Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why Aren't The Games Always This Easy?

The big anniversary trip to Vegas started with a delayed flight. This threw a slight crimp in my plans to meet my friend, Teresa for lunch. Instead of a nice leisurely lunch at a nice restaurant, we were forced to grab a quick bite at a restaurant near the airport. Still it was nice to catch up and it saved me a $20 cab ride to my hotel.

After checking in at Caesars Palace, I decided to see if I could book a massage for Friday. I made a mental note that I was not going to pay more than $200. I asked for the price of a 75 minute massage at the Qua spa and it was $220. Wow! That's more than $3 a minute if you include tip. I said no to the massage and counted myself up $200 already.

I jumped into a $1-$3 No Limit Hold'em game at the poker room and I could tell right away that it was a good game. There was an old married couple in the game and the husband was legally blind with macular degeneration. The dealer had to read the board to him more than a few times. Now just because you're blind doesn't mean you are a bad player, but this guy also loved to call big bets with any pair. Naturally I managed to flop two sets against him when he flopped a pair and took his stack both times.

His wife was not much better, but I never got the chance to pick on her.

After a few hours of profitable poker, I joined my wife and some of her compatriots at the Palm restaurant in the Forum Shops. Dinner was fantastic! We had crab cakes and shrimp for appetizers. I had a filet mignon for dinner that was incredibly tender and cooked perfectly. I also enjoyed some shoe string potatoes and creamed spinach for side dishes and some great chardonnay.

I was so full of wine and food after dinner that I couldn't keep my eyes open and went to bed by 10:00 PM.

I woke up early the next morning and was itching to get back to the poker table. I love to play early and catch the drunks and tired players who have been there all night. Sure enough I sat down and there were two players that had over $1500 in front of them. I quickly figured out they had that money because they were a little crazy. I managed to win a few pots and decided I wanted to play the 9:00 AM tournament.

I was told that they usually get 3 tables for this tournament on weekdays, but there were only 10 players for this one. I won the draw for the button and picked up Queens on my very first hand. I won a small pot and was off to a good start.

I quickly deduced that there were some bad players in this tournament and I could win some big pots if I hit my hands. Unfortunately I had some bad luck and got crippled early. I picked up AQ and raised in late position. The early position limper called my raise and we were heads up to the flop. The flop had an Ace, my opponent checked and I made a 3/4 pot sized bet. He called and we see the turn of a Jack. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think that put a straight or a flush out there. My opponent checked and I decided to keep the pot small by checking behind. The river was another Jack and this time he led into me with a bet. I figure that I have to call since he could be bluffing after I showed weakness on the turn. He rolls over Ace-Jack for a full house. So he 3 outed me for a big pot and I was down to 15 BB.

A couple of players busted out and I played shove monkey poker for a while and never got called. Most of my hands were weak Aces or middle suited connecters. I knew that the players were getting irritated with me and they were going to spite call me soon. Luckily I picked up two Queens. There was a raise from early position and I pushed all in for 10 BB. He called with Ace-King and we were off to the races. Luckily the Hilton Sisters held up and now I had a stack to work with.

We got down to 5 players and the blinds went up, so I was getting short again. The player who beat me with Ace-Jack earlier had been playing back at me on a couple of my blind steals. This time, he raised in early position. I had the big blind and I pushed all in with As-2s. I like my play here because I definitely had enough to make him fold most hands. Plus having an Ace in my hand made it less likely that he had one as well. And if he wakes up with KK or something nearly as good, at least I have an Ace I can hit.

Shockingly he called and turned up Ad-3d. What a horrible call! Most likely we would have a chop since as long as all 5 cards are higher than a 3, we will have the same hand. Unfortunately I hit my 2 on the turn which ended up giving my opponent a straight.

The $70 I lost in the tournament was my only losing session of poker for the weekend.

After a brief break, I decided to check out the new poker room at the Aria casino. As far as poker rooms go, it's pretty nice but nothing better than the Venetian or Caesars. They do have the Phil Ivey high stakes room, which seems to be inhabited by Jean-Robert Bellande most of the time. He was there when I got there and playing with Jason Mercier, Barry Greenstein, and Todd Brunson.

They opened a new game of $1-$3 No Limit and I sat down to see if my streak would continue. I am starting to hate starting new games. They always play so tight for the first hour.

The Aria was the sight of my "what if" moment of the trip. I picked up AsKd under the gun. I raised to $15 and got 5 callers. The flop was Qs-9s-3s. The small blind led out for $50. He had been playing pretty solid so he probably had a pretty good hand. I called to see what would happen behind me. The player on my direct left, then raised to $150. This cleared out two players and it came back to the small blind. He only had $80 left and he called pretty quickly. The raiser had about $150 left in his stack.

I sat back and did some math in my head. The pot was $405 and it was $100 for me to call. The question was, did one of the other players already have a flush? The under the gun player might, but that would still leave me with 7 outs and a 28% chance at winning the pot by the river. If he had a set, then I have 9 outs and a 36% chance. Instead of calling, I could raise all in for $250. This would make the pot odds $250 to win $555. A little better than 2-1 odds. I knew the player on my left was capable of raising with as little as top pair, so I may have even more outs against him.

I said, "Let's gamble, I'm all in" and pushed my stacks towards the middle. Now the player on my left hesitated. He actually wondered if he was drawing dead. This made me feel better. Even though it was only $150 to win $650, I would think that he would call with almost anything. He finally called and showed Ace-Queen with no spades. The small blind had pocket 3's for a set of 3's.

The dealer flipped over the turn card and it was the 8 of spades! Awesome, this may be the biggest pot I ever win. "Don't pair the board" I commanded the dealer. He didn't listen and paired the 8. Now the dealer tries to make sense of the side pot. He chops it up and sends three 20 chip stacks of $5 chips to me. Wait, what? After 5 minutes of math in my head, I realize that by winning the side pot against the player with Ace-Queen, I only lost $20 in the hand. Hey I'll take that as the consolation prize any day.

Eventually I chopped out a small $50 profit and went back to meet my wife for dinner. We stayed at Caesars and went to the Teppan-yaki restaurant in the hotel. It was a pleasant and quiet dinner. The sushi was excellent and once again, the steak was fantastic.

After dinner we headed to the Bellagio to look at the Christmas display and reminisce about our wedding 5 years ago. After snapping a few pictures and stopping by the bakery back at Caesars for a little dessert, we had run out of things to do. Michele was feeling tired and it was only 8:00 PM. I tried to reach one of my friends who was in town, but he left his phone in the room. Michele graciously offered to let me go play poker while she went to bed.

This had the makings of a disaster, since in most people's eyes I was doing the "wrong thing". But trust me, Michele was going to be asleep within five minutes of getting to the room and I would have been in bed staring at the ceiling for two hours.

I went back to the poker room at Caesars and this time it was hopping. Luckily I got in a game right away. Soon after, a young man in his 30's sat down and whipped out a thick wad of 100's. He bought in for the $500 max and immediately announced that he would raise his first hand without looking at his cards.

He followed through on that promise and kept doing it for the entire time I was there. $25 preflop and at least $25 on the flop almost every hand without looking at his cards. He kept trying to get the guy next to him to join him in the escapades but he wasn't buying it. For whatever reason, this guy was on life tilt and was just looking to gamble. I just tightened up and waited for my opportunity. Finally I got it when I called his raise with Kd 4d in the small blind. There were two other players in the pot and the flop was K-T-6. I checked with the intention of check raising all in. The crazy guy bet $50 and the other two players folded. I raised all in for about $250 and he called. He claimed he had Ten-six but when he rolled over his hand, it was Ten-Eight. My top pair held up and I raked in a nice pot.

One of the dealers was starting to get irritated with the crazy guy because he was betting out of turn and trying to blind raise preflop before the cards were even dealt. A floor man was called and I could feel the situation was going to get tense. I don't have any fun at these types of tables where everyone is on pins and needles. Plus I didn't need the crazy guy to get mad and start playing solid poker. It was 10 PM and I decided to call it another profitable night.

Overall I came out $760 ahead for the trip in one of my most successful trips of all time.

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