Arrival in Mecca (Vegas Trip Report Pt. 1)
Monday, May 21, 2007
And thus begins the seemingly insurmountable task of retelling a weekend clouded by sleep deprevation, alcohol and just about any other vice available in Sin City.
The night before I flew out to Vegas for Dave Roose's bachelor party, I barely slept. I had packed and re-packed my bags three times to account for various contingencies like a nice meal, club attire, and hotter than expected weather (expected by me, and not expected by meteorologists or the lovely people in Vegas). Then I lay in bed and did my best to squeeze out 4 hours of sleep before I had to wake up and hit the road. Or more accurately, the trains.
When I got up, I threw on my pre-arranged outfit and headed out the door with a backpack and a medium-sized rolling suitcase busting at the seams. Like my poker ritual, I am very conscious of what I wear and bring into a plane. In a last-minute move, I had switched from jeans to my convertible grey cargo pants. I usually reserve the grey pants for poker, but the need to go from cool (NY) to warm weather attire (NV) required the obvious change. I also brought my hoody in case of a cold flight, and enough magazines and books to keep me entertained in case of a non-working TV or an inordinately long flight delay.
The flight was leaving early in the morning, and I arrived at the airport via the subway and a separate airport train system before 8am. Roose and Justin were already there, and we waited for G-Lan to arrive. Of course, we had our first prop bet, but Roose won out when G-Lan arrived sooner rather than later. Incidentally, betting the over on a wait is my favorite type of prop bet; even when you lose, it feels like a win because you get to leave earlier than expected.
Once inside the airport, we entered the security lines. I took the left-most line while the rest of the crew took the middle line. We then promptly had our second prop bet with me beating Roose to the metal detector by barely a foot. Even already!
The flight was mostly uneventful. Roose and I had seats in the front and settled in for some half-assed sleep attempts (about 40 minutes of sleep total over two attempts) and bad movies (Eragon).
Upon arrival, we called Scotty and Robbie Hole. They were on an earlier flight, having flown first class due to some miles (or maybe just generosity) from Scotty. Scotty, unlike the majority of the crew, is in his 40s, with kids and a wife. He owns a good business, and got invited to the Roose Home Game about two years ago through J.R., one of Roose's friends and Scotty's employee/co-worker. Over those 2 years, Scotty has become an integral part of the group, largely because of his fun-time mentality. His generosity is unparalleled, and I don't think anyone there could thank him enough for everything he did for us this trip. But we'll get to that later.
Scotty and Robbie Hole were in the airport getting their luggage, so they waited as we made our way down. Roose's eyes sparkled like a kid on Christmas at the sight of slot machines in the most mundane of places, an airport. We grabbed our bags (mine came off first for another prop bet win) and headed out for a cab.
We were staying in the Excalibur using High On Poker's modified Atlantic City Hotel Reservation System. As you may recall, the ACHRS requires the traveler to book the (i) cheapest (ii) casino hotel (iii) on the boardwalk. The logic is that the casino/hotels (a casino is a must) are all the same as long as they are on the boardwalk where access to one equals easy access to them all. Therefore, the only thing truly different is price, and hence the cheapest casino hotel on the boardwalk suffices. With little personal knowledge of Vegas, and a group with varied means, I decided to find the (i) cheapest (ii) casino hotel (iii) in a populated area of the Strip (iv) that was not a certified shithole. In that regard, Excalibur won out.
The truth is, Excal looks like something out of Disneyland. And I'm not talking about the Haunted Mansion either. I'm talking about a freakin' cheesy Princess castle of sorts, with blue- and pink-topped towers. The interior was not much better. The rooms were drab and brown. Our toilet had a weak flush that required a good 20 seconds of flushing. But, the rooms had beds and we paid off housekeeping to keep us well-supplied with towels without any of the other stuff. I have a general policy that I don't need someone to make my bed on a daily basis, and frankly, with the amount of cash around, I didn't need anyone coming into my room without me. My roommate, Scott, had the most cash of all, and he shared my sentiment. Sadly, the room lacked a safe.
Once we were settled in, the group was pretty hungry. We opted for the buffet, using the comps provided free with the room. Four people ate for under $3, and when this crew rolls into a buffet, we make sure we get our $3 worth.
After lunch, we met up with the rest of the crew. Randy Hole flew in the same flight as Roose's father Jack, his uncle Kenny and Roose's college friend Johnny. College friend Big Rob came in from Albany, NY as well. In total, there were 11 of us, a good amount for a cross-country, relatively expensive trip.
The gambling started off with table games. Fucking table games. Second only to Bayne as the bane of my existence. It started off well enough. Unlike AC, Vegas has a plethora of well priced (read: cheap) tables, including $10 PaiGow (AC is usually $20), $5 blackjack (AC is $10), and my favorite, $5 craps (AC is $10). This can be attractive to someone like myself, who recognizes the -EV nature of the games, but still is attracted to the lack of control inherent in these games of chance. Unfortunately, its easy to start with $5 bets and end with $25 or higher bets anyway, and while I don't remember what the initial culprit was, I didn't exactly bust the house.
Text messages were going to be the prefered form of communication for the trip. For one, you can communicate over the noisey dings and rings of the ever present slot machines. For two, you didn't have to argue with anyone who first wanted to do this or that. You simply typed, "Meeting at the bar at 7:30 and going for dinner." If people didn't show up, that was their right. But with this group, I strolled down at 7:15 and everyone was already there drinking away.
We had a very loose itinerary set up by yours truly. The goal was to at least have some pre-planned things so people could rage solo and return to the group at a given place/time. That went out the window pretty quickly due to the realities of our free-flowing Vegas experience, but at least the first night's dinner worked out. As a group, we headed in three cabs to Ellis Island, a shitty little casino about a block off the Strip by the Flamingo. I had eaten there twice on my first trip to Vegas, and it was an experience. I was hoping this group would warm to it also, being a group who largely consisted of people who were happy to find a bargain (more money left for booze, gambling and women).
Upon entering Ellis Island, I had second thoughts. My memory of the place didn't exactly include exquisite decor, but arriving there with a group made the place seem that much more desperate. We walked over to the restaurant and put in our name for a table. We were given a number and told that it would be 30 minutes. With not much else to do, we did what we always did, played table games. I settled in for some $5 blackjack, which turned into $10 blackjack and eventually $40 blackjack when our table was called. Overall, I lost $90, ironic since I insisted we head to Ellis Island for the $4.95 steak special.
By the time we sat at our table, everyone was happy on booze and gamblin'. The menus were dinky and people wondered where the steak special was listed. It wasn't. While Ellis Island has a great steak special it is not listed anywhere on the menu. Instead, its listed on the freaking table games. Right there next to the Insurance Bar is some red text, "$4.95 10 oz. Sirloin Special." Nine out of eleven of us ordered the steak. The other two ordered burgers, which ironically cost more than the steak.
Eating at Ellis Island was a lot like eating at Chucky Cheese at a birthday party. As soon as the orders were placed, half of the degenerate table got up to return to the table games. The returned just before soup/salad, which came with the $4.95 steak. I went with the salad (Ranch dressing) instead of gastrointestinally gambling on the soup, chili.
By the time the meal arrived, everyone was shocked. For under $5, the steak came with potato, vegetable and the aforementioned soup or salad. Ellis Island's micro-brewed beers only costed $1 each, so the place is a boon for any traveler looking to get fed and drunk on the cheap. Even better, everyone was amazed by how good the steak was, especially given the price. As the check was brought over, Scotty kindly took it from the waitress and announced that the meal was on him. We all put up a weak fight, but Scotty insisted. He would have done it regardless of the price, but it didn't hurt that the bill was $88 for eleven people.
Following our meal, we hung around Ellis Island enough to lose the rest of whatever we had not cashed in. We then decided to see some more of the city and headed by foot over to the Bellagio. Once there, I checked out the poker room. The room was semi-private, by the casino floor but seperated by a very low wall (think bench) with periodic pillars. The room seemed dead and Bobby's Room was empty. The cheapest NL game was $2/5. I decided that it was just not worth it to play. I had yet to warm up and I'm more of a $1/2 player for the time being. The rest of the crew got antsy and we decided to head back to the Excalibur. Before leaving I took a lap of the poker room looking for Linda from PokerWorks. No dice, so we hit the road.
Already things are getting hazey. Upon our return to Excal, I grabbed a PokerPages and checked the listings for decent tournaments. We couldn't decide on one until Roose decided to play the extremely cheap, extremely turbo tournament at Excal at 11am the next morning. Poker is poker, and while the fee was insane on the $25+10 game, I saw it more as a gamble than as skilled poker, and I was willing to spend $35 without a blink of the eye. Meanwhile, I settled in for some $1/2 NL.
I finally sat down in Excalibur's shitty poker room at about 1am. It was actually 4am NY time, and I was up since about 6am, so fatigue was definitely setting in. It only became more apparent as my play was slightly lackluster. I lost a decent pot when a seemingly drunk, fat, bearded yokel with a sleaveless shirt and a near-exposed gut raised $50 on a river card that made a straight. I had the slightly higher straight thanks to a hole card and called his bet, only to discover that the yokel had rivered a flush. I didn't even consider the possibility. I looked over to Roose and said quite plainly, "I didn't see the flush. If I'm not playing better in 9 minutes (the 1:45 mark), I'm calling it a night.
Roose was eventually stacked by a player who appeared conservative but called down all of Dave's top pair top kicker bets with a mid-pair, rivering an inside straight. I decided that he was my target and won back all of my losses when I held AA. I don't recall the hand in much detail, but my notes tell me that I bet $12, $20, $30 and $30 at each card even though my AA didn't improve. I was trying to keep that one guy in the hand, and sure enough, when we reached the river, I was ahead and took down a nicely fattened pot.
I only took notes for two more pots before I ended my session. The first one was just odd. I limped with J6s in the CO because there were a bunch of limpers and this was the type of table that would pay you off if you hit a weird combination. The flop was 654 and when it checked to me, I bet $12 expecting to maybe get one caller with a 7 or 3 going for the open-ended straight draw. To my surprise, I got 4 callers. Obviously, when the 4 turn came, I checked when the action got to me. There was only one person acting behind me, a middle-aged women that looked half-perplexed and half-tilted. She may have also been half-drunk. She thought for a moment and checked. The river was an Ace, and I knew I was done with this hand. When it checked to me, I checked as well. The woman on the button paused for a moment. She was going to bet, but last minute checked. At showdown, I won the hand. I don't know what those other players were doing in there, but my hand was nothing to write home about either. If the woman bet from the button, she would've taken the pot easily.
The last hand of the session was classic Jordan-Robbie Hole nonsense. When Robbie and I are at a table, we are usually pretty aggressive against each other, regardless of the conditions. In this case, I raised with JJ from late position and he was my only caller. I was happy with the Ten-high flop. I bet out and he called. I don't remember much in the way of specifics, but what I didn't know at the time was that Robbie had TT, for a flopped set. By the river, he had pulled a couple of more small-ish bets from me. When he showed his cards, I was hardly perturbed. If someone was going to take my chips, I'm glad it was one of our own. The fact that I didn't lose more in that situation made me happy too.
We left the poker room at 3:30 or later in the morning. It was 6:30 in New York. I was up for over 24 hours straight, but that is no big feat in Vegas. We played some more table games and eventually decided that sleep had to happen sooner or later. On our way up, Scotty said that he wanted to get some air. I didn't see him until many hours later when he stumbled into the room. By then, I was already asleep, dreaming of more poker to come. I was down $168 in poker and several hundred in table games, but there was a cheap ass tournament in the morning, and I planned on leaving the Excal for some more interesting poker destinations. So far, my play had been sub-par, but I knew I'd get my sea legs. Table games, however, were just a black hole of dough, and by the end of the trip, I'd realize how much of a black hole they are.
Part 2 will hopefully come a bit quicker than this one. Until then, make mine poker!
posted by Jordan @ 12:34 PM,
- At 4:06 PM, lj said...
ha! your "pre-arranged outfit?" i really thought only chicks did that.
- At 6:36 PM, meanhappyguy said...
nice recap, eagerly awaiting part 2
- At 10:05 PM, HighOnPoker said...
lj, you calling me a chick? I only set up my clothes when I have to wake up early to fly. I don't want to forget anything and I'm usually dressing in the dark in a mental fog.
- At 10:37 AM, KajaPoker said...
HoP, i have to hand it to you. Loosing $90 at table games in order to eat a $4.95 steak dinner is a new low in Vegas Bachelor Party culture.
You should have just saved those $94.95 and gone to a classy place like Delmonico's Steakhouse at the Venetian where you can order a freaking 28oz bone-in rib-eye with a side of creamed spinach and an excellent bottle of wine.
- At 11:27 AM, HighOnPoker said...
HAHA! Too true, Kaja, but this wasn't about winning money or fine dining. It was about having fun with my buddies, and on that account, $94.95 was well worth it.