day. The rooms were actually quite large, clean, quiet, and comfortable. The bathroom is a little underwhelming and the tub drained too slowly, but other than that the room was fine. The location is great in the center of the strip right across from Caesar’s and Bellagio and you can get from your room to the strip in less than 2 minutes. If you are just looking for a place to sleep for the night, I highly recommend Bill’s. It is a great value too at an average of $60 per night. If you are trying to impress a significant other, I would recommend shelling out some more money for a nicer place.
After checking in and dumping my stuff in the smoker, I headed to the fish pond at Bally’s buying in for $200 at 1/2 NL. Within the first few hands I picked up AA in MP and raised a few limpers to $15. Flop comes J92 and it checks to me. I fire out a bet of $25 and a short stack check raises all in for $15 more. The other player folds and I call knowing I likely need some help. Villain shows J9 for flopped top two and the board runs out dry for me. I mucked and said nice hand. I folded for 4 more orbits at that table before deciding to change tables. Won the very first hand at the next table when I raised with 99 and took the pot with a cbet. Then the reason I play at Bally’s sat down in the 5 seat and immediately ordered a double jack & coke He was so blitzed drunk he could barely see. While definitely slowing the game down, it was worth the cash infusion. He kept holding his cards up so the entire side of his table could see them. The floor stood right behind him but allowed him to continue playing since he was dumping money. I got my chance when he called my all in shove with bottom pair on a four flushed board for $125. He had asked the dealer what the action was, and the dealer said it was $125 to call. Earned a redbird for that one. He stumbled away with a fresh double jack & coke soon after. Unfortunately, variance and fatigue caught up with me and I started my trip with a losing session. (-142)
Despite being tired, my internal clock was still on east coast time, so I was up at 6:00 AM. I decided to try breakfast at the Victorian Café at Bill’s. They have a breakfast special for $4.99 for 3 eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast – very good. Plus I got it for free by signing up for the Bill’s Players Club which includes $5 in comps. After breakfast, I switched to a nonsmoking room and was able to breathe much easier. Still no king bed and no view, but it fit my needs for the week.
I am up early again Sunday morning and I decide to walk the strip before I need to go register for my conference. I end up at Planet Hollywood and buy in for $200 at 1/2 NL. I play for 2 hours and get stacked when my flopped set of 9’s gets run down by an open ended straight draw that gets there on the river. Not the way I had hoped to start my trip. (-200)
I head over to Mandalay Bay to register for my conference. Registration is quick and easy and I am soon on my way to the Mandalay Bay poker room. I am disappointed to find no games running before noon. I wander over to the Luxor and buy in for $200 at 1/2 NL. I only play for a half hour as there is very little action and the table is short handed, but at least I book my first win of the trip. (+22)
I head back over to Mandalay Bay to attend some meetings but happen to pass the poker room on the way. They now have two games going and I decide to buy in for $200 at 1/2 NL. On my second hand I pick up KK and flop quads. I scoop a nice pot plus a $105 high hand bonus. Too bad, if I had flopped quads on Saturday or Monday it would have been worth $500. The next pot is a $100 splash pot and it is raised to $17 preflop and called 7 ways. I was last to act and thought about pushing, but just couldn’t pull the trigger with 38o. I decided I was at least priced in to see the flop getting almost 12:1 on my call, but it turned out to just be a waste of $17. I cashed out after 15 minutes to head to my meetings. (+140)
I attended meetings for a while and then met up with jldecarlo at the Venetian. We had met one time before at the Lone Star Meetup II and talked for a while. It’s always nice to spend some time with friends, even if it is only for a short time. We were seated at different tables and considered switching over to play some 1/2 PLO. I had bought in for $200 at 1/2 NL and it turned out I had a good action table. I doubled up early with JJ when I flopped a set. I texted a pic of my stack to jldecarlo but I think he had already left. I stacked another villain when I turned the nut flush and he turned a smaller flush and pushed into me. I played almost 2 hours and finally climbed my way back into positive territory for the trip. (+279)
Next, I decided to play the 4:00 PM tournament in the Caesar’s Winter Classic – a $130 buy in with a 30K starting stack and 15 minute levels. Even with the big starting stack, the blinds escalated fast and you couldn’t just sit back and wait for good hands. I made a few steals in position to maintain my stack then made an unfortunate move with Q10h on the button. I committed my stack on the flop when I flopped a straight and flush draw that failed to get there against villain’s TPTK. With my stack hovering at $10,000 and the first break coming I decided to double up or go home. I shoved AQ into AK – game over. (-130)
I walked back to my hotel from Caesar’s and decided to try the .50/1 NL at Bill’s. I bought in for $100 and had everyone at the table covered. I raised the first hand to $10 with air and took down the blinds. I raised the next 5 hands and took them all down with cbets. I folded a few hands and then raised with A4c on the button. I whiff the flop completely and my cbet is called this time. Turn brings a 4th club. I bet $15 and villain calls. River brings me the nut flush and villain bets into me. I shove and villain calls with flopped top two for a nice double up. I splash around for a while longer but my cbets are now getting check raised so I decide to lock up a small win. Overall, Bill’s is a depressing place to play – ugly tables, poor drink service, and stacks too shallow to win significantly. (+93)
I was getting hungry, so I headed over to Le Burger Brasserie between Paris and Bally’s. I order my favorite – lamb burger medium rare with sautéed mushrooms – FTW !! This is easily my favorite burger in Las Vegas. The view is always nice here too. After dinner I head back across the street to Bill’s and decide to try some $5 craps. This was my first time playing and I only made pass line bets and took pass line odds. I bought in for only $40 and got it as high as $65 before losing it all. I think I will stick to poker. (-40)
From there I head over to the Flamingo for some more 1/2 NL buying in for $200. I get AK in early position a few times, raise it up, and flop TPTK twice. My 2/3 pot bets get called and then the board gets either flushed or straightened on the turn and I am forced to fold. It is getting late and I am losing focus so I cash out down a little and head to bed. (-52)
I wake up early again and decide to get in a few hours of poker before the conference. I head over to Aria at 4:00 AM and buy in for $200 at 1/3 NL. I get into a game with several dealers and floors that has been going all night. They are all drinking and definitely have their gamble on. I started out playing tight and was seeing very few flops as most were raised between $12-17 preflop. I limped with AJc in early position and called a raise to $17 – three players to a K high flop with 2 clubs. I check, MP bets $45, 2nd V calls, and I shove for $150 hoping they both fold due to my tight play. Initial bettor tanks for almost 2 minutes and finally calls, other V folds, neither of us show. Turn is a blank, but the river brings me the nut flush and a $400 pot. Villain mucked but later said he had flopped bottom set. I tightened back up again until I picked up AA in MP and raise to $15. Only the button calls and two of us see a flop of J10J rainbow. I lead out for $30 and button shoves for $100. Now it is my turn to tank for a while. I eventually call and my AA takes the pot. Villain was just trying to push me off the pot thinking I had AK. I don’t remember what he showed but I think he might have been open ended. It turned out to be a fun table except for one incident. I was not in the hand and it came to showdown between an attractive female dealer from the Aria and an inexperienced guy. The river paired the board and completed the flush draw too. The dealer shows the nut flush and the guy just keeps looking at his cards and then the board for at least 45 seconds. The dealer even said several times, “don’t effing slow roll me”. Still the guy kept looking at his cards and then the board again and again. Finally the floor called clock and asked him to fold or table his hand. He almost mucked but then tabled the rivered full house – epic slow roll. The female dealer went ballistic. She berated the guy for much longer than his slow roll. He finally racked up and left the table. She stayed on tilt until I left a little while later after a fun 3 hour session. (+300)
Monday morning I got to the conference early and they were offering free breakfast at some of the meetings. I ate my fill of muffins, bagels, danish, and orange juice. Although I am not a coffee drinker, I had some of that too for the caffeine jolt. I attended meetings all morning and then found one that offered free lunch too. Had a nice roast beef sandwich on carmelized onion foccacia. Did a few more meetings after lunch and then browsed the exhibit hall for some new veterinary toys.
For dinner on Monday I had planned to “meat up” with cdnmoose and the rest of his Canadian contingent at Ellis Island for the Chicken & Ribs BBQ. I had never tried the BBQ there, always opting for the steak special instead – it was great !! I texted cdnmoose and we made plans to meet at the bar in Ellis Island. Everyone was at the bar except cdnmoose who was nitting it up on the penny slots to get a free beer. I lost my wallet trying that last year so instead I splurged $2 for a very nice 24 ounce amber ale. I met cdnmoose, mrsmoose, JohnnieH, Beanie, SeekTheGrail, and TheGrail. We had a great meal of ½ a slab of ribs, ½ a chicken, beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and garlic toast for $10.99. Once again it was fun to meet new friends and have someone to talk to – I was an honorary Canadian for a day eh. After dinner, just like TBC, I ran my $10 in free play through a VBJ machine and lost it all - must not have been one of them good machines.
I then headed back to Bill’s to clean up before my show for the evening. I had picked up tickets to see Penn & Teller at the Rio for half price on Goldstar. I headed over to the Rio early since I had never played poker there. I bought in for a quick session of 1/3 NL for $200. Pretty soft table but mostly short stacks. I hit two sets, flopping one and turning the other, and got paid off on each one. I cashed out after a little more than one hour up the exact cost of the show tickets – free roll. The show was pretty entertaining and a few of the tricks were amazing. (+57)
Back to the conference on Tuesday morning for more free breakfast and meetings. Grabbed another free lunch meeting too, this time a nice turkey & swiss sub. I wandered the exhibit hall again picking up some free samples and gathering info on new products. I finally settled in for a 1/2 NL session at Mandalay Bay buying in for the usual $200. I only had about an hour to play as I had to go to a pharmacy CE meeting required to renew my license. This was the only meeting where they scanned your badge on entrance and exit to document attendance – doesn’t seem like they trust us. I had one big hand where I rivered a straight and villain bet $60, I shoved for $140, and villain tanked and folded. I left soon after to attend my meeting. (+102)
My hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, was playing at home that night vs. the Anaheim Ducks. I had given away my season tickets to this game before my trip. We do not usually play well against the Ducks – Jonas Hiller is a wall. On top of that, Vinny Lecavalier was out with an injury and our GM had started trading away assets as we are unlikely to make the playoffs this year. Just that morning we had traded away a fan favorite, Steve Downie. Taking all that into consideration, I decided to bet against my team. I figured if the Ducks win I would be happy winning the money and if the Lightning win I would still be happy with the victory. The Lightning win. (-100)
After the pharmacy CE, which was a complete waste of time BTW, I returned to Mandalay Bay for another quick session of 1/2 NL buying in for $200. The very first hand I get 103o in the BB and flop a full house in an unraised pot. I get paid off by someone who turns the nut flush and almost double up. My phone was almost dead by now and I asked at the poker desk if they had a charger I could borrow. They said no but sent me to the security desk to get one. The guy pulled out a big bag of chargers and said take your pick – free !! So if you ever need a charger while in Vegas, just check with security. No more interesting hands for the rest of the session and I book another small win after one hour. (+150)
I then headed back to Bill’s to clean up and change clothes before my show for the evening – Absinthe at Caesar’s. The show is in a circular tent in front of Caesar’s called Speigelworld and there is really not a bad seat in the house. I had general admission tickets that I picked up for half price and sat in a comfy swivel barber chair against the back wall still only maybe 10 rows from the stage. The show was an interesting mix of acrobatics and raunchy dialogue – I highly recommend seeing it.
After the show I headed back to Bill’s and against my better judgement sat down for another session of .50/1 NL buying in for $100. I had lots of pocket pairs and tried to bully the table like last time but the villains outflopped me and I burned through the hindi in less than an hour – time for bed. (-100)
I slept in a little Wednesday morning and had to wait on breakfast. My insurance carrier was sponsoring a free blood chemistry profile and a reduced cost PSA test for only $10 and it was recommended to fast prior to the blood draw. The phlebotomist was a nice young lady and was easily the best I had ever had – I honestly did not feel a thing. Afterwards, I picked up a donut and chocolate milk for breakfast. I then went to the Aria to try another morning session, but there were no 1/3 NL games running. I returned to the conference and went to the meetings instead. As I wandered through the exhibit hall, one of the vendors was offering a free shoe shine. A hot blonde Russian girl offered me a “buff & polish”, which I was sad to find out was not a euphemism for something else. At least I had nice shiny shoes.
After the meetings were over for the day I played a four hour 1/2 NL session at Mandalay Bay. I bought in for $200 and quickly lost most of my buy in when I flopped a set of 8’s and got run down by a villain who rivers a gutshot straight on a four flushed board. The 4th diamond on the turn slowed me down and let the villain see the river for free. I just couldn’t push the turn with no diamond in my hand and 4 on the board. I did a $200 rebuy when a crazy pit player sat down at the table. He announced that he had just dropped 20K in the pit. He burns through 2 buy ins pretty quickly playing every hand. I lose to him when he shoves all in blind for $70 and I call the flip with a pair of 4’s. I survive until the river when he spikes a pair of 5’s with K5o. After that I dwindled down to only $50 left of my $400 buy in before I rallied. I straddled $4 on the button and MP raised it to $15. The cutoff called as well and I called with A8. The flop comes 8910 rainbow and MP bets out $15, the cutoff folds, and I call planning to bluff raise the turn. That plan goes by the wayside when another 8 comes on the turn giving me trips. MP leads out for $50 and I shove for $125. Villain snap calls with JJ for the overpair and open ender and I fade 10 outs for a nice double up. I grind for a while longer and eventually book a barely winning session. (+1)
The conference entertainment for Wednesday evening was Bear Grylls from Man vs. Wild. I’m sure many of you have seen the show but may not know that he suffered a broken back in three places at the age of 23 in a parachute accident while a member of the British Special Forces. He was in the hospital for 18 months and doctors were not sure if would ever walk again. Boy were they wrong. He has since scaled Mt. Everest along with many other adventures. He shared two of his favorite quotes. When people ask why he does so many crazy things he replied, “people that don’t get carried away with what they do, should be carried away.” After scaling Mt Everest during which 4 members of his party died, he said, “ the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is often just a little extra effort and the willingness to never give up.” It was truly a motivational evening.
After the show I headed to Lotus of Siam for dinner. I have always wanted to go there at it is supposed to be the top rated Thai restaurant in the nation. It is in a really sketchy area off Sahara next to a massage parlor and a swinger’s club. I did not have reservations and it was very busy. After a 30 minute wait I was seated and ordered some Tom Yung Koong soup and Drunken Seafood Noodle. I like spicy food and ordered the soup at a 7/10 and the entrée at a 5/10. Unfortunately, the hot & sour soup with jumbo shrimp was way too spicy and brought tears to my eyes. The shrimp was tasty but the soup was too spicy to actually taste. The drunken seafood noodle was good but I have had better. Overall I am glad I went but I am unlikely to return, especially since I was bum rushed in the parking lot leaving the restaurant. A little security and better lighting would go a long way.
After dinner I parked the minivan back at Bill’s and walked over to Bellagio for a late night session. I know I swore off playing here ever again, but decided to give it another try. Surprisingly, the attitude of the brush was much more pleasant than in previous years and I was quickly seated at a nice 1/2 NL table. Unfortunately, I was agonizingly card dead and folded everything, blinds included, for almost 4 orbits. I finally won two nice pots with KK but whiffed on a lot of draws. I lost a big pot when I bluffed $100 when the flush came on the river after villain had checked the river. Villain tanked but eventually called with top pair – oh well. A young kid from Canada on my left could not lose. He had told me he was only playing to get drunk while his friend banged a Japanese escort. He definitely succeeded in getting drunk and won over $1000 in just over an hour. His friend showed up soon after looking equally happy. Even though I cashed out a losing session, I still had a good time and will definitely keep Bellagio in my rotation. (-92)
Up early again Thursday morning for the last day of the conference. I skipped breakfast and went straight to meetings all day. Cdnmoose texted me and asked if I wanted to go to Pampas Brazilian Rodizio at Planet Hollywood for dinner. He had picked up discount tickets for $3 at halfpricetix that knocked $20 off the price of the meal. I paid him back with a $3 Bellagio drop chip. Since I knew I was going to eat a huge dinner I skipped lunch too and got in a quick lunch session of 1/2 NL at Mandalay Bay. I played for just over an hour with no notable hands, drank a few Coronas and cashed out up a little. (+12)
I finished the conference that afternoon with 4 hours of meetings about social media in veterinary medicine. It used to be that most of my recommendations were simply word of mouth. Now I maintain a website and have a presence on facebook, twitter, and google, and deal with a plethora of online review sites too. Then I learned that is not enough as both google and facebook are changing their search algorithms and there are new sites such as google+ and pinterest. Things definitely have a tendency to get a little overwhelming at times. I am likely going to hire a full time social media coordinator.
With the conference finally over, I return to Mandalay Bay for some more 1/2 NL before dinner. I end up playing very few hands until I limp with J8 on the button. The flop comes 8J9 and I am planning to raise with $180 behind. Action starts with the SB who leads out for $20 with $300 behind followed by the BB who raises to $70 with $80 behind. Action folds to me and I decide to not play for stacks with only two pair and end up folding. The SB shoves and the BB snap calls with Q10 for the flopped straight. The SB shows J9 for top two and I am congratulating myself for a good fold when the dealer flips an 8 on the turn. Times like this make it very difficult to not be results oriented. I order another beer and cash out another small win and head to dinner. (+69)
I met up with cdnmoose, mrsmoose, JohnnieH, and Beanie at Pampas for dinner. We all order the meat rodizio and proceed to eat ourselves into a food coma. Some of the meat was great – filet mignon, Spanish sirloin, and lamb, and the rest were just OK. There were a lot of sides to choose from and nobody went hungry. We ordered a pitcher of margaritas to go with dinner that was quite tasty but overpriced at $50. Cdnmoose was still eating the meat after the rest of us quit. Overall a great meal with a nice group of friends. After dinner we all got in cdnmoose’ car and dropped off mrsmoose at Bally’s on the way to the Mirage. I signed up for 1/2 NL while the others signed up for some 3/6 limit. I should have played with the rest of the group. I’m not sure how they did but I was felted in less than 30 minutes when I flopped top set of 999 and got it all in vs. 1010 that went runner runner for a straight on the river – sick. (-200) I left my Canadian friends behind at the Mirage and walked to the Venetian for an up and down 2 hour session of 1/2 NL. I decided it was just not my day and cashed out a very small win. (+2)
Walking home from the Venetian I got my first hooker prop of the trip in front of Harrah’s. I was busy dodging porn slappers when a big black “lady” asked me if I wanted to party. She/he had massive shoulders and a fairly obvious adam’s apple making my decision much easier than it already was. I did not get any menu or pricing details.
I got up early again Friday morning and headed to the Wynn, but no games were going. I decided to head downtown and check out the action – no games at Binion’s and one rock garden at the Golden Nugget. I was hoping for a TBC sighting but he was apparently holed up in Laughlin the week I was in town. I made a quick stop bt the Heart Attack Grill to check out the menu and then went over to Insert Coins vintage arcade which was not yet open that early. Having nothing else to do, I headed over to Main Street Station for a nice breakfast buffet. It was very good and only $6.99. I forgot to go by the men’s room and piss on the chunk of the Berlin Wall they have there – maybe next time.
After breakfast, I headed to Pole Position Raceway to race some go karts. I had purchased some half price tickets on ebay before my trip and was excited to give these indoor electric carts a spin. They are very fast – up to 50 miles an hour !! I thought I did pretty well in both races only getting passed once and passing at least 5 karts in each race. Unfortunately, they are racing on lap time and I only came in 5th in the first race and 8th in the 2nd race out of 12 karts. I think I would do better at match racing as I cut off people with reckless abandon to keep them from passing me. My shoulders were unbelievably sore after only two races. I also scored a free Monster energy drink for liking them on facebook.
From there I headed to Aria for what turned out to be a long and profitable 1/3 NL session. I had an early double up with QQ in the BB when EP raised to $15 and got two callers with the action to me. I raised to $50 and all 3 called. There was an ace on the flop and I check and it checks around. The turn is a blank and I lead out for $50 and get two callers. The river is a Q and I push for $85 – one caller who mucked. I got pushed off a pot by an old rock who had played very few hands and had never raised the 3 hours we had been playing together. I had JQ in MP on a flop 8J7 rainbow. Old rock in BB checks, I bet $15, button calls, and old rock check raises to $50. I fold and button calls. Blank on the turn and action checks around. J on the river and old rock checks and shows J3 – FML. All I can figure is he thought he had J8 on the flop. The next big hand I played I raked a huge pot with A8 in the SB. I called a $15 preflop raise and 5 players saw a flop of A89cc. I lead out for $15, the BB raises to $40, MP calls the $40, one fold, and button pushes for $110. All three of us call the $110. Turn is a 2s and I push for $400 and both BB and MP fold. The river is a 3d and button shows a busted flush draw and I scoop a very nice pot. I cashed out after almost 7 hours, 5 Stella’s, and two Mt. Gay Rum on the rocks. (+666)
There were lots of characters at this very fun table too. One player we nicknamed “baby jesus” because he could not lose a hand. He kept flopping sets, straights, two pair, you name it. He got it all in preflop with 1010 vs AA vs. JJ. There was a J on the flop, an A on turn, and he catches his straight on the river to stack them both. There was also a crazy drunk guy at the table who somehow got the cell phone number of the old man sitting near him and called him at the table while they were in a hand against each other. He told him he should fold because his opponent was crazy. The old guy was very confused and didn’t know who was calling him – too funny. When he finally figured it out he complained that the crazy guy used up too many minutes on his TracPhone. Crazy guy gave him $3 to pay for his minutes.
I made another hockey bet on the Lightning vs. Winnipeg Jets over 5.5 goals. The Lightning lost the game but at least scored two goals in the final minute of play to cover the number. (+100)
I decided to check out the new Jamie Gold poker room at the remodeled Tropicana. The remodel looks great and the poker room is pretty nice too. Unfortunately there was no action in the room with only one game running so I leave and decide to get some dinner. I head over to the Cosmopolitan to try out Holsteins. I get a seat at the bar and order my burger and get a bonus free beer. They have a pretty good selection of microbrews. I get the classic burger medium rare and it is cooked perfectly. The burger was pretty good – nothing special. I would rank it behind Le Burger Brasserie and Burger Bar but still worth a try. It also came with steak fries which were very good.
After dinner, I walk back to Aria for another late night 1/3 NL session. My first big pot I call a raise to $12 with 56s OTB. Five way action and BB leads out for $20 on a KQ7ss flop. I am the only caller. Turn is the 3s and villain leads out for $50. I think I am trapping him and push for $125. Villain snap calls and shows JQs for a higher flush. I still have not shown and the river comes the beautiful 4s filling my gutshot straight flush. I flip my cards immediately so as not to slow roll and he takes it like a sucker punch – ship it. I won another nice pot with Q7 in the BB in an unraised pot. I flop two pair and lead out for $15 and get one caller. Turn is an ace which completes the flush draw. I check and villain only bets $25 so I call. River brings another Q filling me up. I bet $50 and villain calls. The final big pot I won with JJ. Villain bluffed into me on the river on a four flushed board and I tanked and called. No flush for villain. I cashed out after 4 hours. (+397)
As I am leaving the table, I see Jean Robert Bellande walking out of Ivey’s room. I didn’t recognize any other pros playing in there. I rode the tram to Bellagio and then walked outside to catch a view of the fountains. It was definitely little black dress night on the strip. It was funny watching the fine ladies stumble drunk in their heels. I also got my second hooker prop in front of Bellagio – I must look desperate or something. This was a hot Hispanic twosome – easily an 8 and a 9. I told them no thanks and went on my way back to Bill’s and bed – alone.
Saturday morning and my last full day in Vegas. I head over to Caesar’s for the 9:00 AM turbo tourney - $70 buy in - $3000 starting stack – 15 minute levels – wheeeeee. Only 21 players and nearly everyone had less than 10 BB at the first break – lolshovefest. Luckily I survived and made it to the final table with a healthy stack but still only 15 BB. I scored a double knockout when I shoved 99 into AK and QJ and faded 12 outs. We played down to 4 players and chopped for $200 each and then played for the rest. I shoved A5 into AA and finished 4th – game over. (+130)
I cashed another hockey bet with the Lightning vs. the Penguins over 5.5 goals. Unfortunately, the Lightning contributed very little to the goal total getting clobbered 8-1 by Pittsburgh. (+100)
After the tourney I headed back to the room to pack up for departure tomorrow. I gassed up the minivan and then walked over to Bally’s for another trip to Le Burger Brasserie. I thought about trying something different, but ordered another lamb burger medium rare. The only thing better was the view.
After lunch I walked the strip and ended up back at Aria for some more 1/3 NL. I get QQ twice in the first two orbits. Each time I raise to $15 and get three callers. Each flop comes AK7 and I check fold. I eventually double up with A10. The flop comes A high and I bet $15 and get one caller. Turn leaves me with top pair and open ended and villain bets $25 into me. I min raise to $50 and villain calls. River completes my straight and I push for $85. Villain calls with top two – ship it. For the next hour I get lots of pocket pairs but every flop has at least 2 overs and my stack is starting to dwindle. Finally I flop a set of 555 and stack villain with AA. A few hands later I stack the same villain again with a flopped set of 888 vs. QQ. I played for almost 5 hours and was getting hungry so I cash out another winning session. (+ 257)
I head up to Lemongrass in the Aria to get some dinner with comps. It is a very nice Thai restaurant and I grab a seat at the bar. I order the Drunken Seafood Noodle again and it is higher quality food and a much better presentation than Lotus of Siam - overall an excellent meal.
After dinner I head back down to the poker room at the Aria for some more 1/3 NL. I see Doyle Brunson and Eli Elezra playing in Ivey’s room. I played an up and eventually down four hour session. I got stacked by villain with A10 vs. my AJ. He had been raising too much preflop and cbetting most flops and I thought I had picked up a tell. I called his $25 flop bet on a 10 high rainbow flop with the plan to shove on the turn. He bet $25 on the turn and I shoved for $125. He tanked for a while but eventually called with top pair on the flop – game over. (-200)
I walked back through Bellagio and got my third hooker prop on the escalators. This one was maybe a 5 at best. I just shook my head no and headed back to my room definitely by myself.
I got up early to check out of Bill’s and then head to the Aria to cash one more hockey ticket. I did a two way parlay on the Flyers over Calgary and over 5.5 goals. The Flyers won in a shootout and covered the number. I won $75 on a $20 bet. (+55)
After I left the sportsbook I still had an hour before I need to leave for the airport. So of course I sat down for one final session of 1/3 NL at the Aria. I get a table of all nighters with big stacks that definitely have their drink and gamble on. Preflop raises to $25 were the norm. I get paid off on a flopped set of QQQ and a turned straight with J9s after I flopped an OESFD. I hated to leave the table but I needed to get to the airport and cashed out after just 30 minutes. (+336)
I turned in the rental car uneventfully and rode the shuttle to McCarran arriving one hour before my flight. There was a huge line at security, but I get to bypass it with first class check in. I probably could have stayed at the poker table a little longer – oh well. I was offered a $400 bump but I would have missed my connection at DFW and gotten home a lot later. Since they could not guarantee me first class seats on the later flights, I decided to stick with my reservation. My flight left on time and I had a beautiful view of Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead leaving Las Vegas. I can’t wait for next time.
Overall it was an enjoyable and profitable trip – I finished up over $2200 between poker and hockey bets. The poker was almost always interesting and occasionally challenging. I mostly played tight and still got paid off on my big hands. Almost every time I tried to open my range, villains would play back at me aggressively forcing me to fold. Given deeper stacks, this might have been a more productive although higher variance strategy. I found it most profitable to simply play straightforward and bet big. People willingly put their money in bad.
I enjoy the freedom of solo trips to Vegas but it can get lonely. On the plus side, I can play all the poker I want whenever I want. On the minus side, there is nobody to share my thoughts and memories with which is why I write these detailed trip reports. It was definitely nice to meet up with jldecarlo and cdnmoose for a little camaraderie. I only got one new $1 chip this trip from Circus Circus courtesy of cdnmoose – thanks Rob.
I think poker for profit is a distinctly solo endeavor. I play best when I have no time constraints and can focus on just the cards and players with no outside distractions. It is enjoyable in a rewarding sense but I would not call it fun. I would not want to play poker for a living. Poker for fun, on the other hand, is best shared with good friends and cold beer in a home game. It can still be profitable, but that is not the point. Friendship and camaraderie is the point.
Thanks for reading – k9dr