Vegas Trip Report“The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.”– Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston
Wednesday, May 5
trout and I are off, finally, on our five-day foray into the netherworld of Vegas for poker, poker, and when we are finished, more poker. I’m not too keen on flying Southworst, not so much because they only fly from Midway, which is more problematic on the return than on the way out, but because of their cattle-call method of seating. Fortunately, we are early enough at check-in to get into group A and are quickly nestled into our seats in the first third of the plane. Things get better when we discover that the staff is locking things down and we are the only two passengers in our three-seat half of the row. Time to stretch out!
There is little to do on an airplane for 3 ½ hours, so I start in on my new book. trout, of course, instantly finds the latest edition of Skymall, the ubiquitous airborne shopping extravaganza filled to the brim with the most useless collection of crap you would never want to buy. Heated towel rack? Who needs a heated towel rack? The one product we find this trip is a doggie gate that has a convenient little doggie door for your pooch to pass through. Notable flaw: If the gate has a door for the dog, who exactly is it keeping out? This, of course, sets us off into gales of laughter.
At long last we disembark and I get that tingly feeling every time I land in Sin City. I just want to get through the niceties of securing a cab and checking in so we can land at a table and get to work. Finally, we arrive at Treasure Island, or TI, as they like to call it (even their player chips are inscribed with bold colors and the TI logo). I am pleasantly surprised; we have a decent-sized room, comfortable beds and a spacious bathroom. Since it is part of the Bellagio properties, I am not sure why I am at all surprised. I guess because TI is the lesser of the Bellagio/Mirage/Treasure Island triumvirate.
Now, normally we would only be in the room long enough to get our luggage in there, get our money into our wallets and into the room safe, but today I got a hair cut and we are feeling greasy and hungry. So we both decide to shower and order room service for dinner. This is the part of the trip I’m feeling a little uncertain about. My recent dietary restrictions are going to be put to the test both by the easy availability of scrumptious dining and advantage of fast food but also the potential lack of resource for finding much in the semi-healthy realm. I eventually settled on a barbecued chicken dish that doesn’t seem too fatty and proves to be pretty satisfying.
When we were done eating, the phone rang. What? It’s room service, and they tell me they have a special delivery and a card. Ok, Michelle and Mike couldn’t make the trip because of an illness in her family, so this stinks of something they set up. trout and I are curious; he keeps saying a stripper is coming up until I convince him that room service isn’t in the business of sending strippers up to anyone’s room. After about fifteen minutes, there is a knock at the door, the waiter enters and presents us with two Cokes, two Diet Cokes and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Sweeeet. Yep, that’s Mike alright…his drink of choice. Only then do I realize that it’s the trout’s birthday (mine passed on Saturday) so I wish him a happy one. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass. He just wants to see cards in the air.
It’s semi-late, we’re tired, and so we decide to forego the Bellagio and the $8-$16 game for the Mirage and the $6-$12, which is only a stone’s throw away from TI. It takes a while to get seats. There appears to be only one $6-$12 game going and it is full of absolute rocks, average age: one foot in the grave. I have to wander around a bit out of boredom and actually miss my call to the table. When I return, trout informs me that they called me three times. He’s sitting at the rock table, so I ask the brush to recycle me on the list. Fortunately, the list has gotten long enough that they are ready to start a new game so I sit down in the 7s. The game is incredibly tight. The 5s has a hacking cough and is sucking on cough drops and I’m praying that I don’t get any of the cards he has touched. He’s going on and on about how he can’t get over his cold and how he gets one every year at the same time. Thanks, Chief, how about doing us all a favor and quarantining yourself. Nothing notable happens during this session—I take down a few pots, lose a few others and by the end of the night I’m -$20. I’m not real happy but we have a long way to go.
Thursday, May 6
On Thursday, we decide to take an early trip to the ‘Shoe to see how things are going at the WSOP. Well, it is early and there is not much going on. I have to say the place looks ok. There seem to be zillions of poker tables…tables everywhere you can walk and it looks cleaner than usual. Admittedly, I’d only been there a few times previously so I don’t have much to compare it to. Plus, it’s early and all casinos have a fresh-scrubbed feeling in the morning.
trout and I loiter uncertainly on the periphery of the main area, where there are a few satellites running for the limit and no-limit Hold ‘Em events. I don’t see any “name” players around (nor did I expect to) and am feeling a little out of my element. I should play in a satellite for the $2000 buy-in limit tourney that is starting at noon, but I am fearful of making a complete ass of myself. I can’t even figure out the denominations of the tournament chips. Finally, trout announces he’s getting into a satellite, so I go over to sweat him from the rail.
They finally get ten entrants at the table…it’s a $225 buy-in and we decided previously to take 50% of each other’s action, which means I’m in for half of that. trout is playing tight as a drum and folding almost every hand. At long last I see him raise from the button, but he ends up folding on the river on a K-high board. I see him grimace in frustration when the winner shows nothing more than a pair of sevens. Trout tells me later that he folded pocket JJ. Ouch…I had a feeling that he had a good hand and wondered why he folded to one bet with a decent-sized pot at stake. When all is said and done, trout exits a disappointing 6th. It is the last of the WSOP and the ‘Shoe that we will see. We head outside to grab a cab to the Bellagio and the $8-$16 game. The driver asks us which way we want to go (as if we know). He informs us we can go the fast way or the scenic way…yeah, whatever, get us there the fast way, take back alleys or cut through parking lots. Faster, better, cheaper.
The poker room at Bellagio isn’t exactly hopping. Certainly, all of the high-stakes players are hovering around the WSOP and I learn later that all of the high-action side games are happening at the Golden Nugget. Not that it matters to the low-limit players like ourselves. We eventually get seats at good old table 16, the table that conveniently sits near the back exit with a short stroll to the men’s room by the “O” theater. I’m in the 7s, next to a Brit who sounds exactly like Michael Caine. We get to talking a little and I learn that he is on week three of a thirteen-week stay in this greatest of desert cities. Me: on envy tilt. Turns out he is retired, having spent some thirty-odd years running bookie shops in London. This is perfectly legal in London. He shares some of his bad-beat stories with me from playing the no-limit cash game at Binion’s, but I get the feeling he can fade a few hits to his bankroll. And it’s a good thing, too, because as the day and evening wears on, he is chucking Benjamins onto the felt like nobody’s business.
Actual conversation I had with Johnny Chan:
Me: Hey Johnny.
JC: Hey, how ya doin'?
Since I’m writing this after the fact, it’s hard for me to recount specific hand details. I do remember near the end of this session, trout and I get heads-up in a pot. I am holding Ad10d with the 8d and 9d on the flop. I have position on trout and call his flop and turn bets. The Jd hits the river. Trout bets and I raise. I feel awful because nothing has gone right for him the entire trip, but it’s unethical for me to softplay here just because he’s my friend. trout just nods and mucks. Later in the evening, a young Asian fellow plunks himself in the 5s, directly to trout’s right and he is ramming and jamming from the get-go. This is killing trout and Michael Caine, as this kid is sucking out incredibly with the worst cards. Fortunately for me, he is paying me off pretty well and by the end of the night I am around +$250. Caine has made it his life’s mission to make this kid pay but nothing works for him and he is pouring chips into the pot, muttering to himself and occasionally telling me how he’s going to get this guy. Michael Caine and trout: on tilt.
Friday, May 7
Friday finds us again ordering room service for breakfast. I have discovered that they make a good Eggbeater omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes and onions that I ordered downstairs the previous day, but today I opt for the yogurt parfait, with banana and crunchy granola and a glass of tomato juice. It’s very good. trout sticks with the French toast with a side of sausage which I can only envy across the makeshift table.
We decide to hunker down at the Mirage again. All I can say about Friday is that I don’t remember much of anything, except that I finished around +$50. I’m up only marginally on the trip, in part because of the hit we took on the satellite, but mostly because I can’t make much happen and I’m not seeing many good cards. I do recall that early in the going I was in the big blind with J7, against only one local rock in the 2s. The flop comes a beautiful J77 and the only thing I can do now if figure how to draw as much out of this tightwad as possible. So I check, he bets, I call. Turn comes a blank, I check, he bets and I call. At this point he should be wondering why I am not getting away from my hand, but he’s too busy talking to even think it through. The river blanks again and I believe if I check he’s simply going to show his hand, so I bet out. Now the rock goes into the tank, he’s pondering and I’m thinking “Please call, please call.” Finally he says, “Ahh, what the hell, and throws another $12 into the pot and I show the nuts.” Woo hoo!
trout also came up with the idea of getting some massages, but we learn they have no appointments open for that day, so we both book 5:00 appointments for Saturday. After spending hours hunched over a poker table, my upper back feels like someone replaced my muscles with piano wire. I can’t see how anyone does this for a living. After a few weeks of this I would be in traction, if not confined to a wheelchair. It’s amazing how much the simple act of sitting at a table can wear on your body, but it does. I am really looking forward to the massage.
Saturday, May 8
Saturday finds us again at the Mirage and again I can’t remember anything notable. I took an $80 hit but all I can think of is someone working through the tangled mess that is my upper back. Pain is now shooting into my shoulders when I press on certain spots by my shoulder blades. This calls for some professional work.
We are directed to the attendant on the men’s side of the spa, who gives us locker keys and robes. A couple of massagees are lounging in the giant leather lazyboys, eating pretzels and watching the Indiana/Miami basketball game. Modesty gives me pause at disrobing in this odd place, but what the hell. I want the massage! trout and I are directed to the back where I take a long steaming shower and retire back to the locker area to watch the game. By and by, we are called to a suite of small rooms where we meet our masseuses; trout draws Kim and I Ladora. Ladora is a middle aged black woman of generous proportions. I look at her hands. Yep, those hands can do some work. The massage is an absolute treat and is over way too quickly. All I can think during the whole proceeding is that I need to do this once a month. If I played poker this much I’d probably need to do it three times a week.
As long as I am treating myself, back at the room I decide to order the mixed grill—filet mignon, chicken and shrimp with roasted potatoes and veggies. Delectable. trout goes for the chicken chimichangas. After dinner we head back over to the Mirage for some more action. The horror story is about to begin.
Things are going ok, I am up a little bit, when we are joined at the table by a guy who clearly was at a wedding earlier. And here is where things really went south. I look down in LP to see two ladies starting back at me, so I raise and eventually get heads-up with wedding guy. The flop is Jack high, uncoordinated, and he check-calls me all the way to the river, a 9. I flip my QQ, only to see him turn over J9 for two pair. I’m steamed that he called a preflop raise with J9, but not tilting. Wedding guy turns out to be from Calgary and is an ok guy, so trout and I talk a little hockey with him. We’re also running pretty bad, so we join him in a few beers. But that was the hand that set off everything. After that I couldn’t win much of anything and I’m hemorrhaging money. My $200 buy-in becomes $300 and then $400. I finally leave the table, defeated, and somewhat inebriated. It is around 2 am and I need another drink, so I head to the Caribbean Stud table where my luck runs worse. I get trip 3s cracked by the dealer’s trip 6s. I order another beer but get cracked on two more hands so I give up for the night….but the waitress hasn’t come back with my beer yet. So I can either sit there like a moron, not playing, or walk away and leave the waitress with a beer and an empty seat. So I decide to not be a jackass and wait for her to come back. I wait. And wait. Finally I see her coming and I tell the dealer that I was just waiting for my drink and he says, “You’re lucky. She usually leaves at 3:00.” It is now 3:15. Yeah, I’m lucky….I didn’t care about the drink, I can get a free drink anywhere in Vegas. I just didn’t want to stiff her with it, dumbass. I wait it out for trout, who is running good now, booking a solid win. We finally wander back to TI at around 5:30 after I buy in and play a little more at a shorthanded table with some Asian kids from LA. Not a wise move, as these kids like to toss chips around with reckless abandon, but I do ok.
Sunday, May 9
Sunday I am wondering what happened to my massage because my back has returned to its atrophied state. I guess trying to undo so many hours of abuse can’t be undone by a fifty minute massage no matter how pleasant the experience was. We head over to the Bellagio and there is Michael Caine, dutifully hunkered down in the 8s at table 16. I walk over and greet him and ask if he has left at all. He laughs, thinks for a second, and says, “That was two days ago!” Yeah, I know Mike. That was a joke. Trout gets seated at 16 himself and I wait it out until I get seated at table 24, near the entrance. I am in the 1s (ugh) and have a maniac directly to my left. I hate this. I hate the 1s for one thing, but having a maniac to my left puts me off my game, as I have to tighten up so much for fear that he is going to raise, since he is literally raising every third hand. I’m getting no playable cards. Finally it comes to my small blind and everyone folds around. I turn to the maniac and say “Chop?” fully expecting a chop and he replies, “No! I raise!” Well fuck you, too, I muck my J2 and turn, steaming, to the TV in back. The dealer just looks at me and chuckles. As a rule, I don’t care for chopping, but it is common courtesy to go along with the table practice and at low limits chopping is the usual practice. His act is a clear breach of etiquette and I am just waiting for another chop possibility to arise between blinds so that, when they do, I can ask what the table rule is going to be, since the maniac has already tacitly announced that he isn’t chopping. Me: slightly tilted. I go to the brush and ask him for a table change to 16 as soon as it becomes available. Big mistake.
Finally a seat at 16 does empty (the 1s again, ugh). The dark clouds approach. Thunderheads are rumbling. My trip is about to go from mediocre to pure horror. First, I am getting zero playable cards. Second, everything I do get fails to connect with the board. I am just draining chips away doing nothing but tossing chips in on playable hands that go nowhere. Third, it is freezing in the Bellagio. Not that this is any different than any other day—the Bellagio is always freezing. What’s worse is that it’s 90+ degrees outside, so I am in shorts and sandals and having to rub my legs just to keep myself warm. I win one meager pot and the guy in the 2s with the LSU cap (who is spending and extraordinary time on his cellphone) remarks, “Hey, it’s been a while since you won a pot!” Yeah, thanks, Sherlock Holmes, for reminding me. I mumble something and go back to draining away chips. Pretty soon my $300 buy-in turns into $400 and then $500. Typical hand: I raise with AKo UTG and everyone folds but the big blind, a kid who vaguely looks like he has Down’s Syndrome. Flop comes K54 rainbow, I bet and he calls. Turn comes another 5. I bet, he raises. Uh oh. I should shut down right there, as he is likely to have another 5 (duh), but I am pissed off, so I make crying calls on the turn and river and he announces “Big blind special!” and turns over K5. Yeah, retard, you called an EP preflop raise with K5, congratulations, I hope you get stung by a scorpion. A few hands later, I am down to about $35, I’m freezing and there is no end in sight. trout, on the other hand, is finally killing the table, and has a stack of about $500-$600 in front of him. I stand up and say “open seat” to the dealer and walk out of the poker room without another word. Me: on mega-tilt.
I wander through the casino, not sure what I’m going to do next. It’s only about 5:00 in the afternoon, I’ve poured out almost $500 today after dumping almost $400 the previous night. I’m now down around $600 for the trip. The dark clouds have now broken into a complete downpour.
I head out into the afternoon sun, which is a welcome sight, and it immediately shakes off the deep freeze cold of the Bellagio and brightens my spirits a bit. Strolling back to TI, I realize that it’s ridiculous to feel bad about what has gone on over the past two days and become determined to just regroup and play better. Forget about trying to make it a winning trip. By the time I've strolled back to TI, I’m feeling pretty good. I haven’t eaten all day, so I head back to the room, mix myself a Jack and Coke, watch a few minutes of the basketball game and head back to the Mirage and the California Pizza Kitchen. I order the portabella ravioli in red sauce. It is delicious and I mop up the remaining sauce with some bread and wash it down with a giant glass of iced tea. Things are looking up.
I head over to the poker room and get on the $6-$12 list and soon am back at table 8 in the, (please no) 1s. A kid we played with the previous night is in the 10s, he vaguely looks like Kurt Cobain and is originally from Flossmoor. One notable hand, I look down at two sweet Aces and end up heads-up with Cobain. He has position on me; I bet the Q-high flop and he immediately raises. Damn, did he flop a set? He didn’t reraise me preflop, so I should come back over the top of him, but I end up check-calling him all the way down, where he shows A-Q. Nice. After a while I am up around $200 and feeling revitalized. Someone taps me on the shoulder. It’s trout and he says, “I thought I’d find you here.” He tells me he cashed for $1600 at Bellagio (yowzah!) and is feeling his oats. I tell him to get on the list and eventually he ends up in the 3s. When the 2s opens up, I move to it. I don’t really care to have trout on my left, as he is a solid player, but I am doing ok and just want to socialize. trout has a bad run and dumps a couple hundred and retires at about 2 am. I stick around until the table breaks at 3:15. I look down and chuckle because I am dead even on the night. I’m mildly irritated because I was up twice that earlier, but at least I’ve stopped the bleeding.
Monday, May 11
Well, it’s the final day of our trip but our flight doesn’t leave until 6:45 pm, so we still have time to get some work in at the tables. I am looking forward to just having one more solid session, if only for my ego. We decide to take it easy in the morning at the Caribbean Stud table in TI. I dump $100, but trout hits a flush and actually makes a little money. We pack up our stuff, make our final room check and get our luggage stowed away, then head to the Mirage for our final push.
We get on the list just in time for them to start a new table (table 8, big surprise), but there is some confusion and there are too many players. trout, who is last on the list, gets pushed and decides to sit at the $10-$20 game. I inwardly grimace and think, “Don’t throw it all away, trout!” but he is on his way. The $10-$20 game can, obviously, have much wilder swings and is typically populated by local regulars who feed off the tourists. But we have about 4-5 hours of play left so I reckon it can’t be too bad.
I like the looks of this table, for some reason I sense that these are a bunch of soft players. I’m not disappointed. Each hand becomes a bet, call, call, call, call affair that promises fat pots if the cards come right. But they don’t and I sit there and fold one hand after another, telling myself to remain patient and wait for the right moment to move. I scoop a couple of meager pots before I’m dealt 10-10 in MP. I raise for value, knowing I will get a bunch of callers and, if the flop hits right, will get paid off handsomely. Sure enough, the flop comes 10-J-2; Small blind checks, I check, waiting to pounce. A LP player bets, the small blind calls and I raise. Both players call. The turn comes an A. Small blind checks, I bet, LP calls and small blind raises. Uh oh. I look at the board and put him on KQ for the straight. Damn! I call, hoping for the board to pair, but the river blanks. He bets, I make the crying call and he shows KQ, as expected. I curse the poker gods and wonder what I have done to set them against me.
trout comes by and says, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” Ooooohkay, why does he sound so weird? I muck my hand and go out to talk to him. He is shaking and tells me he just scooped an $800 pot. WTF. He had AA and the betting capped preflop. The flop came AJJ and every round capped the betting against two players, who eventually each showed AJ, tying for second against trout’s nut full house. This is the kind of dream hand that comes along once a year and trout hit it at the $10-$20 game. It took him two full hands to finish stacking his chips.
I saunter back to the table, wondering where my luck has gone. I still feel in control of this table, but I am not getting the cards to prove it. Finally, I scoop a couple of pots and put myself back in black for the session.
And then I went on the mother of all tears.
I look down at two red aces. I raise and, as expected, get a bunch of callers and end up scooping a nice pot. Two hands later, the same two aces! Again, a bunch of callers and I scoop another nice pot. I show my aces and say, “Hey, look, the same two cards!” and chuckle. No one else says a word. A little while later I flop an open-ended straight draw in a raised pot with five players and hit my K-high straight on the turn. I put the LP player on a set, but the board fails to pair and my straight holds up. Suddenly, I’m looking down at my originally $200 buy-in plus three more stacks and two stacks of $1 blue chips. I can sense everyone’s trepidation when I am in a pot now and am using it to my advantage. I falter slightly on one hand when my QQ is beaten by an unexpected KK, but he plays it so passively that I barely lose anything. On the very next hand I look down at a two treys on the button and flop a set. An eight pairs the board and the same player who beat my QQ proudly shows three eights. Sorry, not good enough, my 3s full take the pot down.
And then the mother of all hands (ok, except for trout’s) puts me into orbit.
I look down at 88 in MP. I call, passive guy calls, guy one off the button raises and the button reraises. The small blind, who I will call Bizarre Girl, calls the two raises (she earlier raised on a board with Q555 holding A-10; me and passive guy split the pot with our Qs). I call as well and I know another eight is going to appear on the flop. Sure enough, the flop comes 8-10-2. Bizarre girl bets, I raise immediately, because someone in LP is holding AA, KK or QQ and I need to neutralize them. All three players call behind me. The turn comes a beautiful, innocuous five. BG checks, I bet, and everyone calls again! The river comes a J, which worries me a little because it could have made someone a set of Jacks, but at this point it’s not bloody likely. BG bets out(!?!) I know I should raise her again here, but there are three people to act behind me, and if I raise it is likely to get them out and then all I can hope is getting her to call, so it’s going to cost me some action behind. Sure enough, two of the three call. BG shows J-10 for top two pair. How she expected that to hold up under the circumstances is beyond me. The other two players muck and I am now in business. I play tight and solid the rest of the way and book a $600 win before we have to catch our flight home. Amazingly, this leaves me only slightly in the red for the trip, despite my horrid Saturday night and Sunday. I am looking forward for an opportunity to come back. Soon.
posted by the wolf |
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