Monday, March 21, 2022

Las Vegas Trip Report of March 13-17, 2022: "Drunk Poker, Old and New Friends, and the Poker Battles Continue"

I've been home for a few days from my recent trip to Las Vegas. Once again, it was a trip of ups and downs, but a fun trip nevertheless. Even when Las Vegas is bad, how bad can it be??

I left in the morning on Sunday, March 13, to give myself enough time to make the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas and have enough time to check into my hotel (Harrah's) before heading to South Point to take part in what was called a "drunk poker game. Actually, the game was designed to be a fun game for a group of friends. I got to South point at 3:45pm, 15 minutes before the game was to start. We would be playing $3/6 Limit, a game that had creamed me at Talking Stick Resort (Scottsdale, AZ) the few times I played it. I was looking forward to having some fun playing, but $3/6? Yecch!

The poker playing pink flamingo, Flynn, and his human, Erin, were already seated at the table, as were @bigfokkerdog (Erin's husband - Jeff), whom I'd never met, and Joseph (@Hockey_Jerseys), whom I'd also never met (and his wife, Toni) and had recently traded comments on Twitter. There were a few non-friends at the table, and most left in a short time. That allowed the resident political opposites to sit next to each other: total left-wing flamer @LuukeJohnston and right wing Trumper @ZetusLarry. What a line up! 
Picture courtesy of The Flynn & Ollie Chronicle

Things started off very slowly for me in this "wonderful" game of $3/6. I was in for $160 and almost busted when I was gifted a river suck out against Larry. Then, however, things rapidly changed. I believe a common phrase I could use would be that the deck "smacked me in the face." Well... not only in the face, but in the chest, the belly, the legs, and everywhere else! I even won a high hand bonus with a straight flush. It helped that a few of the players were in a nice "relaxed" mood due to the consumption of a few drinks, the table was playing lose and having fun, and a few other players apparently got crap cards and struggled to win any hands. Meanwhile, I was shocked to see that virtually none of my good hands were counterfeited on the river -- which had been the story of my $3/6 life at Talking Stick.

As the afternoon and then evening wore on, players started leaving the table. At long last, Erin, Jeff and I were the remaining players until there was only one remaining. I played for a short time with all the other players who filled the seats formerly filled by friends. I had a nice conversation with a friendly woman about retirement living. Finally, I decided that it was time to cash out my winnings and move the trip along. Other people that sat at the table didn't say boo to me, but just stared at my house of chips. Along with the brown $1 chips, I also had a mixed stack of red and green. I cashed out and grabbed some dinner at South Point's Coronado Cafe. 

Since things seemed to be going my way, I decided to play a late night session at Caesars Palace. In 2021, Caesars had been full of pain and torture for me. Getting rivered and felted in an $800+ pot when my AA was beaten by QQ just as I was ready to head to the airport was etched in my mind. This time, however, things changed. I won a moderate amount and decided to head back to Harrah's and get some sleep. I had been a little groggy after my drive to Las Vegas, but now I was ready to crash bug time, secure in the knowledge that I started off my trip with two winning sessions. Could I keep it up?

I took Monday to mostly veg out. In fact, I was was pretty worthless. I slept late, got lunch, then was reading in the early afternoon and crashed for several hours. I decide to head back to Caesars and try my luck again. Once again, I had a decent session and cashed out with a nice profit. And with Caesars, one never knows who one might run into!
Photo courtesy of Bill Tait

I then decided to head to Bally's for a late night cash session. Years ago, Bally's had been my poker home. I used to crush it there and even got two Royal Flushes in one year. Things then changed, however, and I started having trouble winning there. In fact, I didn't play any poker at Bally's my previous trip the month before. It was time to give it a try. Unfortunately, I got behind right away after running top-top into a set. Try as I might, I couldn't get any cards and was unable to get unstuck and took my first loss of the trip, albeit a small one. It was time to hit the sheets and look forward to another great day!

On Tuesday, I slept in, as usual, then headed to South Point for its lunch buffet, then to the poker room. I was meeting new friend Joseph there, and as I was finishing my lunch, he messaged me that he was  seated. I headed to the poker room, got my name on both $1/2 and $2/3 lists, and was quickly seated at Joseph's $2/3 table. There were a couple of young aggro guys who were juicing every pot, so my plan was to mostly wait in the weeds, play a few speculative hands, then drop the bomb when I got a biggie. I had been in a few pots with mixed success when my chance finally came. I was dealt the "dreaded pocket  Kings" (see Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog). I raised to $20 and got two callers: a guy in early position who had been playing pretty solid, and Joseph, who had position on me. With approximately $60 in the pot and stacks of (approximately): EP player - $400; me- $400; Joseph - $185, we saw a flop of 9-3-x with two hearts. EP raised to $30 (which surprised me -- perhaps an overpair smaller than mine or a flush draw) and I re-raised to $100. Joseph then pushed all in for $165. EP folded, and with KK and about $355 already in the pot, I called the additional $85. I was horrified to see that Joseph had crushed my KK when he hit top set on the flop. Bah! They certainly can be the "dreaded pocket Kings!"

I got in one more session on Tuesday: a late night session at MGM. Things seemed to go okay for awhile, as (I hope my inner self hears this) I struggled and succeeded to double my buy in. At that point I should have cashed out, but the table had some nice guys at it, so I stayed. Mistake. I shoved all in on a bluff against a highly analytic player. When in a tough spot, he talked the hand out loud. I knew he didn't have much of a hand, but I think his frustrations with the night led him to make a crying call, figuring that he was done for the night. That left me short stacked, and I was felted when I was looking to get money in the pot before pushing. I finally got my chance when I was dealt A-10 and thought I was in great shape with a flop of 2-A-7. I was shocked when my shove was called. It seems that the villain played the worst hand in poker -- 7-2os -- and hit two pair on the flop. Sometimes poker sucks!

I was actually scheduled to go home on Wed, March 16, but while ahead at MGM Tuesday night, I reserved one more day and would be switching to Excalibur. I checked out of Harrah's and headed to South Point to play in the 1:05pm NL tournament. I initially got some cards and then made a foolish call when I raised with A-K sooted and saw a flop of J-K-Q. I raised and my opponent pushed all in. Looking back, if the player had been at the table longer and if I'd gotten a better read on him, I could have folded. However, seeing that at least one player at the table had long donkey ears, I called off about half my stack and saw that he flopped two pair with K-Q. My hand didn't improve and I was going to have to look for a quick hand to shove. I got the opportunity a few hands later when I was dealt 8h9h. I shoved and was called by pocket 6s. I was happy to see that it was a typical pair vs two overs hand. I hit an 8 on the flop and felt great until my opponent rivered a 6 for a set, knocking me out. Meh. I have to get better if I am going to be playing anymore tournaments.

I decided to give MGM another chance that night and was not rewarded. I was not impressed by the level of skill I saw at my table, and it looked like suck outs were prevalent. About 20 minutes in, someone raised to $20 and got two callers. I was on the button with 10h9h and decided to call. The flop was a rainbow J-K-Q! The initial raiser, who was a short stack and was only still at the table because he rivered a two-outer a few hands before, shoved all in. A seemingly clueless guy (he was having trouble understanding the concept of raise amounts) called, another guy folded, and I pushed all in. The clueless guy called. As long as nobody had A-10, I was ahead. The flop was a meaningless 4. The river, however, was a King. The clueless guy turned over K-Q (notice this hand playing a huge role today?) for a rivered full house to crush my flopped straight. I was pissed and decided that I was done with MGM for the trip. Bah!

There was still plenty of Wednesday night left, so I decided to go back to Caesars for one more session. I was initially seated next to a woman who was gabbing non-stop with a voice that was driving me crazy... and I had only been there a couple of minutes. I immediately went to the counter and asked for a table change. the woman there asked "Where do you want to go?" My response: "Anywhere but table five!" So... I sat down the table behind it. Thankfully, I could barely hear the woman's chatter!

Readers of my blog have seen that I whine plenty about getting sucked out on. Most times, I get my money in good. However, here is some honesty about how even I can sick out with the best! I was at a relatively normal table with $about 400 in front of me when I looked down to see pocket Aces! I raiswd and was called by two players, each with smaller stacks than me. The flop was J-Q-K -- not what I would want with AA. I raised, and the smallest stack shoved all in. The other player in the hand called. I decided to just jam and hope for the best. It turns out that the players had identical hands -- K-Jos, and therefore both had flopped two pair against my overpair. However, the turn was a 2, and the river... another 2, giving me the winning two pair! I felted them both. They were actually both laughing about it, which certainly made it feel better on my part. I won more hands, including felting one of the players in my AA hand a second time when I flopped a set of 3s I ended up with a nice win for the night, more than making up for the MGM hand I was so upset about.

Perhaps it is due to my background in sports when I was growing up, but when competing in poker, I hope to win every hand I'm in and every session I play. I know that is not realistic, but that is what I shoot for.

I ended my trip on a winning note and despite some losing sessions, ended up ahead, which is always a victory. Winning at poker, seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones? What a great trip. Viva Las Vegas!

A few personal notes and plans for the future
I recently did testing with my new AZ cardiologist to see exactly where I am heart health wise. My heart is in great shape, and a comprehensive blood panel showed that my blood sugar was down significantly, my cholesterol was good, and my blood pressure was largely okay. Unfortunately, I have put on a lot of weight over the years. Starting today, my wife and I are looking to really restrict the carbs we eat. I hope that the next time my friends see me there will be at least a tad less lightning36!

Upcoming travel: My wife and I might go to visit our son and his girlfriend in Seattle in April sometime. We usually take short trips of about three nights there. In May, possibly a trip "back home" to Illinois and possibly Wisconsin to visit with our daughters, other family and friends. In June, I hope to make a three or four night stay in Las Vegas and see old friend Koala Pete, who will be coming in from Australia and spending June in Las Vegas. I hope to be able to have Pete spend a few days in Phoenix.

Life is good. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

My Continuing Saga: Life is Good but Poker Leaves Much to be Desired

Shortly after getting back home from Maui, I left once again to scratch my poker itch by taking another trip to Las Vegas. I had recently had a pretty brutal run at Phoenix-area poker rooms, and I was looking for a change of pace. I would be playing my usual low-level NL Hold em. At least the trip started well.

I drove into Las Vegas on Monday, February 21 and headed to my hotel, Excalibur. Despite what I read from several people on Twitter and others social media, I don't think the rooms nor the casino are bad. I prefer the special Stay Well rooms, but for this trip I even stayed at a different tower - the Royal Tower. If I ever stayed in this one before, it was probably around the time that Bill Clinton was president. Once again, I had no complaint about my room. It was clean, furnished acceptably and was fine for my purposes, which are basically to sleep and shower.

My first stop was at Mandalay Bay, as I had not played poker there since December, 2014! Since the poker room closes during the middle of the week, I knew this would be my only chance to play this trip. I actually felt uncomfortable to some degree as I seemed to be the one outsider in a game of regulars. I did, however, win two $50 drawings for a hot seat (winning table is randomly picked, then the dealer picks a card with a seat number on it. To win a high hand bonus, Jacks or better are required. I never saw a hand nearly that good. I bowed out after a few hours, winning a small amount thanks to the hot seat drawings.

I decided to play a session that started about midnight at MGM Grand. I was just basically holding my own for a couple of hours until I was dealt a straight flush! I was fortunate in that the only opponent in the hand flopped a set! Unfortunately for me, a fourth Club was dealt on the turn, and my opponent didn't pair the board like he needed. I took a good chunk of his money, but he was disciplined enough to fold on the river to my value bet. If only! I made a nice profit on the session and headed back to my room in the early morning hours with a smile on my face.

On Tuesday, February 22, I decided to head to a poker room I had not seen for some time: Aria. My experiences there had been mostly good. My table consisted of a bunch of guys mostly 50-70 years old, so I felt at home. The first of two monster hands came after an hour or so. I was in a hand with my A-K vs 10-10. I had about $300 in front of me and my opponent, who had been making initial raises to $25 in this $1/3 NL game, had 10-10. We saw a flop of K-K-10! Obviously, we would both be getting it all in. We did so after the flop, and I was horrified to see that he had one of two hand that could beat me. I was preparing to ship my chips when I sucked out -- a rarity for me, it seems -- when the board ran out 4 and then 4! I felt like I had been due one of these. However, the tables were turned about an hour later when I raised with pocket Queens. He called . We saw a flop of low cards with two spades. I raised, he shoved, and I called. He flipped over two low clubs and had both straight and flush draws. The turn was a brick, but the river gave him a straight flush. I was busted. It was hard to complain when I had sucked out against him earlier. I needed to get some dinner, so I decided to take a poker break at that point.

I didn't know where to eat, so I decided to get the dinner buffet at South Point and play poker there afterward. The buffet and the casino in general were both really crowded as South Point was hosting  some sort of youth competition. After eating, I got seated first at a $1/2 table. soon thereafter was called for the $2/3 game. With a big dinner in my belly, I decided to stay at the $1/2 table for what I thought would be a fun session. It was not. There was a ton of limping, and sometimes initial raises to $20. Again, I felt like quite an outsider. Nothing went right and I was spewing money. I eventually busted and was pissed at myself for playing so poorly in a shitty game. Such is my poker life!

On Wednesday, February 23, I met up with my friend, Larry. He drove us to Caesars Palace, a place that had finally been good to me on my last trip. While there, it was good to say hi to poker buddy Bill Tait.

Proving that retirement is fun!

The session at Caesars was pretty much ruined by a lucksack who was playing every hand and kept hitting good hands even when he started with almost complete crap. I ended the session with a small loss, but was happy that I don't seem to get crushed at Caesars like I did in the past.

Larry and I had dinner, then headed to Red Rock, which might become a tradition on all my trips. Once again, I felt like I was an intruder on a home game. I treaded water, then lucked out when I hit an Ace-high four flush on the turn in one hand. I felted an aggressive player and left with a small profit for the night. One more session of poker to go.

I got back to the Strip and decided to play one more session at MGM. The table was fun and I kep bouncing around with my stacks. One guy was playing wildly, and when I raised from the button with J-J, he shoved all in with a lesser stack. After I went all in and everyone else had folded, he flipped over 8-8. It looked like I would take the rest of his money and finally be well into the profit area for the session, a sign that it was time for me to wrap things up and head to bed. Unfortunately, the villain binked an 8 on the flop and doubled up. The player, who seemed to know essentials but was really wild, then went on probably the best heater I have seen in years and perhaps ever seen. He played each hand and won a ton from others, including a guy to my right who was up a few hundred, got drunk, and donked it all off. I was short stacked and eventually went all in with K-Q on a Queen-high flop. Three others went all in. The guy who had binked the 8 on me flopped a set of 7's and took the money from three of us. I was felted. Time to end poker for this trip. I dropped a 2-3 buy ins. Meh.

On Thursday, I packed my things, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Windy City Beefs-N-Dogs to finally meet Norm In Vegas. We had messaged each other several times over the past six months or so and finally met. What a great time we had: two Chicago guys out west living the good life and munching on a Chicago hot dog and Italian Beef!

A couple of former Chicago bad asses 😃

After getting home, I had a couple of days rest before my brother-in-law and has wife came to visit for a week that turned into nine days. With some friends visiting Las Vegas, I decided to head back to Sin City tomorrow (Sunday, March 13) and play in the "drunk poker game" scheduled for Sunday at 4pm at South Point. It looks to have a cast of characters. I'll be staying for three nights at Harrah's before heading home in time to watch when the Chicago Bulls come into Phoenix to take on the Suns. I haven't seen a Bulls game in over ten years, so it should be fun.

Hit me up if you are going to be in Las Vegas March 13-16. C'mon out to South Point Sunday afternoon for some poker fun!

Thanks for reading!