Wednesday, March 23, 2005
I'm back from my brief whirlwind tour of the America west. First stop: Denver, for the nuptials of my friends Michelle and Mike. Some confusion in my hotel reservation ended with me getting a nice suite at the Magnolia Hotel in the breadbasekt of downtown Denver. Not that I needed a full kitchen, dining area and living room, but what the hell. The primary attraction of this area is the 16th street mall, which is about a six block stretch of downtown with numerour restaurants and a generally nice stroll. Most of the restaurants are of the franchise variety (Chili's, Cheesecake Factory, Johnny Rockets, etc., along with the expected fast food places) but it was nice to have a choice of where to eat. The bride and groom had a fun evening on Friday at the hotel bar. Naturally, I overindulged and ended up going out with Mike and his old friends until the wee-est of the wee hours. Michelle instructed me as we left to make sure he didn't get out of control. Yes, yes, wise choice picking me for that task. Fortunately, there were no true disasters to report, save for a nagging unpleasant feeling the day of the wedding.
The couple was blessed with a fine day and much to my relief the ceremony itself was limited to a few readings, the old pep talk from the Rev, and the rituals. On to the reception, held within the hotel in the lower level (don't read; basement). It was a nice room but exceedingly WARM to the point wearing a suit was uncomfortable and dancing was unbearable. Eventually they got the temperature setting straightened out, avoiding several cases of severe hydration and perhaps a few full collapses. Once again I did not know when to say when and ended up closing the hotel bar despite the relatively early bugout. As an aside, do not take a taxi to or from DIA, the rates are ridiculous. A similar ride to O'Hare from home would cost in the $30-$40 range; In Denver it set me back $55. Although my flight wasn't leaving until 1:30ish, I had to check out by 11:00 and the airport shuttle was coming at *ugh* 10:20, which assured that I was going to get to the airport really, really early. As somewhat of a nervous spazz, I tend to do that on my own anyway, arriving at the boarding gate at least an hour before my flight, but today it was being foisted upon me. And I was hungover and my back hurt (another story). But I was going to Vegas and nothing was going to ruin it for me. Unless...
So I got to the airport weeeeeeeelll before my flight...so well that the gate it was departing from was still acknowledging the previous flight. The pilot for my flight was probably still in bed for all I knew. Beyond that there were no complications, except for the fact that I am starting to develop a strange unease at flying that I never had before. I wouldn't call it "fear" exactly, but I am increasingly tense and sweaty on takeoffs, especially in turbulent airports like Denver and Las Vegas. I was happy that the flight was less than an hour and a half.
I wouldn't say that McCarran Airport was exactly pandemonium, but it was certainly as crowded and tempestuous as I've ever seen it. I wanted very badly to get to the Palms for a shower and to get my 4000 lbs of luggage off my back (another story), but the crush of tourists had other plans. The line for taxis not only started INSIDE the airport, but it snaked the entire length of the sidewalk and it was quadruple-mazed toward the end. The upside is that no other airport handles shuttling passengers with the efficiency of McCarran, so at not too long a last I was relaxing comfortably in the back seat of a cab, window rolled down, sun shining on my face and a nice breeze blowing from the palm trees. As another aside--preparing for three cities with weather as disparate as Chicago, Denver and Vegas in late spring is nothing short of a challenge. I left one city where it was in the 30s, got to another where it was in the mid-50s and to another where it was in the low 70s. This was one contributing factor to my unwieldy luggage.
I've only been to the Palms once, never stayed there and in fact, I never gambled there either. The casino is nice enough. The poker room is ridiculously small. I only peeked my head in there (and wasn't even sure where it was until the day I left). I didn't count but I would be surprised if they had more than 10 tables. No matter to me, I was only looking to flop there (no pun intended). Poker would take place, at least as I planned, at the Mirage. I was lucky to get the room at the Palms, as with the NCAA tourney going on and apparently 90 conventions, there wasn't a room to be had on the strip for under $350/night. Note to self--check availability before booking flight next time. Oh, one thing I do like about the Palms are their chips. They are flat and heavy and in relaxing tropical colors.
There is a phrase about discretion being the better part of valor, something I have not learned, and I'm not even sure that it applies here, but despite my hungoveredness (new word), I was determined to get myself together and to the Mirage for some poker so that Sunday would not be wasted.
Now, I'm not going to go into great details because they get very boring and there are no great details to tell. Since August, every poker session I've had has been very bland--I'm not dragging any big pots; in fact, I'm either dragging small ones, losing big ones or not involved at all. If this were a serious venture for me, I would have to review my play, but I think it is simply a case of short-term poker malaise. The table Sunday night was not a good one, as it featured one half of the table that was drinking and ramming and jamming and my half, stoic and uninvolved. That is not my nature at the table, as I like to talk to people and have a few laughs, but I was seriously overtired and not enjoying myself. On Monday, the table was much better in terms of the company and I had a good time, but I was just card dead for the most part and if I did have a big holding it was as if everyone sensed it and ran off, with me winning crappy $25 pots. Meanwhile I'm watching people playing Q10o out of position and flopping straights and getting paid off on raises and reraises. So my confidence in and joy for poker is at low ebb. I did have one decent session--on Tuesday I waited for an hour and a half for the 6-12 game at the Mirage. The Mirage can be very frustrating in this regard, as they will have one 6-12 game going, a variety of 2-4 NL games and they even had two 5-10 Omaha games going. Meanwhile there is a list for 6-12 and five or six tables not even in use. It's really all about timing--you either have to get there early enough, say around 11am, be willing to wait an hour and jump into the first game. If not, you have to wait until one of the original players decides to call it quits, which can be hours later. I arrived at 1:00, waited until 2:30 and decided to screw it. I had to get my bags at around 10:00pm and I was wasting precious gambling time. Plus I had planned to play a bit, then take a break to eat at the excellent California Pizza Kitchen adjacent to the sportsbook, but since it had taken so long I would either have to jump into a game and wait, uncomfortably hungry, or get into a game and take off immediately to eat, bad form be damned. Since I was in the black (more on that in a moment), I decided to give up my spot, eat, then take on the 8-16 game at the Bellagio that had cowed me on my last trip.
I had stopped in to the Bellagio on Monday to see what was up at the poker room, as I knew they were remodeling and had temporarily cut down the number of tables. And they had, to say the least. The poker room is essentially gone, at least as it was, sitting adjacent to the sportsbook in its own lattice-framed space. It currently consists of an area next to where it was, cordoned off by velvet rope (it's a little more sophisticated than that, but you get the idea). It's interesting because there is now no special area for the high rollers to play, so I saw people like Sammy Farha and Doyle Brunson sitting out in the sea of regular folk with railbirds gawking from the sidelines. They are down to about 40 tables, which is still pretty impressive. When the new room is ready at the end of April, they will have added something like twenty tables to their previous count, so it should be pretty interesting. Just in time to compete with Wynn's new place opening up the same week.
Anyway, I was pleased on Tuesday to see that the 8/16 list only had seven or so names and it only took about 20 minutes to get into a game. One huge upside to the temporary configuration of the room is that there is more space between tables and I was able to kick back and stretch my arthritic knees at will from the 9 seat. I felt sharper at that table than I had at any time at the Mirage and I was getting some playable hands and mixing it up. The game broke after a couple of hours and I discovered I was in the black about $50. A winning session! This humble short-term win convinced me I am just in a trough and have to dig my way out. Or maybe I just got lucky for a couple of hours, we shall see.
It was fortunate that the game did break because I didn't realize while I was there that it had begun to steadily rain and now taxis were a little difficult to come by. It was only 6:30, but I wanted to get back to get back to the Palms where my bags were stored, relax and gamble a little before I had to take off. Got to the front entrance at the Bellagion and a HUGE line of people waiting. So instead I bucked up and walked in the rain to the Mirage (yes, I could have gone to Caesar's, which is closer, but I always get lost in Caesar's and I didn't know that the cab situation would be any better once I found it). Fortunately the line at the Mirage was much more tolerable and I was off.
The big upside for my trip is that my sheer dumb luck at Let It Ride managed to finance my weak and ineffectual poker play. I mean, save for one boneheaded five minutes at the Bellagio, I simply could not lose at this game. At the Mirage, I made a straight, two flushes and two full houses in about four hours of play, putting me in the black to the tune of $1025. I scored another $150 at the Palms before my flight (after initially being down $200). The Bellagio game was another matter--I sat down at an unoccupied table before discovering that it was a $25 minimum. Trying to stave off embarrassment, I pulled out $200, only to see hand after hand fail to connect. It was gone in five minutes. Actually, I took $50 away, but it did cost me $150 to not be embarrassed. And that's just stupid.
All said and done, it was a good trip, too quick, and I look forward to getting back for a longer LV trip at the end of May.posted by the wolf | 1:45 PM