Saturday, December 16, 2023

Las Vegas Trip and Meet Up Game Report: December 10-14, 2023

 It was time. I had not been to Las Vegas since July -- an abnormally long time for me since I moved to Phoenix. The trip had tentatively been planned for some different days, but I had told Very Josie that I would sync my days up with hers as she was planning to visit Sin City with her sister, Carmela. Unfortunately, the change of dates meant that I would not be able to cross paths with Iowa poker buddy @JT88Keys, who did not have the same flexibility to change his dates as I did. VJ and I also decided to host a meet up game while in Las Vegas -- always a good time to meet and toss cards with friends.

Sunday, Dec 10

I probably did not make a great decision the night before I left, but I was almost through viewing season two of The Sopranos, and I wanted to see how the season concluded. I stayed up too late, considering I wanted to get on the road as early as I could Sunday morning. However, I woke up early, packed, and was on the road at a decent hour. I would be staying at Excalibur this trip -- my usual place. Despite the place being jokingly called the "dirty castle" by some, it actually cleaned up several years ago. The nasty smoke smell is mostly gone and the rooms have been refurbished - with old Bellagio furniture, I once heard. I always try to stay in the Resort Tower and in a Stay Fresh room. Those rooms have always been great in my experience. I got the MGM credit card so that I could have Pearl status. which means free parking at all MGM properties. MGM has also been pretty good to me in terms of room comps, so it has been my usual Las Vegas home.

I was hoping to make a surprise appearance at The Poker Oasis, but I was fatigued after the more than five-hour drive, so I elected instead to unpack and take a short nap first. Later in the afternoon, I joined an old poker friend, @seemitch, at the Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar in Mandalay Bay to eat some wings and drink a few beers. At the 2022 WSOP, Mitch placed third in the Seniors Event, and currently he was in very good shape in the WPT Prime Event. He eventually finished 69th out of more than 10,500 entrants!

Afterward, I decided to play poker at MGM Grand. I was seated at a $1/2 table with perhaps some of the worst poker players that I have recently seen! Unfortunately, I was getting no cards at all, and it was killing me. I just couldn't get into any decent pots for at least a couple of hours. However, things finally turned around and I got on a mini-heater. Had I not taken it on the chin in a few hands, I would have had an exceptional session. However, making a nice profit on my first session was a very good start to this Las Vegas trip. I went to bed a happy camper that night.

Mon, Dec 11

I woke up at a decent hour and invited Josie and Carmen out to breakfast. The site: Lou's Diner. I had heard many reports that this old fashioned diner was one of the best Las Vegas breakfast spots. I picked up the Ladies at Resorts World and off we went. We had about a 10 minute wait before we were seated. After eating, the verdict was unanimous: Lou's Diner deserves all the kudos it receives.

Josie and Carmela wanted to go shopping at a clothing store and there was one just a few blocks away. While they were shopping, I headed into Arizona Charlie's Decatur to burn some time. I had been in that casino to play poker once before with Tony Bigcharles many years ago. It was one of the few poker rooms that allowed smoking. Yuck. The poker room has been gone for years.

After driving the ladies back to Resorts, I headed back to Excalibur to relax. Months ago, I had made a dinner reservation for four people at the Top of Binion's Steakhouse for that night at 6:30pm. I had invited fellow poker friend @WASHDUDE to join us, and he accepted. He would join us at 6:30. After relaxing and changing clothes, I picked up the ladies and headed downtown. We arrived about a half hour early so that we could take a quick look at the Fremont Street crowd. It did not disappoint -- especially the guy who looked like Donald Trump who was wearing not much more than a jockstrap type covering. Only in Las Vegas!

The dinner at Binion's: Fantastic! We had an excellent 24th story view of Las Vegas. The service was quick, friendly, and professional. Best of all, the food was outstanding. We started off with a couple different types of bread with Specialty butters and three different gourmet salts alongside to enhance the flavor of the bread. After ordering some starters, it was time to focus on the main entrees. We ordered New York Steaks and Prime Rib. The entrees came with fresh vegetables and a choice of loaded baked potato, risotto, mac 'n' cheese, or garlic mashed potatoes. Everything was great with maybe the exception of Washdude's escargot. One of the many reasons I chose this steakhouse was the ridiculously low (for Las Vegas) prices. For example, my 10 oz New Your Steak dinner cost just $53! Even with several glasses of wine, the starters, and the entrees with accompaniments, the total bill plus tax came to less than $400! I am happy to recommend this steakhouse.

Afterward, Josie and Washdude played some blackjack. We then split up as Washdude was heading to parts unknown, and Josie, Carmela and I headed to Bellagio, where Josie and I would play some $1/3 NL at the same table. Being the card rack that I was for much of this trip, I was showing a profit after the first hand I played. I looked down at K-K and 3-bet to $25. I got one caller. The flow was a beautiful K-8-8! The caller went all in and was felted. Definitely not a bad way to start a session.! We only played for about 1 1/2 hours and didn't like a few of the people at our table, but still I made a nice profit. Sometimes things just work out right. Unfortunately, Josie felt ill at the end of the night, which ended up changing our plans for the next night.

Tues, Dec 12

We were in no hurry to begin the day too early. We had a late morning breakfast at another place that people (me included) rave about: Mr Mamas Breakfast and Lunch. I had been there once before with poker friend Larry. Once again, it did not disappoint. After breakfast, we headed out to Red Rock Canyon to go on the 13-mile scenic drive. Josie and I had been on it 18 months earlier. It is certainly a great way to get away from the casinos and the Las Vegas glitz.

We had planned to go to dinner that night at Roma Restaurant and Deli with Washdude and @Onechiquita, but Josie was still not feeling up to par from the night before. Closer to dinnertime, I was actually fatigued and not hungry, so we ended up not going there. Maybe next trip.

I got into a poker session at MGM that evening. It was mostly like some of the horror show sessions I had earlier in summer and fall. I started out by again flopping a boat on the first hand I played and felting another player. However, I lost a ton of chip when I called a $20 bet with  Ac9c. The flop was A-3-9. The original bettor bet $25 after the flop, and I raised to $75. I was then surprised by his next move: all in. What could he have? I didn't think he would be betting to $20 initially with 3-3. Maybe he had an Ace with a strong kicker? Maybe A-3sooted? An over pair? A-9? I decided to call. He flipped over 9-9! II got called by thr lost all my previous winnings and about half my stack. I then could not catch any cards nor get anything to shove all in. I waited patiently as my stack dwindled. Finally, when I got 10-10, I 3-bet all in. I was called by three other players. There was a King on the flop and one more on the turn. I knew I was done for. The winning hand was K-Qos. I took a break and came back later. This time, I was card dead. I was holding my own, but my $300 buy in had gone down to $200 even though I was playing good poker. A young guy sitting next to me had obviously had too much to drink, but whereas he was irritating others, he was providing me with some escape from the boredom of folding most hands. A young cowboy then sat on my left. He bet virtually every hand. He started amassing a decent stack, which I figured would be the answer to my short stack. Then came the big hand. The cowboy bet. A short stack with around $90 went all in. I looked down to see what we used to call the VeryJosie: J-10sooted. I called the all in. The cowboy then shoved all in. With about $110 left, I called. The flop was a brick. The turn was a brick. But the river ... a 10! The cowboy showed 3-3 and the initial player who went all in mucked. With my $200 stack now up to $500, I decided it was time to cash out and head for bed as the next day would be a biggie for me: the meet up game VJ and I were having.

Wed, Dec 13

Today would be a day to sleep a little later. However, A series of 12 straight Twitter private messages and a 21-minute phone call from TonyBigcharles got my day going. Since I had not communicated with anyone from the Sahara poker room for several days, I decided to go there shorty after it opened to make sure that everything was set for the meet up game at 5pm. I had texted a list of players earlier to Matt, one of the heads to the poker room. When I got there after 12:00 noon, a small tournament was going on. I dealt with another one of the room's bosses, John. He was excellent in working with me to get everything set. I decided to go to Rollin Smoke Barbeque for lunch. My invitation to Josie and Carmela got me one lunchmate: Josie. She thought she was a funny lady by making a joke about me to a worker. Meh. I took her back to Resorts afterward and went shopping at Smith's for some snacks for the meet up game. By the time I was done shopping and with traffic around the Strip pretty heavy due to the soft opening of the Fontainebleau and construction traffic, I decided to just head to Sahara really early. I set up the food and waited for people to arrive. Because of all the heavy traffic, almost everyone was getting there late.

The Meet Up Game

Here is a listing of the people playing and my assessment of their skills

Very Josie: $2/5 and $5/10 cash game crusher. Extremely aggressive. No playing around with her.
Mr Subliminal: Experienced player with Aria pedigree. Be careful with him.
Abramski_C: I've seen him smoke a table before, including me. Take him seriously.
Alysia (Onechiquita): Dangerous mixed game and Omaha player. Very strategic.
Norm (Vegas724): Solid player who has seen me lose and play stoopid. Knows his stuff.
FlynnandO: Experienced player. Lulls you into traps by using humor at the table.
bigfokkerdog: Crushing donkathon tournament this past week. Not afraid to bluff.
Stephen M: Solid player. Cashed WSOP Seniors. I'll watch him carefully.
Angela M: Never seen her play before. Works in the industry, so watch out.
Hockey_Poker: Very much into strategy. Hosts games and plays solid game.
Washdude: Solid tournament skills. Not afraid to get his chips in. Caution.
Carmela: Unknown player and therefore a wild card. Watch carefully.

We started the game with one full table and decided to break up into two once all the players we knew were going to be there actually arrived. Unfortunately, Mr Subliminal was under the weather and could not come. Also unfortunately, Norm had to deal with a family situation and left right when we started. Our plan was to play a rotation of $1/2 NL Hold 'em and then a rotation of $1/2 PLO. 

The first hand I played was a foreshadowing of things to come. I was dealt pocket deuces and bet. Washdude was in the hand with me and there might initially have ben one or two more. The flop provided a beautiful deuce. Bingo! As the hand progressed, I boated up and there was a flush possibility on the board. I guess Washdude didn't believe me as we were both all in. Ta daaa! When we switched to to Omaha, I was in a couple of pots but didn't have much after the flop. Meanwhile, Carmen, who claimed to be unsure of Omaha play, was raising! The play was getting pretty wild for a fun $1/2 meet up game. Josie flopped a straight and kept pushing the action. Others can fill in the details, but she was all in along with two or three others. Her hand held and she quickly had a huge stack of chips.

After one rotation of both games, we broke into two tables and decided to play only $1/2 NL. At my table, from my left to my right were Stephen M, Chris A, Joseph (Hockey Poker), Angela M, and Josie. Later on, FlynnandO would join and also bigfokkerdog. As luck would have it, one player at the table had a HUGE horseshoe stuck up his/her butt and was handed almost perfect cards the entire night. That player ... umm ... would be me! I took a bunch of chips off Chris A. Josie funded my retirement account. I put a very cruel cold deck beat on Flynnand). And so it went. For over three hours! When a new player not with our group came to the table, I felted him within a few hands. It was unreal.

Some of the players began leaving, and we finally called it quits around 8:45pm. I won an obscene amount of chips for a friendly $1/2 game. After all my whining earlier this year about my bad luck, I think I'll keep my trap shut for at least a few weeks. more surprisingly, Carmela, the least experienced of the players, took home a very nice profit. Chris A came out ahead and I believe that Josie did also. I am not sure who else might have.

Afterward, one of the dealers told me how much fun our group was and how it helped the dealers and the room. Apparently, Wednesday is traditionally a slow night for the room. Our game provided tips for the dealers and raised the room's profile when people walking past saw and heard the fun we were having. This is the third meet up game I've hosted at Sahara. The poker room management and dealers have always done their part to make the games successful. As a bonus, I finally got to meet @Criminal_Bizzy, who works at Sahara.

Thanks to:
John from the Sahara poker room. He was great to work with.
Matt from the Sahara poker room, who helped with the initial list and arrangements.
Josie, who paid for half the snacks that were provided.
FlynnandO, who provided counsel on setting up the game.
Alysia, who brought food to the game. She is always very generous.
Joseph, who brought the nice, sweet treats to the game.

After the meet up game, I dropped dropped Carmela off at Resorts while Josie and I went to Bellagio for one last session.

 I was mostly folding until I was in a raised pot with 7-7. The flop:7-5-5! Yes - poker is EZ sometimes, especially when you flop boats. I was heads up with a player who apparently had a good hand but tanked and folded on the river. VJ and I were both tired, so we called it a night. Josie told me that she was dealt Q-Q and hit a set on the flop, eventually doubling up. It looks like the poker gods righted the world. 😁

Thurs, Dec 14

I checked out of Excalibur and picked up Josie and Carmela, then headed to one of my favorite places - the Black Bear Diner. Once again, the meal did not disappoint. After brunch, I dropped the ladies off at the airport while I began the six-hour trek home.

Although I didn't mention it, I also had a successful trip with the slots. The only negative of the entire trip was the losing poker session at MGM. Other than that, I won at all my other poker sessions and won almost every time I put money in a slot machine. Good gambling, good food and great friends were the hallmark of this trip. If only every Las Vegas trip could be this fun and profitable.

Thanks for reading. Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Please POST THEM ON THE BLOG AREA FOR COMMENTS. Blogging is NOT dead yet!

Thanks for reading. πŸ˜€


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great trip Lightning, glad to hear Princess Rungood isn’t the only one the poker gods shine upon. Nothing is more fun than a poker session with friends in LV.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Pokerluckbox said...

"Everything was great with maybe the exception of Washdude's escargot."
I ordered escargot once and it had snails in it! Never again!

9:28 AM  
Blogger Tony Bigcharles said...

i didnt know u would have a car

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha. Not a single damned fish in the lineup.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Koala said...

Great trip report John. I can't wait to catch up with you all again in June.

6:13 PM  
Blogger josie said...

Such a great time - meet up games are the best!

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it you've never played with Chris? Lol

2:55 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Great trip report sir. Seems like it was successful both in terms of fun and profit. That's the best kind of trip.

I was interested to hear about Binion's steakhouse. I know you've been looking for a great Vegas steakhouse and been mostly disappointed. Sounds like you finally found your spot!

Damn I wish I coulda made it.

7:10 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@TBC: Oh -- so do you mean that if you knew I had a car that you might have come?

@Rob: It was an excellent trip for the reasons you mentioned. And yes - at least for now, I found what appears to be the best deal at a Las Vegas steakhouse. Imagine: A 24th floor view of Las Vegas, bread, a strip steak, potatoes and a vegetable -- all for $53? Outrageous!

9:27 AM  
Blogger Ace said...

Congrats on the heater. Very nice blog post.

6:45 AM  

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