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It Hath Begun (Vegas Trip Report Pt 1)

The night before Vegas, I put myself to sleep by midnight. I had to be up at 5:30 so I could take a subway to a commuter train to an airport shuttle train. All in all the trip should've taken about an hour and thirty minutes, and I arrived promptly at the airport at 7pm for my 8pm flight. The greatest improvement for consumers in air transportation in the last 5 years must be the express check-in options. Nowadays, if you are willing to forego checking baggage, you can print out your boarding pass from home (or any computer with the Internet and a printer) or even just go to a kiosk computer at the airport for a quick, non-human check-in process. Even if you have bags, you can usually drop them off with someone quickly after printing out your boarding pass. But for me, this trip was all carry-on luggage, consisting of a rolling bag designed to fit into overhead compartments and my trusty ole backpack.

Why all carry-ons? Because when I arrived at Vegas, I didn't want anything to slow down my gambling.

The flight was uneventful. As a comic book fan, I was glad to see that the Delta in-flight movie was Stardust, a fantasy movie written and directed (I think) by Neil Gaiman, the comic author who brought us Sandman, probably the best mature comic book series ever. Unfortunately, the British Gaiman is best in common form, and the movie was a complete bore. I eventually turned on my iPod, put a bandana over my eyes and tried to sleep. I drifted off for a bit, but woke up in a panic. I was in the middle of a dream and when I opened my eyes, all I could see was darkness, thanks to the bandana. All I could hear was music, thanks to the headphones. I immediately thought, "OH SHIT! I MISSED MY FLIGHT!" I whipped off the bandana and looked around panic-stricken. My seat neighbor (two seats away, thanks to the empty middle seat) looked at me with concern. I finally realized that it was only a dream, I was IN the plane, and went back to sleep.

Later, when I woke up, I remembered my second dream. I was at the L.V. airport, but I couldn't find my bags or how to leave the building. I was walking around the building, which looked like an empty warehouse, confused as all hell. It was a nice bookend to my missed-flight dream. Fortunately, I arrived in Vegas safe and sound, and made my way to find a cab.

There is something very enjoyable about traveling solo. I only have one person to worry about, me, and I can be pretty laid back when it comes to the inconveniences of travel, as long as I am able to control my destiny when the opportunity arises. I found the cab stand quickly and made my way to the Imperial Palace, where I would be staying with roommate Poker Peaker. I later found out that GCox had taken a shuttle bus as did Peaker, probably saving them the $20 or so I spent on cab fare. But they had to wait, and Jordan does not wait for gambling, if he can help it.

On a side note, my neighbor in the airplane seemed like a nice girl. She was going through some documents and I asked if she was traveling for business or pleasure. She said both, so I asked if there was a convention in town. I was correct in assuming there was. It was a travel convention for industry professionals (i.e., not for consumers), and I filed that information in my head for later. I wanted some options for excuses as to why I was in town. I didn't think "Poker Blogger Tournament" would work, especially if I was at a poker table and wanted to keep incognito.

I asked the cab driver on the way to the IP if there was anything going on in town this weekend. No real conventions, he said, but there was the Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Ricky Hatton fight at the MGM on Saturday night and a Spice Girls concert in town. I said sarcastically, "Ooh, Spice Girls, I have to get tickets for that." He shot me a glance as though I was crazy, "Are you traveling with your daughter?" "I'm joking man." He looked relieved.

At the hotel, I saw GCox waiting with his wife by entrance. I had called them in the cab and they were looking for me. I reached into my bag and pulled out a "cowboy" hat I bought for cheap in NYC. I snuck up behind G and surprised him by coming from a roundabout direction. This is the fun you can have when people haven't seen you in person more than once about six months ago. Later, G told me that my hat was NOT a cowboy hat. Looking around at the National Rodeo Championship attendees, I began to see his point. Their hats had rolled up brims. But, any hat like mine would pass as a cowboy hat in NYC, so sue me if I'm not OKC certified!

I checked in only to discover that my room would not be ready for another three hours. G, luckily, was already in a room, so we headed there with Mrs. GCox to put down my bags. After that, the next stop was the casino, where we looked around for other bloggers, but found none.

Gambling started with a Pai Gow starter course for Mrs. GCox. She started off hesitantly at first, but less than 24 hours later, I would find her at a Pai Gow table playing the game like she was born to do it. I'm sure it helped that she was surrounded by bloggers. Pai Gow is fun, but Pai Gow with a rowdy group is even funner.

That first session of Pai Gow was pretty shitty, and I eventually walked away $50 down in less than an hour. When I walked, G and Mrs. G were still playing, but I decided that I did not want to five into that fowl beast called table games. I went over to the poker room to view my probable HQ.

The IP poker room isn't that bad, really. It's somewhat enclosed by a half-wall, but you can still see out into the casino and hear the dings of slot machines, something I usually dislike. Still, it wasn't too bad in its private area, with about 8 tables. At most times, there were at least two games going, generally 2/4 limit and 1/2 NL with a 100-300 buy-in. At random hours, a 3/6 limit game was going, as was a 2/5 NL, at different times. The dealers were competent and when they were not dealing, they acted as chip runners. In fact, the dealers really made the room, for the most part. They were friendly and encouraging, which works well for my sometimes offensive sarcasm, and works even better for encouraging players to have fun at the table.

The room has a couple of interesting promotions. There was a bad beat jackpot of about $62,000, but it was absurdly difficult to hit, requiring quad 10s to be defeated. Even so, there was a lesser high-hand jackpot that started at $50 and went up periodically. The high-hand jackpot setup was a lot different than anything you will see in Atlantic City. Its a board with prizes written out for quad 2s to quad Aces, 5-high straight flushes to King-high straight flushes, and Royal Flushes of each suit. In each category, each rank (quads list) or high-card straight (straight flushes) or suit (royal flushes) had its own prize, so if Quad 8s hit, that number would reset, but Quad 7s, for instance, would remain at its current prize.

There were a couple of other promos as well. Between the hours of 8am and 11am, if you have your Aces or Kings cracked, you get $50 or $100, respectively, provided that the pot reaches $10 and there are 4 or more players at the table. Between the hours of 5pm and 8pm, any full house using both of the players' cards gets a free spin on a wheel with half of the spots consisting of money prizes of $25-100 and the other half with prizes like mugs, hats, shirts and jackets.

I grabbed a seat in a 1/2 NL game. This trip report will be light on hand histories, because my priorities were not so much on hands as it was on enjoying myself and making money. The session, however, was a moderate success with a profit of $209 in a few hours. If memory serves correct, I eventually got up when Peaker called me to tell me that he was in Vegas. GCox stopped by to check on me and I cashed out to meet Peaker and get everything squared away.

Post-poker, I met Peaker, who looked pretty much how I pictured him, thanks to the wonders of digital photography. I got our room keys and went up to GCox's room to get my stuff. We all stopped in Peaker and my room.

If the casino in IP is a tad dated, the rooms are quite adequate. The word on the streets is that the IP is a slum. That really isn't a fair assessment. It's an adequate hotel and the rooms were average at worst. The furniture appeared to be fairly new (think 2000 or later) and more importantly, clean. The room didn't smell and there were no unexplained stains, things I've encountered in hotels with much better reputations. The TV was fine, everything worked. We even had a balconey, something that I absolutely love in a hotel room. I would kill for a balconey in my apartment. And I mean that too. Murder. I would murder another human being for a balconey. But at IP, I didn't have to murder anyone. I got the balconey with the room! (Ergo, the dead hooker was just for fun.)

We dropped off our stuff and then headed downstairs. I think we headed to Caesars, mostly to see who was there. We bumped into CK playing NLHE with RecessRampage. LJ was in a tournament, as was BadBlood, and I think another player or two were hanging around. Peaker and I considered sitting for the $1/3 NL game (100-500 buy-in) but I hate $1/3 blinds. Even though it is a minor difference from 1/2, that difference throws me off. Simply put, I know how bet sizing works better at 1/2 and even 2/5 than I do at 1/3. I can still play 1/3, but overall, if presented the choice, I'd prefer 1/2. Vegas is nothing but choices, so we headed back to the IP for some NLHE.

I think Peaker and I sat down for some 1/2 NL. We were both mostly card dead, but I still eked out a small profit around $80-120 before we breaked. Peaker acknowledged that I must've been card dead, since I didn't play many hands. True enough. I just wish that I could've offered Peaker more insight into his game, since he is relatively new to live NLHE casino poker. The truth was that he played well from what I could see. I never think playing tight is a problem in 1/2 NLHE, and that is exactly what he did. If memory serves, Peaker lost a big pot when a maniac hit his set over Peaker's big pair, but that is the very nature of the game.

There is one hand that stuck with me. Being card dead, I was happy to see A8h. A player across the table was tilting pretty heavily. He was also playing very loose, so when he entered the pot for a raise, I called. The flop was 942, rainbow, with one heart. I checked and the donk bet out. I didn't believe that he had hit anything, so I called. The turn was an 8, so I had a pair. I checked and he bet out again. This time, I min-raised him. He pushed all-in for $80 or so more, which was probably around the pot size. Even though I had 2nd pair, I called happily. He showed KJ for a bluff with overcards. The river was a Queen and I felted him. I wouldn't make that play against any other player at the table, but this guy really asked for it.

Sometime before this, I had grabbed a burger at the local burger place in the IP. It actually wasn't that good, but it did the job of stopping the hunger pains. There were no real plans for Thursday night, and Peaker and I were both already thinking about dinner. We met up with a bunch of other bloggers at the IP Geisha bar. There are too many to list, but I particularly recall meeting Buddy Dank, one of the guys who were high on my must-meet list. Meanwhile, I was in constant contact with other bloggers via text messages, including CK. We were floating the idea of getting some dinner, but it didn't look like it was going to happen.

Finally, Dank, Peaker and I decided to get some sustenance, as we headed to the Pizza Palace in the IP. We merely needed something simple and that would work. As we sat, I got a call from CK asking about dinner. I told her where we were, and she said to order something for her. I complied and she arrived about 10 minutes later. For dinner, I went with a sausage and peppers parmigaina hero. It did the job.

The four of us headed downstairs where we met up with more bloggers, including Iggy, who was originally introduced to Peaker as Grubby, continuing a long tradition of people who originally think Iggy is Grubby. I was privy to this tomfoolery since it happened to GCox last year, so I played along until Iggy admitted his true identity.

It was really great meeting Iggy, the Blogfather of Poker. It was no surprise that, like everyone else, he was a generous and warm guy. What I couldn't figure out, however, was how he had gotten on that bar stool. The poor little guy must've been half the stool's size! He handed me a golden hammer pin that I wore proudly for the rest of the trip. He also got me my first alcoholic drink of the trip, which seemed appropriate.

The rest of the night is really a blur. People came and went. I hit a NLHE table and won $209 in two orbits before getting up and leaving, which is kinda a dick move, but I like my moneys. The hand in question saw me with AK. The flop was K44, and I checked to the young kid who appeared to be trying to prove something. He bet out and I acted upset until I flat called. The turn was a blank and I checked. He pushed. I called and he showed KJ. I really like the slowplay in that position. I'm ahead of every hand except one holding a 4. He definitely did not have AA based on preflop play, and he probably had something other than a bare 4 since he called a preflop raise. By checking, I allowed him to think that his top pair was gold. Quite the opposite.

After poker, I joined Maigrey and Instant Tragedy at a $5 min craps table...and lost $125. That's when I decided that I had to curb my table games. I made my way back to the bar where I hung out and met more bloggers. At some point it all got a bit overwhelming. People are constantly coming and going in casinos. Add bloggers half of which are addicted to poker (the other half is just addicted to gambling in general), and bars and its like standing in the middle of a busy Grand Central Station, except for the fact that you know everyone, if not by face than by name. In fact, it was a bit too overwhelming and at one point, I just wandered the casino floor trying to keep my head straight.

After a while, a bunch of people were heading to a nearby shithole casino for dirt-cheap craps. I already decided to stop the table games so I passed. It was fairly late, 3:30am, if I'm not mistaken, and I had been up for nearly 24 hours. I headed upstairs with Peaker and we hit the sack. I would be awake a mere 5 hours later, but that wouldn't stop me from a marathon day with tons of poker, including my first experience playing HU NLHE at a casino (for stakes higher than my usual game no less) and my foray into sports betting.

Until next time, make mine poker bloggers!

posted by Jordan @ 12:27 PM,


At 10:08 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Can't wait for part 2. This is so detailed I won't ever have to write another word about it! Thanks man!

At 12:16 PM, Blogger CarmenSinCity said...

I am so glad we finally got to meet!!!!!!!! And, I gotta say, you are even better in person :) I hope you come back out in June so that we can spend more quality time together - bring wifey kim next time so that I can go shopping with her :)

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Ignatious said...

had a blast, sir. i'm just damn happy you came to hang.

can't wait till next time.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

Wow. I know I can always count on you for a fabulously detailed trip report.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Thanks guys. CK, I'm so busy the rest of this week. I'm almost worried that the rest of the report will be a lot less detailed. But, come to think of it, that might be a good thing. This one took forever.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger StB said...

You did hear that the bad beat jackpot hit on Sunday night. Good for $140 if your butt was in a seat.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Bring on the commie lovers!

OUTSTANDING time with ya Jordan. Now we almost had to pull you away from the table to keep me from going ape-$hitzz on the commie lover.

We'll meet again for Okie-Vegas...



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