Poker Words - A Poker Blog

Mostly a recount of my poker exploits along with a bunch of random other stuff just for fun.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vegas Trip Recap

Its been almost a week since I got back from Vegas. Lets see how much I remember. A warning: this is probably my longest post ever, but don't worry. I'm a slacker so you will probably have a few weeks to finish it before I get motivated to write another one.

Day 1 - Arrivals and 0


Our plane left Chicago at 8:30 in the morning. It was rather uneventful except that it was a bit early to be at the airport and we were both pretty tired since it had been quite a long week at work. Oh and our cat had started freaking out the night before and that morning. He kept going in and out of his litter box, and meowing (which he almost never does) and acting like he was going to convert other objects around the house, such as our nice leather chair into his new toilet. We thought he just didn't like the new litter we had bought so rather than packing I had to go to the store to get new litter. Yeah that's right. My Vegas recap is starting out with a cat story. And one that involves pooping. Can this story get any better?

On the way into the Vegas airport our plane did a circle around Lake Meade and and the Hover Dam so we got a great view from all sides. Who needs to take a helicopter trip out there when you get great aerial views from your plane? We touched down at a little after noon Vegas time, and my brother in law, who we were meeting, picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel.

We stayed at Treasure Island, or TI as I guess its being referred to now. It looks like they are toning down the pirateyness of the hotel which is a bit odd since pirates seem to be in these days.

This is my wife's first time to Vegas. She really had very little interest except to see the Hoover Dam and Cirque Du Soleil. She's already suffering from sensory overload and we haven't even been to our hotel yet.

After checking in we decide to wander around a bit to find some food. We headed across the street to the shops at the Venetian. They have it set up inside so all of the shops look like brick buildings and the ceiling is painted like the sky, which is really cool if you haven't seen it before. There were tons of shops, costumed singers putting on a show, and the gondola rides. My wife's initial skepticism about Las Vegas started to wane. We grabbed lunch at some Mexican joint and watched people ride down the river/canal/thingamajig.

Gambling Begins

After lunch we wandered through the rest of the shops and into the Palazzo. My wife mentioned something about some art exhibit that she wanted to see. Or something. I don't know. I heard the word art while standing in a casino so I stopped paying attention. She and her brother went off to the exhibit and left me to play blackjack.

I hadn't heard of the Palazzo before, but apparently its one of those fancy expensive type casinos. The cheapest table I could find was a $15 table. Not that I can't afford $15 tables, but I prefer the $10 tables where my money lasts about 50% longer. Plus they tricked me by giving me mostly $25 chips which made me feel like I should be betting $25 a hand. And I did. Because I'm a sucker.

The table was brutal. The dealer was consistently hitting four and five card 21s and my chips went from $200 to almost $0 in what felt like ten minutes. I started looking for my wife hoping she would return and save me from this humiliation.

A couple times I bet my last few chips and won a hand or two to stay alive. If this was a sign of how the trip was going to go I was in for trouble.

When I tried hitting on 21 I knew it was time to stop. In my defense my hand was something like 2-A-A-A-4-2 and I counted 11 which sounds to me like I should hit. One thing I don't like about blackjack is that the dealer has seen so many hands that half the time she's already decided that I'm going to stay and moved on to the next player before I even add up my cards.

It was about 4 o'clock Vegas time, and 6 Chicago time, and so far I hadn't had any caffeine all day. I had that kind of dazed numbing headache that comes from caffeine withdrawal so I cashed out and went looking for a coffee shop. I had managed to battle back to $120 so I was only down $80. I can live with that.

O - Cirque Du Soleil
Friday night we went to see O. This was to be one of the highlights of the trip, but to be perfectly honest I was a little disappointed. Maybe I had set my expectations too high after years and years of hearing how incredible Cirque Du Soleil is.

It was very entertaining. The set and costuming were fantastic and the acrobatics were incredible. I just felt like it was missing something. The very beginning had a hint of a plot line and every so often they would bring it back, and I kept expecting it to develop into an actual story, but it never did. And while the acrobatics were incredible they tended to get old after a while. Each set consisted of them doing more or less the same move over and over again. It gets less and less impressive with each iteration. It was still a good show and probably falls into the "things you have to see in Vegas" category, but it isn't the best thing you'll ever see, like you may have been led to believe.

Pirate Show

We got back to our hotel just in time for the free pirate show. Again, maybe I was expecting too much for a free show, but this was embarrassingly bad. I was hoping for some sort of pirate battle with cannons and swordfights and pyrotechnics. Instead what we got was Sirens call. Some cheesy lame innuendo ridden crap. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy hot scantily clad women dancing as much as the next guy, but there's a time a and place for it, and in the middle of what I was expecting to be a pirate show is not it. There are plenty of places in Vegas to see women dancing, probably hotter and more scantily clad women at that. And, I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was/should have been a kids show and could have been more entertaining for everyone had it been more pirates and less dancing. I really wanted to leave about a minute in, but the crowd had packed us in and we were stuck for the duration.

After that we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and some drinks and called it a night.

Day 2 - Poker and Clubbing

Poker at the Mirage

My wife and her brother headed out to the Hoover Dam in the morning and I wandered over to the Mirage to check out their poker room. It was considerably bigger than the TI's but most of the table's were empty. Could be that it was still early. Their lowest limit game was $3/$6 which was a little higher than I wanted to play since I haven't played limit table games in months. They didn't have any big tournaments running or scheduled soon, but they did have a SNG that needed one more player. Sign me up!

I think it was a $70 tournament with not nearly as much going to the prize pool as I would have liked, but what can you do? I also wasn't thrilled about the blind structure/starting chip count. We started with only $T1000 and blinds at $T25/50 raising every 15 minutes. It turned into a crapshoot real quick.

Shortly after the tournament started, my phone started vibrating. Great. I know that its bad etiquette to talk on the phone at the table, and its probably not even allowed, so I ignored it. A few minutes later it vibrates again to remind me that I have a voice mail. That became a bit distracting so I checked to phone to acknowledge the voice mail and make it stop. Ten minutes later it rings again. WTF? who keeps calling me? I almost never get calls on my phone. Its either my wife, and she and her brother were lost and/or in an accident, or its somehow work related and a server just blew up. Because that only happens when I don't have time to deal with it. So I do the responsible thing and decide to wait until after the tourney to check the voice mail. It would be a lie if I said that wasn't very distracting, but ultimately I don't think it had an affect on the outcome.

Back to the tourney. During that tournament I did make a really good read on one particular hand. One of the players I had pegged as someone to look out for had made a pretty big pre-flop raise. Any raise seemed big pre-flop because the blinds started so high, but I had a bad feeling about the hand. I had AK, and thought there was a good chance I would be in a race, and a better than average chance I was way behind, and I folded it pre-flop That's not something I can do easily but it didn't feel like it was worth putting my whole tournament life at stake so early on, so I let it go and waited for the next opportunity. One of morons to my left pushed all in on the flop with a garbage straight draw and the original raiser turned over aces. The moron rivered the strait and knocked out the aces. I would have had ace high and lost either way. I was proud of myself for that play. Although if the original raiser had turned over AJ and won the hand with her jack kicker I would have been kicking myself even now. That's just how it goes.

I chipped up a little bit early on, and was encouraged by the fact that the two people I had pegged as the decent players at the table went out early. Unfortunately I was soon to follow. I was dealt QQ in early position and made a raise to $T400 or $T500. The short stack to my left moved all-in for less, and someone in later position pushed all in for about $T200 more. The super short stack had garbage, I don't remember but the other guy had a pair of fours which turned into trips on the turn and crippled me. I was then relegated to all-in or fold mode and got not cards worthy of an all-in until I was under the gun an orbit later. I pushed with AJo and the big blind called with something worse. I don't remember what, except that he paired one of his cards and I didn't.

So I busted out fairly early in my first Vegas tournament. Not the result I was hoping for, but what can you do? I was satisfied with my play and as long as I continue to play well things should swing in my favor.

I head outside to check my voicemail to find out what hospital my wife is in or which client's server was on fire back home. Luckily, it was neither of those scenarios. We had asked my mother-in-law to stop by our house to check up on the cat that was freaking out earlier. Apparently he was just going in out his litter box, and she noticed some blood so he was on his way to the emergency vet. Turns out he had a urinary tract infection and he should be fine in a few days after some anti-biotics.

Treasure Island runs tournaments four times a day. I signed up for the 2:00pm tourney and wandered around the casino for an hour killing time. I put $20 in a nickel slot machine thinking it would take about an hour to run through that, until I realized that you could play up to 10 lines at a time and bet 25 credits. Since I think you have to bet the max to get the best odds for slots (something like the top payouts are proportionally more if you bet the max, or progressives jackpots only payout on max bets) I soon found that $20 only lasts about 5 minutes. If you are lucky. Somehow on my last spin I hit something big and before i knew it I had $50 in credit. Time to cashout.

Something I noticed that make no sense to me at all is that slots in Vegas no longer
accept coins. Even the penny slots don't take change. I hate having loose change in my pocket and on more than one occasion as I was walking through a casino I would have been happy to drop it in a penny slot machine to see what happens. Only I couldn't because the coin slot had a piece of metal welded over it. On every machine in every casino I went through. Now sure, taking my 37 cents isn't going to make or break them, but I'm guessing that I'm not the only one that would rather drop my change in the machine that carry it around all day. 37 cents times however many hundreds of thousands of people that walk through the casino each day has to add up. And its not like the machine isn't already there? The casinos are actually actively preventing me from giving them my money. I don't understand.

TI Tournament
Treasure Island's tournament structure was a bit nicer than the SNG's at the Mirage. $T3500 chips to start, blinds at $T25/$T50 increasing every 20 minutes. It is also sort of a rebuy tournament. They have alternates that fill in as people get knocked out during the first hour. If you bust out, you can rebuy as an alternate. Depending on how many other alternates there are, you can get right back in.

I think after all the rebuys there were over 65 entrants in this tourney. Most of my table was from the same bachelor party and were either terribly hungover or drunk.

Someone busted out on the very first hand. The board showed 88333, not in that order. He had an eight and pushed all-in, the other guy had the case three. Ouch.

I played OK for a bit, playing pretty tight and winning a few small pots. Then I was dealt queens again and had three callers to my preflop raise. I had to lay them down when no one folded on the flop and an ace came on the turn.

The next hand I limped with most of the table from the small blind with 23s. I flopped a pair and an open ended straight draw which I chased to the river and didn't hit.

Now I was a little tilty since I was getting short stacked and frustrated at not being able to beat this table. On the button I got KT or AT, something like that I tried buy the pot pre-flop. One of the guys I had pegged as a pretty good player limp-called. I missed the flop completely and he checked. I either had to push all-in with my few remaining chips or give up the hand and get destroyed by the blinds in a couple orbits. So I pushed. He thought about it for a while and ultimately called. He had a ace, and better kicker, but as I think back on the hand, that was a ballsy call. Sure he won, but I'm pretty sure represented a hand better than his. For all he knows I started with a pair and he has at best has six outs.

I think he went on to win the tournament. At the very least he was in second place.

I was steaming now. I was very disappointed with my play in that tournament and pissed off that I had not cashed in two attempts. I know its a small sample size, but I considered myself to be better than most of the players in those events and busting out so early in both was frustrating.

I got on the list for the $2/$4 game and walked around until my name was called.

$2/$4 at Treasure Island
As people busted out of the tournament the condensed tables and a new $2/$4 table opened up. I bought in for $100 and before I knew it I was sitting at about $250. Things were finally going right. I was getting decent cards and they were holding up when they were supposed to. I kept beating the same guy who was continually surprised when my AK outkicked his A4. It was kind of amusing.

Unfortunately my luck didn't last and I went pretty card dead for a quite a while. And when I had cards I started getting rivered. It was kind of amusing except for the bad beat part. I would bet betting for the entire hand and the same guy would call. On the turn he would call and laugh, and then hit his card on the river. I think he was actually embarrassed that he kept doing it to me. After a while he started folding early in the hand so his hand wouldn't develop into something he could justify chasing.

I folded a lot for the next few hours. before eventually calling it a day. I finished up about $20 overall. Its nice to get a profit, but again disappointing since I had been up so much more a few hours earlier.

I did get to see a straight flush though, which was somewhat exciting. And it pays a $250 bonus to the player.

Fancy Dinners, Clubbing and the $140 appetizer

For dinner that evening we went to the Company American Bistro in the Luxor. My wife was enticed by one of the reviews she had read in one of the promotional magazines in our hotel. Specifically there was an appetizer comprised of tater tots topped with caviar and served with a shot of vodka. We couldn't find it on the menu, and when we asked about it, the waiter said he'd only seen it as part of a tasting menu, but he'd ask the chef. A few minutes later he returned saying that the chef agreed to make the dish.

When the waiter returned with our drinks he informed us that to make the tater-tot appetizer he would have to open a jar of caviar, and since no one else would be eating it, it would cost $140. Ummmm. Pass. Instead of that we ordered a beet sampler which had quite possibly the most interesting form of beet you will ever consume. It was a beet marshmallow. I didn't realize that marshmallowing was a cooking technique, but apparently it is, because I've eaten a beet marshmallow. It was very odd trying to reconcile the marshmallow texture with the beet flavor in your brain. The two things just don't go together. I'd recommend trying it because I don't think you'll ever see that somewhere else. I'd also recommend the mac-n-cheese side with your steak because it was the best I've ever had.

Here's a bonus tip for those of you that like clubbing and have managed to read this far into the post. I guess LAX in the Luxor is one of the cool trendy clubs for celebrities and what not. You could wait in line like a sucker with hundreds of other people, or you could go to eat at this restaurant before hand and they'll let you cut in front of everyone and get in for free. It's an expensive meal, but if you're in to that sort of thing it might be a good idea.

LAX is completely not our scene. Its not a place we would even consider entering except that we can get the VIP treatment and go in front of everyone. So we wandered around the Luxor for a bit until the club opened up, and watched as the line grew and grew and grew. And then when 10:30 hit we walked in front of everyone and into the club. Or almost into the club. The bouncer stopped me a foot away and told me I couldn't go in because I had tennis shoes on. I'd have been pissed except the only reason I wanted to go in in the first place was to show up the rest of the people trying to get in. Oh well.

Casino Wandering and Sic Bo
We decided to walk back to our hotel from the Luxor. Treasure Island and the Luxor are on opposite ends of the strip so it was quite a hike, but I enjoy walking through all the different casinos just to check them out and this seemed like a good time to do it.

We also found one of my new favorite games at New York, New York. It the only place I've seen it. Its called Sic Bo and its one of those crazy Asian like Pai Gow. There's a three dollar minimum bet and I think the odds are decent, so you can sit there for quite a while on a small budget. The game works like this: The dealer rolls three dice, and you bet on the outcome. You can pick a specific die, which pays out 1:1, or a two die combo, or a specific total, or any pair, or any set, or high/low total. After the roll, the dealer types in the results and the winning numbers light up. With the single dice bet if you bet on three, and the dealer rolls 1-2-3. You get paid out 1:1. If he rolls 1-3-3 you get 2:1, and 3:1 for trip threes. My general strategy was to put a buck or two on two of the single numbers and then a few bucks on the three dice combos which paid out pretty well. $20 lasted for about an hour and a number of free drinks. I'd highly recommend it. It's also a great drunk game because you don't have to think or add or anything like that and you get a bunch of random people to show up at your table to try to figure out what the hell you're playing.

Other than that, our trip back was largely uneventful. We caught a lounge act at Bally's where they were impersonating various member of the Rat Pack, and finally made it back to our hotel. Stupid time change kicked in too. Who ever's in charge of that owes me an hour in Vegas.

Day 3 - More poker and Zumanity

TI Poker Tournament

We started off day three by going to one of those half price ticket places. If you plan on seeing a show in Vegas that isn't one of the top attractions, and don't have a specific day when you want to see it, and won't be terribly disappointed if you can't get tickets, I recommend trying to buy tickets the day of the show at one of these places. They have a bunch throughout the strip and we got good tickets for Zumanity for $65 instead of $130.

After picking up the tickets we wandered over to check out the Wynn since we had not yet been there on our casino tour. We didn't recognize anyone famous in the poker room but there was a final table for a big buy in tournament event later that day so I figured I'd stop back. The casino layout was different. Rather than the maze of slot machines and table games designed to trap you in the casino area, the Wynn's casino had big wide pedestrian lanes, right through the middle and getting in, out and through was not a problem. I found that interesting.

After that my wife went to do some shopping and I headed back to the TI poker room for another tournament. Not quite as many entries in this one but that's ok with me. I think there were 36 after all the rebuys.

Things started out well for me. Early on I had an AJ and some guy who had A9 was sure he had a winner. I had had raised pre-flop and again on the flop, so I wasn't thrilled when he kept calling, and still bet on the turn an river. I reluctantly called thinking he had to have at least two pair and was quite pleasantly surprised when all he had was the 9 kicker. And then I got moved to another table.

I got a little over aggressive with AK and then I went card dead. Before I knew it I was back below the starting chip count and starting to worry about busting out early again.

As the donkey across from me turned over his third pair of aces in two orbits I started to try to count the number of hands I had been dealt since arriving in Vegas, thinking it odd that not one of them was a pair of aces, or even kings. And I had gotten queens twice and both times lost a lot of chips. I was just about to declare live poker rigged when I looked down at beautiful pair of red aces. A couple players limped and it was on me to raise. I had a problem. I needed to raise, but I had just enough chips where going all-in is overkill and yet anything less leaves me with not enough chips to make a significant bet on the flop if I need to. I bet about 2/3 of my stack going for a pot multiplier rather than percent of my chips and got one caller. I pushed on the flop and he called again, doubling me up.

A few hands later and I got my pair of kings and took down another huge pot. And once again as soon as I started to get confident I changed tables as we condensed down to two.

The blinds started creeping up there, and some players weren't willing to invest the 3x blinds that I was raising preflop. Which was nice for me. And usually when they did call I had the better hand which was also nice. And then as I was starting to take command of the table I was moved. Again.

My new table was a bit more aggressive and I had a hard time adjusting. I also stopped getting cards. I tried to take the patient approach to wait everyone out, and while it worked, it didn't leave me in a very strong position.

We finally eliminated the 11th place player and got down to one table.

I had a medium sized stack, but it seemed like every time I got playable cards, the pot was raised in front of me, and I wasn't willing to put my tournament life at risk. Maybe I should have been more aggressive but I was sure that my cards would start improving soon.

I was able to win enough hands to stay alive and before I knew it we were down to four players and I had made the money. I think I was the best player at the table, but I also had the least amount of chips, so I needed a bit of luck to help me out.

I thought I got it in the BB when UTG raised and I had A9. Four handed that looks pretty good. Especially when another round of blinds or two is going to remove any fold equity that I might have. I pushed and he turns over AT. Oh well. I cashed in fourth place for about $175 on a $65 entry. Not the best result but it beats not cashing.

After the tourney we went off the strip (who knew you could do that?) for dinner. My brother in law had to leave after that so he dropped us off at New York, New York where we had a little more than an hour to kill before the show. Time for some more Sic Bo! This is the one game my wife actually enjoys playing. So you better believe we're playing it.

Actually before we got the Sic Bo we had some roulette to play. A few coworkers had given me $5 and number to play. Of coarse it was $10 minimum bets and they all wanted their own spins, so I had to put down my own money as well.

I bought $50 worth of chips and it was gone in 7 spins. I won a bet on red and then went back to picking numbers where I lost everything. I hate roulette.

So we killed time and another $40 at the Sic Bo Table. We got a few other couples roped into the game as we were playing. Its going to be the next big thing. I'm calling it here.

Zumanity is the sensual side of Cirque Du Soleil. And by sensual I they mean topless. OK fine, they had a little more sexual overtones to their routines than the other show, but this was another disappointment. I guess its my own fault for expecting this to be great, but it seemed like they just took their boring acts, made the women topless and called it a show. Now don't get me wrong. I like boobs as much as the next guy. I'm very much a fan of boobs, but there are hundreds of places in Vegas to see boobs, and this is probably near the bottom of the list for places where I think they belong. There were some impressive stunts, but not as many as in O, and the comedy acts in between sets were quite entertaining, but if you really want to see Cirque Du Soleil, they have a show at just about every hotel on the strip, go there. If you want to see boobs, I think most hotels can accommodate you there too, or else go to the stripclubs. From what I hear they're not too bad in Vegas. All in all I felt ripped off by Cirque du Soleil for this trip.

And that was the end of the trip. From there we headed back to hotel. The next day we checked out and headed to the airport.

I'm ready to go back.

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