Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Viva Las Vegas!

It's been a while since I've posted. I've just been swamped with so many things that I haven't had much time to post or even play as much as I wanted to. But this past weekend, I took a little trip to Sin City with my friends, and it was the refreshing little boost I needed to get my poker juices flowing again!

We were scheduled to leave on Thursday afternoon for the 4 hour drive from my apartment to Las Vegas. And I knew that once I got there, I would definitely play some poker. But because I haven't played much in a while, I wanted a little tune-up before the trip, so a friend of mine took me down to pay homage to our local Indian casino: Casino Morongo.

Morongo is built exactly like the Palms (as I found out when I went to Vegas). From the exterior of the building to the interior layout, it's almost exactly the same. But thankfully, the Morongo poker room is a wee bit bigger than the "low" limit poker area of the Palms.

I signed up for a 3-6 kill table. This would be first time playing poker in a casino, and my friend told me it was the perfect game to get my feet wet in. My friend immediately got a seat, but I had to wait a while as the games were going strongly on all tables.

When my time finally came, I sat down at the 7 seat (ten seats total) and took a look around the table. Gulp! The table was filled with old guys who had a ton of chips in front of them. The only other youngster was a guy to my right whose stack was quickly dwindling. I knew I had to play smart to avoid any trouble at this table.

But I still couldn't manage to stop my chips from bleeding away. After only twenty minutes, I saw that I lost $60 from my initial buy-in of $100. I tightened up and decidedly to play aggressively. Win or lose, I was going to play strong.

Luckily, I caught a couple of decent hands and was able to build my stack back up to even. Then I caught my lucky hand of the night. A maniac raised in early position, and I saw Big Slick between my hands in the cutoff position. I didn't want to reraise and catch nothing on the flop, so I just decided to call. An old Asian guy immediately to my left on the button then reraised it. Small Blind folds, Big Blind calls, maniac calls, and the guy on my right calls. I put my chips in to complete the preflop play and we saw the flop with five players in. Flop came Jack high but all diamonds. Maniac bet out, and the guy to my right called. I took another peek at my cards and saw that I was indeed holding the King of diamonds, so I called. Button raises it, and maniac calls. The guy to my right drops out, and I call for one more small bet.

At this point, I knew that if I didn't get lucky, my stack would have taken a huge hit. Turn is a blank. Maniac checks; I check; Button bets. Maniac folds, and I call.

River is a beautiful diamond. Yay! But I check to the button who bets. Then I called.

Now, looking back at this hand, I realize that I should have check-raised the river. But maybe it was because I was nervous, and it was my first time playing at a casino, or maybe I just got caught up in the game and wasn't thinking straight. But I couldn't see that I should have raised at the end. I actually made a scared call. I really didn't think he held the Ace of diamonds, but I just blanked out.

Anyway, the button turns over pocket Aces (of course), and I show him my King high flush and take down a rather nice pot. Sorry about the bad beat.

I play for about two hours total and leave the table with a nice $113 profit. Not bad for my first session at a casino, eh?

So, with my small success, I was geared up and ready to hit the casinos in the gaming capitol of the world. Vegas here I come!

The first night, we got a great rate at the Jean. (The room was free...I told you it was a great rate). We went down to downtown, and ate at the Main Street buffet. It wasn't bad, but I can't say that it was that great either. Afterwards, we headed to Fremont street and took a look around at the shops and casinos there. I went in to Binion's to see the world famous poker room, and I saw that they were preparing for the WSOP. There were tables and cameras everywhere portioned off. What a sight to see! When we were done there, we headed back to our hotel and finished the night with some $2 blackjack. Unfortunately, I quickly lost $20 there. Not a good start.

The next day, we woke up and had some breakfast at the restaurant they had there. Then it was back to the tables for more punishment. And then we headed off to the Strip.

We basically walked up and down the strip from the Aladdin to the Mirage and down to the Bellagio. We saw every casino, visited every poker room they had, and I ended up with a nasty blister on my foot. Oh joy.

The one bright spot about the walking tour was that we got to see Gus Hansen playing at the Bellagion. He had his back to the crowd, but I was able to instantly tell from his shaved head and bony features that it was him. There was a man preventing people from standing behind him and gawking at him like I wanted to do. So I sat down at the closest slot machine and kept staring at him. I have no idea what limit he was playing, but I'm guessing 300/600 which seems small for a professional like him. I mean Daniel Negreanu wrote the other day that 2000/4000 didn't feel like a real game to him because he was so used to 4000/8000. Wow. Negreanu also wrote that he picked up over $12,000 in a 100/200 No Limit game, and it wasn't much. Yikes! If I made that much in 3 months of play, I would be ecstatic. But these guys do it at a single session of play! Speechless. Anyway, I didn't play any poker on Thursday or Friday, but another friend of mine and I decided that we would enter in one of Luxor's little tournaments the next day.

It's a shame that I played in that tournament. It was the most disorganized tournament I have ever witnessed. The dealers were bad. The games were run poorly. The tables were tiny, and they had ten of us squeezed in per table. It was just the worst experience. We started with 250 in tournament chips, and the blinds started at 10-15 and were raised every 15 minutes. I've played in home game tournaments with better structures than this. It was just awful. Needless to say, I couldn't catch jack, and I ended up on the rail with about 15 players left. My friend, surprisingly, was still in it and made the final table. Top seven were paid, and my friend finally busted out 9th. We both spoke about how terrible the tournament was, and I vowed never to play poker at the Luxor again...which is sad because the Luxor is actually one of my favorite hotel/casinos.

Later that night, we were back at the Aladdin for the buffet which I've been told is the best in Vegas. But we arrived a couple hours early for dinner, so I went to their poker room, and I bought in for the 3-6 with a half-kill game. Now, I really enjoyed the Aladdin poker room. First off, it was actually a room, not just some space portioned off like in most other casinos. The dealers were friendly and the experience was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, I had the worst run of bad luck there. I had pocket Kings twice which were both beaten by A-4o and a Q-9o. The second time I lost with the kings, I knew I was beat and mucked em, but not before showing my hand to the guy next to me. We both sighed when the player two seats to my left showed his Q9 proudly for the two pair he caught on the turn. Sigh. Apparently, the rule in these low limit games is that you can't win with hands that are favorites before the flop. But then again, I have to remember that I cracked Aces with Big Slick just a couple of days before. So I guess it's just my luck evening out, and eventually, everything would go back to normal. Or so I wished.

So I left the Aladdin poker room down about $65. But at least I can say that the Aladdin does indeed have the best buffet in town. Unfortunately, I had filled myself with one of those Megadogs down at Westward Ho earlier, so I couldn't eat that much. But it was still very delicious.

My friends and I were driving back down on Sunday right after the Copperfield show, so we decided that we should sleep early Saturday night and be well-rested. Yeah right. We went back to our hotel at Circus Circus, and my friends and I headed down to their poker room. The only game they were running was 3-6 with only one blind. And there were four tables going at 2 A.M. So I bought in for a measly $60 and just wanted to spend some time playing with my friends. Across from me was a young guy who said he bought in for $100, but had about $500 in chips in front of him. I would have to watch out for that guy.

Well, the night went by with me losing with pocket Kings twice again. Once to that huge chip leader who won with the Big Blind special of 4-2o. Strange that he actually called my preflop raise though. Another time, I raised preflop with Kings and got four callers. This was strange because I had been playing extremely tight that night because of my small buy-in. And I knew that the players who came in were pretty decent players. Were they actually holding the goods or did they just have it in for me? I don't know. But I mucked my kings when an Ace came on the flop and there was heavy action. Sigh. But I was happy I made the right decision when the winner showed A-7 for top pair. A-7 huh? But they were suited. Yeah...good for you.

One thing that the Circus Circus poker room had was a daily raffle at 8:30 A.M. for $100. To be eligible you had to win with a flush or better between the hours of 11:30 P.M. and 7:30 A.M. to receive a raffle ticket. And you had to be playing at the time of the drawing. Well, there was no way I would miss this! With two raffle tickets, I hung on until 8:30 A.M. winning a couple small pots to keep me afloat. But I did not win the raffle. So I racked up and left with about $60 extra. Nice. At least I wasn't down. But considering I played about 6 hours during the wee hours of the morning, not as much as I had hoped for.

I got one whole hour of sleep, and then we had to get ready and check out. Played some blackjack here and there. Lost some, won some. Copperfield was great but so short. Headed out to Primm Valley for dinner, and then onward to home.

This was the first trip to Vegas where I actually gambled and came with the intention of gambling. It was a great experience, and I hope to go again some time soon.

Good luck at the tables.


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