First of all…sorry. This blog should have been posted about 2 weeks ago but I got caught up with life at the shore and have neglected to finish my WSOP 2011 story. So here it is…the exciting conclusion to my annual poker vacation to Las Vegas.
June 29, 2011 – Las Vegas, NV – Day Three
When we last left off I was down -$495 for my trip so far, but with two full days of poker left I felt I could get back in the black.
I decided to start the day by not playing poker but instead playing pinball. I figured a good way to stay off “tilt” was to check out the Pinball Hall of Fame which is right off of Tropicana Ave and looks like from the outside the most non-descript Hall of Fame in the world.
But once you get inside you enter perhaps the greatest collection of working
pinball machines in the world. Now, the Pinball Hall of Fame doesn’t have every single pinball machine ever made, but they are not far from it. Since 1991 the Hall has been collecting machines and encouraging the progress of pinball. 90% of the games cost 50 cents to play while the more recent machines cost 75 cents. I’d actually like to see every machine cost only a quarter but the selection and maintance of the machines make up for the extra cost.
The one thing about playing at the Pinball Hall of Fame is that much like how Funspot is the epicenter of arcade games and has the highest scores you’ll find in the world; the machines at the PHF have insanely high scores and getting a replay is almost impossible on a popular machine. I did get two free games though….thanks to matching the Match.
I played pinball for close to three hours before I figured it was time to go play poker. There’s something about playing pinball that makes your mind and reflexes sharper so I felt good as I got out of a cab in front of the Aria.
Since I had been having no luck at No Limit Hold’em I decided to change things up and play 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha at the Aria poker room. The Aria is the newest poker room on The Strip and it has wasted no time in becoming the hottest room in town for cash games, and PLO is the juiciest of the juice when it comes to action. In just one hour I won one of the biggest pots in my career and almost erased all of my losses for my trip so far.
The key hand: I’m sitting with roughly $500 in front of me and get AA910, I think one of the Aces was suited with diamonds. Eventhough this was a 1/2 game, PLO games, especially at the Aria, play very fast and aggressive. The action before the flop was $40 to go and I just called. Myself and two other players saw a flop of A34 with two spades, with $120 in the pot the first player bets out $80, I call and and a player behind me calls. The turn is a 9 of clubs. The initial bettor now checks and I bet $220, the player behind me tanks for about 2 minutes and then shoves all-in on me, the initial raiser folds and I call. The river comes a 9 of hearts making my hand a full house of Aces over 9’s. The villian mucks his hand and I’m pushed a pot of $1130, putting me up $630. I play for a little while longer and start to feel the momentum of my big hand starting to fade, and once you lose your mojo in PLO it’s wise to get up. I give back over $200 in the process of losing my mojo and left the Aria poker room up $406.
The sad thing about Pot Limit Omaha is that it isn’t spread as much as it should be in poker rooms. Pretty much if you’re going to visit a bunch of poker rooms you’re going to end up playing No-Limit Hold’em, which I don’t mind but I like changing things up from time to time. The Monte Carlo poker room is about 1/4 the size of the Aria’s room and they had about 5 1/3 No-Limit Hold’em games going when I got there. I sat down at what seemed like a pretty normal and straight forward hold’em game. The table was filled with middle-age men and older guys which usually means they either have it or they don’t. You wouldn’t anticipate any crazy moves or sick bluffs…looking back I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It turns out the table captain was this guy in his 60’s from South Korea who was more of a craps junkie than a poker player. He controlled the action of the table with his raises and re-raises. Even worst you could never get him off a hand, twice he called me down on a board like KQ649, I’d bet on river with a missed flush draw and he’d call me with his 56 for a pair of sixes. At the same time when he wasn’t calling you down with bottom pair he’d be ready and willing to play for stacks when he thought he had the best of it. I was waiting for my spot to get involved with him for a big pot but similar to the hold’em games the day before my opportunity never came. I closed my session down -$206 and headed back to the Stratosphere where I played some Roulette, Craps and got drunk on Pai Gow Poker.
Overall between the Pinball Hall of Fame, roaming the The Strip and tables games at The Stratosphere I didn’t really play much poker, but thanks to one big pot I did put a dent in my losses.
Aria 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha 1 hour: $406
Monte Carlo 1/3 NL Hold’em 4 hours: -$206
June 30, 2011 – Las Vegas, NV – Day Four
My flight home was tonight at 11:00pm so I had one full day left to win back my money. I decided to head to my favorite poker room in Vegas; The Venetian Poker Room.
The Venetian’s poker room is well run and has nonstop action. I find that on average the best grinders play here so the competition is above normal. If I was wise and really wanted to win back my money I would go find a softer game somewhere else, but I only get out to Vegas once a year these days so I wanted to test myself. I sat down at 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha game and although it wasn’t as fast and aggressive as my session at the Aria last night I did quickly accumulate an additional $200 or so to my starting stack. I gave back $100 and decide to stand-up before that bitch god named “Variance” got the best of me.
I hadn’t played any 2/5 No Limit Hold’em while I had been in Vegas and I decided to take a shot at one of those tables. The 2/5 game I sat down at was well above the normal game I usually play in. I bought in for $500 while most of the players at the table bought in for $1000. Unlike in Atlantic City where the max buy-in for a 2/5 game is $500, in Vegas most 2/5 games have a max buy-in of $1000 or even $1500. But I felt comfortable buying in for 100 big blinds so the starting stack sizes weren’t much of an issue. What was an issue is that the players at this table weren’t in Vegas for fun. These guys were dead serious poker players. They were going to test anyone and everyone who got in a hand with them. I saw some ridiculous bluffs and moves I would never see at the normal 1/2 game. A game like this raises your level of play but I was pretty much card dead. I saw multiple pots in the $500 range but I never really found a position to get involved in the action. Really the only hand of any significance I had was when I had pocket Kings and got one of the bigger stacks at the table to fold pre-flop when I 3 betted him. Since I really hadn’t been playing any hands it was easy for the other player to put me on AA or KK. After a few hours I decided to try my luck in the less shark infested waters of the 1/2 NL Hold’em games.
The 1/2 game I played in at The Venetian was a lot less volatile than the 2/5 game I was just playing but nothing I did seemed to work. Unsuccessful bluffs, AK losing to pocket pairs that held up. Over the next few hours I couldn’t make any hands while my opponents connected with everything. The last topping on my cake of fail came when I had pocket Jacks and the flop came 456 rainbow. I bet out and a short stack of about $100 shoves all in on me. I call and off course the villian flips over 78 for a flopped straight. I was done with poker in Vegas. It was around 8:30pm and I decided to collect my things and head to the airport for my 11:00pm flight home.
Venetian 1/2 Pot Limit Omaha 2 hours: $95
Venetian 2/5 No-Limit Hold’em 2 hours: -$89
Venetian 1/2 No-Limit Hold’em 2 hours: -$200
Final Total for Las Vegas Trip: -$489
Still nothing beats the energy of Las Vegas. As I boarded my flight home I wondered what if I had won that WSOP single table satellite four days ago. I checked to see who won WSOP Event #48 and some guy named Athanasios Polychronopouls won his first bracelet and $650,223. He was probably just a guy with a dream of poker glory. A guy just like me.