Posted by Dr Fro 9:14 PM
The One About The Vegas Trip
Poker tournaments: lost
Table games: broke even
Sports: up small
Poker cash games: won a lot
Instant Karma's gonna get you. Gonna knock you off your feet...
Traveling to Vegas is for me (and probably most readers of this blog) something of a religious pilgrimage. It was good karma to have a layover in Albuquerque, NM. The last time I was in that airport, I was coming home from a victorious Rose Bowl trip. I knew I had luck on my side when I managed to sneak onto an earlier connection. That stroke of luck bought me 1 more hour of gambling time.
I got a bit sentimental walking through McCarran Airport. I came out of the gate and immediately walked past the spot on the floor where I once took a two-hour nap. I also walked past a corner of the airport where I once had a nervous breakdown, which included profuse sweating, shaking and airport security. Good times, good memories.
ARH and CCM got to Vegas 5 minutes after I did. We dropped our bags off at the Bar(arrrrghh!)bary Coast and headed to the Rio. The LVFD was not letting anybody else into the Amazon Room (where all WSOP action is). The place was not all that crowded and somebody said that the issue was not that a maximum occupancy had been exceeded but rather that there was no accurate count of people. So some genius decided to keep all people from coming in for the rest of the night. This was so utterly f-ed up. There were hoards of people with $1,500 in their hand ready to register for Event #41 that could not do so. That is bad business. Somehow (stroke of luck) we managed to get one of the tournament coordinators to feel sorry for us. She pulled some strings to get us in. We walked right past 100 desperate lookers-on. Man, I'm lucky.
CCM and I bought into a single table satellite for $175. The winner would receive $120 in cash plus an entry to the $1,500 event the next day. On the first hand, I got bluffed out of a pot. On the 9th hand, I pushed all-in with 44 versus A-rag. I was surprised he called. I lost the race when an Ace was flopped. Out in under 10 minutes. It didn't sting that much, as I knew that even if I won the thing, it was highly unlikely that I would win any money in the actual WSOP event. I took the time to wander around and check out the action. I saw Men the Master and Phil Hellmuth wandering around. I wiggled through a big crowd to find out they were all watching Daniel Negreanu play. Poker isn't much of a live spectator sport, but it was fun watching him. I couldn't see the cards, but he was clearly raising every pot and winning most of them. I then saw a dude I have played against in Dallas (I cracked his aces, so he doesn't like me) playing in the far corner. His stack was so unbelievably large, he had to have been one of the top 5 chip leaders. I worked my way back to CCM to see him bust out. We then made our way to Aladdin where ARH was playing poker.
Sister Luck is screaming out somebody else's name...
It's a funny thing in poker how your fellow participants can drive how big a game is more than how the blinds will. ARH and I were nominally playing the same stakes ($1-$2 NL). My table was full of guys that were ramming and jamming all day and had built huge chip stacks (one guy had $2,500). Five of the players were Euros that won their way to the Main Event online. They booked their flights for the entire 2 weeks of the Main Event, and since they had all busted out of The Big One, they had been playing cash games for the remainder of their trip. I lost big, quickly, and often. This was a fast game. At one point the flop was seen for a mere $2, and a man correctly commented, "this the first time the pot wasn't raised pre-flop in 45 minutes." Most pots were raised $20 (yes, 10x the BB). I bought in 5 times in short order at $2oo a pop. Interestingly enough, that fourth bust-out was to be my last bust out of any cash game for the trip. My stack was down to $150 at the lowest. My best hand of the night was when I had $330 left, was in the pot for $180 thus far and my opponent bet $150 more on the river to put me all-in. I think for a while and realize that he has been betting on the come all night and that there is a busted flush draw out there. I decide to call with a very small pair. The table was shocked when I turned over my cards, but their shock turned to laughter when the bully mucked his hand. Overall, the trip to Aladdin was not very good (lost >$500). We went home around 4:30 and crashed.
We woke up early signed up for the 11am Harrah's single rebuy tournament. I like that poker room, and I like the tournament structure. I would recommend it to you if you are headed to Vegas. I think they play it every day.
I busted out ($50) early, rebought and lost the rebuy ($40) shortly thereafter. I got 70th place out of 70 people. Here is the really unfortunate part of that: my table was so terrible, I
could should have taken all of their money. Eight of the ten players admitted they had never played in a poker tournament before in their life. From the amount of string betting and utter confusion, I was not surprised. I lost my buy-in and re-buy to a guy that called me with nothing at all. He caught a six-outer and a four-outer the two times he busted me.
I made my way to the cash game where I started out losing. Part bad cards, part bad play, part "just poker". I never busted out, but I added $100 to my stack regularly. Finally, after getting killed in poker for the trip thus far, I went all-in with a draw to the flush and two overcards (15 outs twice, although I could have been up against a set and had fewer outs). I was hoping for a fold, but got a call and won a very big pot. With the confidence gained, I started to play tricky and ran my stack up to $797 on a $600 buy-in to net $197. By the way, all of my "nets" are net of tips to dealers and payments to cocktail waitresses, neither of which were modest (the tips that is, not the cocktail waitresses).
ARH and I decided to go to the BC for a nap. About 20 yards from the elevator to our rooms we ran into CCM playing craps. We joined. Rather than taking a nap, I pounded beers like they were going out of style while CCM gave me craps lessons ("bet on The Yo" was his sage advice). I must have gone down $150 before going up to a profit of $300 before I came back to even and cashed out. Well, even isn't accurate. I had the same amount of money that I started with, but I got my buzz on, and for that I felt like a winner.
With the nap plan aborted, we watched some SportsCenter, put on our pretty striped shirts and headed to the Pink Taco. Since we are so clever, we coined many puns that surely no group of drunk dudes has previously coined. What a brilliant business plan: build a restaurant named after a vagina in a town full of drunk and rowdy guys. It worked on us. Dinner was good, as was the scenery. We played a little BJ and admired the talent. I lost $350 before I went up $200 before I broke even and left the table. That was when ARH pleaded with me, "seriously, you have to stop pointing out every hot girl dressed like a slut; you can't even finish your sentence before another walks by." True that.
ARH and I decided to go to bed early (I think we were asleep before 11) so as to wake up early and go fishing at the poker tables when the drunks were at their prime. So we did.
We got to the MGM very early and signed up for the $1-2 and $2-5 NL games. The $2-5 had a few empty seats, so I sat down "for a couple minutes until the $1-$2 game opened up." (foreshadowing alert!)Our plan didn't turn out very well for a couple reasons. The first was locale. The total idiot drunk fratty Moneymaker donkey fish are schooling at places like the Aladdin. The MGM had its share of good and bad players, but the bad players were not the type we were looking for (these guys erred on the side of too aggressive, not too loose: a trickier fish to catch). The second error was table selection. The twenty something idiot I wanted on my right can't afford $2-5.My table was short handed. Based on the stacks at the table, it was clear that my opponents had busted out everybody else that had sat down there. For the first hour, every pot was raised. By mid morning, there was $8,500 on the table. I was getting beat up and I kept topping up my stack. I was being bullied, and I neither had the cards nor the cojones to stand up for myself. My basic problem was that I couldn't afford a big loss, as my entire poker bankroll was in jeopardy now. My opponents smelled fear and took shots right and left.
I finally won a big flush and then made a boat to run my stack up to $850. At this time there was a commotion at the $5-$10 NL game. A $9,000 pot was being pushed to the winner, and the winner, in his thick African accent was not being gracious (e.g. "I knew you had kings, do not tell me what I don't know, I will break you every time, I cannot lose, I get all of your money.") Personally, if I had just handed a guy $4,500, I would prefer a to receive thank you note over a ribbing. Unfortunately for the loser, the winner was not a member of the Junior League.
I learned that the winner had AA and the loser had KK. They were in for a lot pre-flop and the flop came all diamonds. The KK moved all in (he had the Kd) and the AA called (he had no diamonds). Aces held up. (foreshadowing alert)
Pretty shortly thereafter, I get KK on the button. The pot is raised, and I make it $50 to go. The SB makes it $200, and it folds around to me. Mr. Gainseville has been playing pretty tightly, so I know I could well be up against Aces. I decide to call for two reasons: 1) I had him covered, so the potential damage to me was limited and 2) if he thought my raise was a position raise, he could have made that move with something like Queens. Flop came all small diamonds. Having the King of diamonds, I figure I have to go all in. I could make Aces fold (maybe). I could get a call from Queens. I could also get a call from Aces and win with a flush (2:1). "All in." "Call" He had the Aces for sure, no surprise. But I was a bit surprised to see the Ace of diamonds sitting there on the table, glaring at me. Taunting me. I was drawing completely dead. I lost $600. As utterly bizarre as that hand may be, what I find extraordinary is its similarity with the hand that had just occurred on the $5-10 NL table. At least I didn't lose $4,500.
At 12:30 pm on Sunday I got my first pair of Aces for the entire trip. I won a small pot. Shortly thereafter, I got another AA and won again. That was it for the trip. A bazillion hands of poker and AA only twice.
The table had gone completely nuts. A beatnik in a wheelchair
sat down rolled up and immediately starting calling every bet. At one point he was getting a massage and would fall asleep on every street. The good players with the big stacks were taking turns firing out raises, each one wanting to be the fortunate heir to this guy's fortune. I watched him rebuy $500 five times, but there was no telling how many times he did when I wasn't paying attention. He probably dumped >$3,000 into the coffers of my opponents. I was just afraid of being collateral damage, so I laid low. I never got a good hand during this time and I just watched my stack deplete.
Bad Luck, Blue Eyes, Goodbye...
The poker was getting tough. My players had big stacks, lots of confidence and lots of aggression. I was playing like a puss and bleeding $100 top-ups regularly. About this time, ARH comes by to tell me he is leaving for Dallas. I point out that every time we go on a poker trip together I lose, and this was no exception. For this reason, I was happy to see him go. (no, not really...I don't believe in luck. After all, it's unlucky to believe in bad luck.)
My confidence was jump-started when I beat AA with my QQ. It didn't hurt that I beat Jeff, the best player at the table. I followed that up with check-calling Q9 on every street when I made trips to win a biggie off of a guy with J9. Confidence level increasing.
The table turned over most of the players and next thing I know, all the good players had left with their big stacks. I went from being an underdog to a favorite. I went from the short stack the chip leader. I was getting the natural adrenaline rush that kicks in when your body is trying to keep you awake....
You can lead a horse to water, but faith is another matter. So dont you surrender, 'cause sometimes salvation is in the eye of the storm...
No more Mr. Nice Guy. F. it. I was tired of not playing my usual game. I felt like Mack Brown playing "not to lose" against Bob Stoops. So, I started to play my usual game, the cornerstone of which is to raise the bejeezus out of players that show weakness / fear.
Tuscaloosa Johnny sat down at our table. I recognized him, but he didn't recognize me. At first I thought he sucked really bad, but when he pulled of a beautiful bluff, he earned my respect for sure. (remember earlier post about forming a conclusion too quickly.) Most of the other players were playing scared, just waiting for the perfect hand to win a jackpot (i.e. playing the way I was all morning / day.) So I did what my earlier opponents did to me and made sure there was no limping into my pots. I rammed and jammed. Oh, and I talked a lot. Surprised? I begged people to call me, told people what there hands were, lied about my hand, told the truth about my hand, refered to myself as "Big Papi" and screamed "homerun" when I won a pot, acted weak when strong, acted strong when weak, acted weak when weak, acted strong when strong, gave bad advice to the player to my left, showed my tits to a guy that claimed to be the CFO of Pappa John's, told the waitress to bring me several coffees with Jameson (even though I pulled her aside and told her to definitely NOT serve me any Jameson), sang songs, danced, raised, re-raised, re-re-raised, and won. Man did I win. I went on a heater from some point in the middle of the night until early in the a.m. My stack was as low as $300, and I ran it north of $2,000 by the time the sun came up. After playing like a puss for 3 days, I finished the final third of my 26.5 hour marathon session (in the same chair!) playing my usual game. It felt very very nice. My cash out was only $45 below my high-water mark, so I felt pretty good about not dumping my winnings (something Big Papi has been known to do). My profits were north of $1,000.
It's so beautiful. Don't y'all think it's beautiful?
So the "sit down for a couple minutes at the $2-$5 NL game" turned into 26.5 hours (which is 79,400% more minutes than planned.) I learned, again, that playing like a conservative doofus does nothing for you, especially in a tough game. How did I, of all people, forget that? The thing I was most proud of was never losing my entire stack after Friday night. Things were often going poorly, and it was often tempting to donk off the last of my chips, but I played tough. I can't tell you how many times I mucked a hand in a big pot and my opponent showed me his monster. I did a great job of avoiding such land mines.
Overall, it was a great trip. ARH and I are ready to settle into fatherhood. CCM is ready to, um, hmmmm...CCM is ready to get back to a life of staying up late, drinking and well, I guess his Dallas life is already a Vegas life
I got home from my trip and Jane had bought a baby outfit with the recognizable Welcome to Vegas sign, but it said, "what happens in the playpen, stays in the playpen." I have the coolest wife on the planet.