Trip Report to Las Vegas. Just the relevant poker-related fun stuff…. Thursday, June 9th Arrived in Vegas around 11:30am, suitcase delayed by one flight. Therefore, I missed the 2pm Bellagio tournament. Went to the Rio at about 4pm, straight to the Pavilion and the WSOP. Wow! That’s a hell of a lot of poker tables. The buzz in the room is incredible. Tournaments, cash games, satellites, the works. Calls for cash games in one area, satellite seating in another. At one table is Greg Raymer, Cindy Violette, John D’Agostino, Ted Forrest and some others playing a 7-card stud cash game. A small crowd watches, probably oogling the stacks of black and other colorful chips on the table as much as the play and the players. I came armed and ready for the $2000 NLHE tournament on Friday, so I thought I’d ease into things with a satellite. $225 satellite for tournament chips, good for any WSOP tournament. 1000 starting chips, 10 players, blinds escalate every 15 or 20 minutes (I forget). Not much room to maneuver. I build the stack slowly, and we’re down to three with the blinds at 600-1200. With the three of us about equal stacks, we are each completely committed all-in if we play a hand. It becomes a complete luck-fest. I lose with A3o to Q7o. At least I got my money in with the best starting hand. High on the luck scale, low on the skill scale, I decide to move on to the cash games. I sit at the $500 to $1500 NLHE game, $5-10 blinds. Mostly experienced players in the cash games, but also a few lose, fairly wild players at my table. One kid that was probably 21 years and a day sits down and starts raising wildly. After being down a bit, one notable hand comes up where I flop top two pair in the BB (queens and eights), and he just can’t lay it down. The whole stack goes in and now I’m up about $600 for the night, accounting for the satellite. Thanks. I’m tired; after a long days of traveling and playing. I sign up for WSOP Event #9, and its time for bed. Phil Hellmuth signs up soon after me, and even in line he still wears the sunglasses. Friday, WSOP Event #9 Friday is the $2000 NLHE event, with about 1400 entrants. I’m in seat 6, and the only notable player at my table is Buddy Williams in seat 8. Seat 5 is empty for about the first 10 minutes, which is then occupied by a noted pro who shall remain nameless for the purpose of my story. He’s been to the final table at the WSOP before, and he looks every bit the part of the melancholy poker hippy, straight out of the ‘60s. Headband, ratty sweatshirt, shorts, tube socks pulled up to the knees with gym shoes. Worst of all, he smells like ass. Not a constant, overbearing ass smell, but unavoidable. Occasionally, I have to turn my head away to avoid a strong breeze of ass smell. I wonder if its really him, or just the “lucky poker clothes” that haven’t been washed for eighteen years. After about his third hand after sitting down, Poker Hippy flops a set of tens in a raised pot on a KT8 board against what could only be AK (this other player mucked after losing). Poker Hippy doubles up, just like that. AK-guy curses, and the dealer doesn’t call the floor and assess the ten minute cursing penalty only because the poor bastard has $50 left. Now ass-smelling Poker Hippy is the instant big stack to my right and he’s not going anywhere. Fabulous. The table is playing very tight. I get complete junk except for one notable hand of the first level. Poker Hippy raises UTG+1, and I peek down at AA. I raise, thinking we’ll move that big stack one to the left. Alas, all fold, Poker Hippy notices me for the first time, ponders for about 2 seconds, and mucks. Am I playing that tight? I win a $150 pot. Fabulous. At the start of level 2, Poker Hippy pulls out an orange, and proceeds to peel it with his fist, sans tools, like a chimpanzee would peel a banana. He bites into it like an apple, and juice is running down his hand and dripping on his clothes. This is good, because it may counteract the ass smell. I get junk, junk, and more junk for the remainder of level 2. I make a play here and there with junk, and by the first break build up to $2900. Nothing spectacular, but respectable for my first big tournament. As the 15 minute break starts, nearly 1400 guys all make a rush for the 12 urinals and 6 toilet stalls in the single bathroom near the poker room. What the hell are the organizers thinking?! I set off with maybe 300 adventurous souls in search of the main casino bathrooms, which is about a 6-7 minute walk, one way. On this journey, I find myself walking next to Tobey Maguire. I have the urge to tell him that I have been collecting comic books since I was 15, that I have thousands of Spider-Man comics, and that my all-time favorite comic book cover is Amazing Spider-Man #252, where the black costume first appears. This is the comic book, in fact, that really got me starting collecting comics. With deference to your traditional blue and red costume, Mr. Maguire, I really like the black costume better. I realize that I’m in a small minority, but I just like the black costume. Instead, I settle for something more mundane. “How many hands you think we’ll miss?” “Hopefully, none. I’m just heading to Starbucks, not the can,” Spiderman replies. “Good luck.” “You too.” After all these years of collecting and reading Spiderman comics, Spiderman has just wished me good luck in poker. Surreal. As round 3 starts, Poker Hippy now has a large cup of soup. The soup smells great, so now we have orange and soup odors to counteract the smell of ass. I want to ask him to spill some soup on his shorts, just for good measure. I actually consider quickly adjusting my chair in a way that would ensure some soup spills on his clothes. Just as he is finishing his soup, however, our table breaks. I am moved to seat #4 at a table right next to the area where ESPN is filming the final table of the $1000 NLHE rebuy tournament. This area is abuzz with excitement. The main ESPN TV screen is immediately adjacent to my table, and people are crowded by the ropes to watch the action. Miami John Cernuto is in seat #1 at my table, and both he and seat #3 have what may be the biggest stacks in the tournament at this point. I’m at about $3000, and these two may have more than $10,000. Seat #5, to my immediately left, busts out soon after I arrive. Within 3 minutes, Spiderman appears and plops his chips at the empty seat next to me. Seat #3 nudges me, whispering: “You know who that is, right?” “Yeah, we’ve met.” My brush with greatness continues. For the next hour and a half, I get absolute crap for cards. I’ve played long enough to know when the cards are running good, when they’re running average, and when they’re running bad. This was really bad. This table is more aggressive than my first, and Miami John is raising liberally, and calling raises just as liberally. Its clearly a raise or fold table. Limping is openly mocked and snapped off with aggressive raises. I put in a few opening raises, just to stay in the game, with premium hands like J9s and Q8o, but with a few callers and nothing on the flop each time, I just can’t afford to put more chips in harms way. I’m playing weak tight, and I hate it, but I simply have no cards or openings to make a play. I haven’t shown a hand at this table because I haven’t played to a showdown. I have that bad feeling set in as my stack dwindles and others grow. At the second 15 minutes break, after level 4, I have $2850. Yuck. I resolve to make it through the next two levels and to the dinner break. More crap. The antes are now grinding my stack into dust. I raise with 44 in MP1, the best hand I’ve seen since the AA. The flop misses, I bet, get re-raised, and have to fold. Near the start of level 6, with 150/300 blinds and 25 ante, I am down to about 1000 and go all-in UTG with K7o. Time to get lucky or say goodbye. Tobey calls, and the BB raises. Crap. Tobey calls the raise, and shows AQ. The BB shows AK. Tobey hits the queen and busts us both. I stand up and see that the big screen says 435 players remaining, so I guess I went out in 435th. Now I can tell everyone that I did decent for my first big tournament, and got busted by Spiderman. Saturday, MGM Grand Arrive at about 11am on Saturday, and sit down at the $200 NLHE game, waiting for the $500 NLHE game. In the 200 game, it’s a therapy session for a twenty-something kid to my right who’s been playing all night, and is now crying to the table about the girlfriend who just dumped him (the mother of his only child). He’s drinking Heineken and Scotch, raising if either of his two starting cards are an ace or face card. I’m generally a nice guy, but I’m just waiting for the right moment to help him slide his stack over to me. Does that make me a bad guy? Nah. No cards, and I move after 20 minutes to the bigger game. Play at the $500 NL (2-5 blinds) game is fairly standard, not much bluffing, and I am down a few hundred in seat 1 playing uninspired poker with mediocre starting cards for a couple of hours. The action heats up when a small, quiet man arrives in seat 9 and starts raising and re-raising. He’s far too well dressed for the lunch hour at the MGM, and everyone senses that the action is going to pick up. My runs starts with a hand while I’m in the BB. I’ve been adding to keep my stack at or near $500, just in case I actually catch some cards or see an opening to be the bully. I have named the player in Seat 7 ‘The Big Jell-O’ because he has the unfortunate tell of trembling when he has a big hand. He’s a big-boned, blubbery sort of guy who is apparently a regular, because the dealers all know him. On one prior hand, he started trembling as he raised PF and got a call from the BB. The flop was JT6, the BB led out, and as The Big Jell-O raised his trembling turned into a quivering, full-body jiggle. He might as well have shouted, “I have a Monster here!!” BB folded and he turned over pocket kings. What a horribly unfortunate tell for him. Back to my hand in the BB. The Big Jell-O raised pre-flop to $25 and he’s shaking, so he’s got something. I peek down at . Sweet. How can we get all the money in the pot? I raise to $75. The Big Jell-O quickly raises to $150. I pause, think, think, sending out brain waves of “ace-king, ace-king.” I’m quietly praying he has KK and not AA. I finally raise to $300. He is now a shambling, jiggling mess as he somehow manages to shove his stack forward, bulldozer-style. Neatly stacked chips crash into a pile. I saw that he had me covered by about $30 or so, so we don’t have to re-assemble the wreckage and count it out until after the hand is over. I call. He turns over kings, I turn over the goods, and he yelps something that’s not any language. My aces hold up. This hand starts my card rush. My spoils are still in an unstacked pile as I get :Qs in the SB on the next hand. I raise after four limpers, and all call, including the BB. Flop comes two spades. I lead out with about a third of the pot, one raise, two callers, and I call. Fourth card is a spade, with no straight-flush draw. I check, and manage to milk some more out of one player, winning at the show-down. I win three or four more hands in the next two orbits, then get to limp in with in the BB with 4 other players. Flop comes . I lead for $15, which shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. A young baby-face guy raises to $75. The wildish, well-dressed man calls. I just call. The turn is :Qh -- “Excellent!” (in the voice of Monty Burns) I bet $75, baby-face raises all-in for about $225 total, small quiet guy raises to $450! Most likely one has the flush, one has a four, and I can tell no one has pocket 44 or 66 by their betting. My only hesitation is that Well-Dressed Man limped with a high pocket pair, and might beat me with a lucky card on the river. I raise $300 more, and he goes away. When I turn up the sneaky full house, there’s groans all around the table, and I rake another healthy pot. Things cool down for me after that, and I’m done when my wife and other family arrive for dinner around 4:30, up nearly $1000. MGM has a very nice room, and I will definitely play there again. The bar right next door plays thumping-loud music, which doesn’t bother me but seems to irritate some of the players.