Facty and I have been to Vegas a number of times. We went for our honeymoon and a few times before the kids came along. Then we didn’t go for a long time. Last year, we thought that the kids were finally old enough to handle three days with grandparents. We had a great time and vowed to return as soon as possible.
That was before poker. Over the last year, we, like so many, have been bitten by the poker bug. A trip to Vegas took on a new meaning. We could play poker - live - with humans - in the same room. While I have been playing a bit at Commerce and in home games, Facty really has been limited to online play. So I was very excited to play in Vegas, and Facty, although a bit apprehensive, wanted to give it a try live.
But this trip was also to celebrate our 10th anniversary and Facty’s birthday, so I did not plan on parking myself in a poker room for 3+ days. It would have to work its way into our schedule, a couple hours at a time.
We arrived on Friday night at about 7pm and checked in to the Venetian. Not the usual type of place we stay in, but this was our 10th and wanted it to be a bit special (we also cashed in a mess of rewards points to get a deal). We decided to have a nice dinner at Aquanox in the hotel and have a look around. Food, wine and service were all very good. We did not do any serious gambling.
I wanted to try a holdem tournament while in Vegas, and had found via RGP and PokerPages that Luxor had cheap ($25) daily tourneys. We headed over to Luxor and found the poker room. 12 or so tables. I asked about the 10am tourney the next morning and was told that registration started at 8:30am, they capped the entries around 50, and, yes, it usually sold out before 10am. It sounded like a reasonable first live tourney experience, so we decided to try it.
Next morning at 8:30 or so, we paid our $25 each and registered. the only game going on at the time was a full no limit table, so we decided to go kill the 90 minutes at craps. I won $65 at the craps table, making the poker tourney a freeroll. We headed back to the poker room at 10. We were seated at adjoining tables and the tourney started. We were given a paltry t$300 and told we could add-on t$50 more for $3, which i did. The structure was explained: we started playing limit with blinds that started at 15/30 and went up every 15 minutes. After one hour, we would go to no limit. It didn’t take long to realize that this was a total crapshoot. It was going to take some luck early and big pots to survive this structure.
Of course, I got no cards early and was being blinded off. The blinds raised to 30/60 and I was shortstacked already. Facty hung in for a while, but eventually busted out and went to the rail to watch. Meanwhile, I caught a lucky flop (Kx8) from the big blind with K8s and threw in my last chips on the river, doubling up. I caught a few more hands and stayed ahead of the increasing blinds. The first hour ended and we switched to no limit with 2 tables left. On the first hand of no limit, 3 people went all in. It was as if they were just waiting around for the no limit to start so they could say “all-in” and push their last few chips in, like they see on tv. Apparently, the same happened on the other table, and we were pretty quickly combined to one final table. I hit the final table severely short stacked, with t$850 with the blinds at 200/400. I knew I had to pick a hand and push it in. The cards did not cooperate and I folded until the big blind came around. I threw my t$400 in and was dealt Q8o. Not good, but better than all the hands I’d folded in this orbit. While the cards were dealt, the buzzer rang and the next raise of blinds was announced. on the next hand, my small blind was going to be t$400 again. it wasn’t much of a decision to push in with the q8. A9 called me and I got no help. I was done in 10th, the first one out at the final table. Top 7 got paid.
But I felt good about the way I played. I didn’t think I made any serious mistakes. And frankly, making the final table in my first live tourney was kind of cool, even if it was this little 50 player, training wheels tournament. I decided to play it again Sunday morning while Facty was getting a massage at the spa.
My extensive RGP and internet research indicated that Excalibur, next door to Luxor, also had a poker room that was good for the newbie. They offered a free 2:00 pm class that taught holdem, table ettiquite, etc. After 30 minutes, it broke into a 1-3 spread limit game. Facty wanted to try it, so we came back at 2 and I got into a 1-3 spread game while she took the class, figuring that one of us could get a table change once the class broke up and we could play together.
The game was pretty soft, with lots of players taking their second pair to the river with obvious flushes and straights on the board. lots of people with no clue about the betting structure, no idea when it was their turn, trying to fold their blind in an unraised pot preflop, etc. I did pretty well. I played pretty tight, though there were times I knew I could see flops cheaply. Most of players were very passive and very easy to put on a hand. Facty was winning a bit in her game, and I was up $40. I gave a little back before we picked up and headed back to the room.
I found that the dealers were, for the most part, great at Excalibur. Friendly, efficient and entertaining for the most part. Very unlike Luxor. Facty had a great time and we left vowing to spend more of the rest of the weekend playing poker.
we dressed and went out for another nice dinner, this time at Bouchon. The salmon was good, the dark chocolate mousse was better. We proceded to thank the Venetian with a quick donation at the craps table. Sunday morning Facty had her spa appointment, so I decided to try the Luxor tourney again. This time I sat in a $2/$4 game while waiting for the tourney to start and played about even. The tourney had the same structure and I was at table 1 with one of the few decent dealers there. I limped through the first three levels, winning only one or two hands. My “stack” (I guess it was a stack) was getting a little low. during level 4 our table was broken up and I was moved to table 3, which featured the worst dealer I have ever seen in my short time playing live poker.
As short as I was (about $t500), many were shorter, and we had many all-ins and side pots, which were beyond the capabilities of the dealer. She could not get the main pots and side pots settled, and on more than one occassion, two or three players had to help her get things straight. Right before level 5 and the switch to no limit, another table was broken up and players were sent to our table. we had been playing 11 handed at full tables, so it was not obvious for a couple of hands that we ended up with 12 players sitting at our table! By the time someone noticed, one had been knocked out, so we were at 11. Ugh. During another adventure with sidepots ensued, our dealer missed the buzzer to raise the blinds, so we got a couple of discount hands before someone realized we should have been at $t200/$t400. The whole thing was ugly and many of the players were getting angry at the whole thing.
During all this, I was bled down to $t350. With the blinds approaching, I looked down and saw JJ. It was easy to push my $t350 in, not sure whether I wanted a call or not. I didn’t have long to ponder that, as the guy behind me immediately comes over the top for his last $t700. The speed with which he did this did not look good for me. A couple of folds and then the 1s goes all-in for $t3000 or so. I flip my jacks, 7s turns over AQo, 1s turns over QQ and I knew I was going down. An ace on the turn gave the 7s the pot. I was out in 18th. I wasn’t unhappy about my play, but I was pretty annoyed at the way the tournament had been run, so I left a message for facty to meet me at Excalibur when she was done and walked over.
The rest of sunday was about the most fun I’ve ever had gambling in Las Vegas. We sat at the low limit games in Excalibur for most of the rest of the day. The players were friendly for the most part and, again, the dealers were so much better than Luxor. A couple of hands from this session: three hands after I sit down in the 8s I see AQs. I raise and the 1s calls. Flop comes 8A8, he stares for a moment and leads out. I know right then he has an 8, but I don’t want to believe it. I call. I called his bets all the way to the river and he turns over … 8 freaking 4 suited. Ugh. I could actually feel myself starting to tilt, which had never happened to me in a live game. I mumbled to my neighbor that something like, “I guess thats a hand to call a raise with”. He didn’t say anything. I took a couple of hands off after that one.
Another hand from the same table: I (8s) get AK in middle position and raise the max. Folded around to a woman on the button (1s) who called. She was new to table and I had no read on her at all. Flop was K92 rainbow - perfect. I lead out and she calls. Ok. Turn is a blank. Bet, call. River is another blank. Bet, call. I turn over my TPTK and she turns over … bullets! Never raised me. Called all the way. No idea. Then, the dealer pushes me the pot! what? the whole table erupts and he realizes his mistake. I push the pot back to him. Facty was in the 4s and said later that everyone thought I was very nice for giving the pot back. It never really crossed my mind to do anything else…
At 5pm, the free buffet showed up, which most everyone jumped on. We took a quick look thought better of it. We walked over the Mandalay Bay for some comfort food from Red, White and Blue. I thought facty might give up on me after dinner, but she was up for more! We went back and played until almost 1am, when both of us were tired and staring an early morning drive home. 2nd to last hand - again I’m in the 8s and see AJ. I raise and and 2s and 6s (from the blind) call. The 6s is a big, dumb, corn-fed, frat-boy lineman who was seeing every flop and most rivers. He was all over the place. Flop is AT3, 6s checks and I lead out with top pair. 2s folds and 6s calls. Turn is an 8, 6s checks, I bet, he raises! I figure either he paired his weaker kicker for 2 pair, or he slow played a set on the flop. River is a 7. He bets, I call and he shows me (drumroll please) … 69s. Yay! He rivered a gutshot straight after checkraising me with nothing. I didn’t look at him or say anything.
Our final tally: poker: +$100, craps, -$200. I don’t emember exactly when, but I know that I gave luxor about $85 in ten minutes at a craps table. Honestly, we’ve never left Vegas down only $100 from gambling. And next time, i suspect we’ll lay off the craps and maybe finish ahead.
We agreed on the way home that it was out best Vegas trip ever, and need to figure out how to repeat it more than once per year.