Las Vegas Trip Report Part 1

On the flight over, we were in first class because that is the way I roll. I’m the king of the frequent flier groove. Before we took off, the pilot was standing at the front of the bus (it was a 757, so people entered through the middle door) chatting with us. USAir converted their 757s so that there are only 8 seats in the front, so there is always a lot of arm wrestling and complaining about the difficulty in getting upgraded. The woman who was supposed to sit behind me wanted to sit in the back with her friend because she couldn’t get her companion upgraded. They gave another seat to a blind guy who wouldn’t have qualified otherwise, which seemed like a class move in my opinion. Except at the last minute another agent tried to eject the blind guy and move him back into coach to clear someone else for the front. The pilot refused to get involved, but the FAs clearly thought this was a very lame move. In the end, they left the blind guy and forced the woman to take her seat and move out of coach. I couldn’t figure that one out. As soon as we were airborne, she just walked back and offered to trade seats with the guy in the seat she wanted. He probably just about broke his leg sprinting up front. The funny thing is that the pilot was chatting with us waiting for all this crap to get sorted and he noticed my ITH hat. I advised him that I was headed out to play in the World Series of Poker and he apologized for not recognizing me from TV. I assume he figured if I was a poker player who rode first class, I must be a big shot. Unfortunately, before I could chastise him in Hellmuthian fashion for not knowing who I am, SuitedPair laughed and said I was a nobody. Thanks, babe.

As soon as we landed, I fired up the cell phone and found out that Matthew was still alive in the pot limit event with the field down to a few dozen. We carried our bags on, so we were in a rental car and speeding to the Rio in record time. Just as I walked in the poker room, I got the call that he had just busted. We caught up on the gory details from Chris and PokerElmo and watched Matthew collect his bundle of cash from the cage. Afterwards, we met up with Tanya and had a drink or three in the main Rio bar. Jetlag, time zones and alcohol conspired to send us to bed around midnight.

The next day was a warm up day before we played in the big event. We decided to ignore poker for the most part and did some tourist stuff. We checked out the Star Trek thing at the Hilton (Suited is a big Trekkie), got some massages and generally goofed off. I did call Elmo at some point and was happily chatting away with him about some tourney he was playing for like 10 minutes before he pointed out that he was actually playing at that very moment and it would be helpful if I hung up the damn phone. Oops.

I met up with Niin and Angelfish and made the casino game discovery of the trip. They were playing a casino table game version of hold’em which is played as a head up game between the player and the dealer. The dealer plays their cards blind and the player has the option to double his ante or fold once he sees his hole cards and has the option of matching his ante after he sees the flop and turn. We surmised that the correct strategy was to play every hand and to jam every pair or Ace high to the river. This turned out to be wrong, but interesting nonetheless. This game would be a staple of the trip and we got better and better as it went along. I actually won a few hundred with my seriously flawed strategy the first day.

Niin, Angel, Suited, Elmo and I all had dinner together at the Rio and then headed over to the Venetian for some donkified NL. Everyone else got on a 1/2 NL list and I was going to play some high dollar limit action. They suggested that it would be more fun if we all played NL together, so I dropped $200 on the table and started donking it up. I won a few pots here and there, got called down by Niin with Queen high (which happened to be good) and was having some fun. In one early hand, Suited came over the top of me all-in on the flop. I had a piece of the board, but she looked pretty strong to me (as if I ever have a clue what she is thinking). She asked me “Do you want me to count it down, buttercup?” which caused the dealer to dissolve into fits of laughter. He then referred to me as buttercup for the rest of his down. No tips for him. Despite the fact that some of us (Niin and I especially) were playing a bit LAGish, it probably wasn’t a great table for the usual 1/2 NL crowd who were mixed in with us. Elmo went out of his way to explain the situation to the people near him and the people at the other end were mostly trying to nut peddle, so they didn’t mind us at all. I did stack a poor player when I caught a rough two pair and a straight, but he was going to go broke no matter what I did. There was a quite aggressive Asian guy two to my left, who tangled with me repeatedly. He seemed pretty good to me, often applying pressure that caused me to bail on a few pots where I suspected I might be good if I called him. He had just about doubled and had me covered when we tussled on the big pot of the night. I check-raised him on a flop of QQT holding AT and pushed the turn King. The board did have a flush draw and a straight draw, but I think I had to look like a Queen. It was the biggest pot played on the table (we were probably the two biggest stacks) and he thought forever before calling me. I assumed that a call meant I was drawing dead or maybe needed a Ten. I figured he must have JJ/KT/JT/Kx or maybe AK. The river was a blank and I sheepishly tabled my pair of tens. He looked really disgusted and mucked. We never did decide what he held there, but I assume it must have been the nut flush draw. He probably figures the jacks, aces and flush cards give him the pot. If so, it was a bad call I think, but I probably looked wild to him. I really thought he would fold to the turn bet without a big, big hand. Suited wound up busting out, probably to Angelfish or PokerElmo, who were quietly amassing a mound of chips. I covered her losses plus a bit, Angelfish and Niin had to be a nice winner collectively, although I think Niin may have dropped a few dollars and Elmo was certainly up. All in all, it was fun and profitable.

The next day was the WSOP event six NL 2k event. I had a fine table with no names and Matthew was sitting at the table next to mine. The rest of the ITH crew were scattered about. The structure made it hard to do much post-flop. I decided I was going to splash around in the first two levels and establish a loose image and try to get paid off when I hit something. Playing tight and waiting for a good hand in level three or four would also be a valid strategy, but I didn’t feel like playing boring poker. I ranged from 3k to 1k, but felt like I had excellent reads and showed down a couple of rough hands that ensured I was going to get some action. During the first round, Matthew tapped me on the shoulder and told me he was out. I was suprised but not shocked. We’ve talked about our approach to these events enough that I know that he was looking to get involved early too and all it takes is one bad hand to get stacked. He said “I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar” and wandered off. I also saw Chris walking the rail during the second level, so I knew he was out too, although we didn’t get to talk about it. I finished the first two levels about even and felt good about my chances to get some big hands paid. I got my wish when I flopped middle set with JJ on an AJT board. I wind up getting the other guy all-in with AQ on the turn and he is drawing to four outs. Of course, he hits one of them and I’m now precariously short. If my set held up, I would have been in good shape with about 5,500 chips. As it was, I was down to less than 1,000. I pushed first in on the CO with trash a few hands later, but the BB woke up with AK and called me. I had two live cards, but couldn’t hit.

In short order, the whole ITH crew was in the “loser’s lounge” at the Starbucks and we bemoaned our fate for a while. We had worked out a chop where we would all share if one of us cashed, but none of us even made the dinner break. I was a bit surprised by this, but it mostly reflects the lottery nature of the structure.

We all completely took over the casino hold’em table and had a blast trying to work out the optimal strategy and openly sharing our hole cards with each other. Despite knowing all the dead cards, Suited and I still managed to drop more than I won in my first session. The dealer was catching two pair and straight and sets like mad. It was annoying. The pit boss told us it was OK to share cards, although later on we were told that this was strictly forbidden. I think it is sort of like PaiGow poker — they don’t want you to do it systematically, but they don’t really bother with doing it once in a while. We had a great time teasing Matthew about losing money when he is an author on the probabilities involved in HoldEm. We made better tactical decisions with our collective poker wisdom focused on the game, but were still making errors. When I got home that night, I fired up PokerStove and developed a greatly improved strategy. I thought that proper strategy combined with knowning dead cards would make this a +EV game, but later math shows me that it probably is still -EV, but better than any game in the casino. I think it is very close to breakeven if you know eight cards and figure out the correct strategy for when to bet the flop and turn. It isn’t as obvious as you might think.

We all wound up at an Indian place in the Rio for dinner and had a great time. Afterwards, Niin, Angelfish, Suited and I all went back to the WSOP room. They played sats and I played ring games. Suited and Angelfish were in the same game, which Angel wound up winning. I was in a juicy limit game, but wound up only cashing out $50 or so.

Part 2 will cover my run at the 3K Limit event and the rest of the trip.

By Nsidestrate

I'm a hard-core limit ring game poker player who is becoming a degenerate sports bettor. I'm sure it will all make more sense if you read on.