Extremely last minute, two day trip to Vegas


Trip Dates: 1/8-1/10
Last week and I was sitting in the parking lot at work, just about to start my graveyard shift. Being in the northwest, I'm pretty used to rain. But two months straight of rain can get to anybody. I just couldn't take it anymore... I was getting depressed. I felt I couldn't work one more day. 'Wouldn't it be nice if I could just get away right now?' Then it dawned on me- What's keeping me here? I have the money (just won $730 in a tournament the week before), I have a new bucket of vacation for the new year, and I'm kid-free for a few days. I'm outta here!

I called in sick from the parking lot and headed straight for the airport. I didn't even go home to pack anything- not even a toothbrush! So one minute I’m sitting in a parking lot in rainy Oregon and three and a half hours later I’m sitting at a poker table at MGM Grand. My first impression of MGM- it’s loud! It was almost 11pm so the nightclub next door was in full swing. I knew from the descriptions on AVP that a bar/nightclub was right next to the poker area but I didn’t realize the noise level would be that much. In my opinion, it was intolerable and I had a hard time concentrating on what I was doing. I was able to get a $1-2 NL table right away, but 45 minutes was all I could take before I had to leave. If I was to ever play there again, I would hit it during the day or afterhours.

Next place was Caesars Palace. I was a bit worried before entering the poker area because right outside was, you guessed it, another nightclub. However, the music is pretty well insulated from the poker room. And wow, what a room it is. It’s beautifully decorated and very spacious. The staff and cocktail service was very attentive. Unfortunately, I hit Caesars during the wrong time of day (close to midnight) and my table, as well as the rest of the room, was starting to thin out. So after playing for a couple of hours and breaking even at my $1-2 table I decided to move on.

The Belligio was right next door so I decided to check it out. Maybe if I was lucky I could look in on a high stakes game in Bobby’s Room (don’t see too many high rollers in Oregon!). But, there weren’t any games going on in Bobby’s Room, nor were there any $1-2 games going on either. And when I went to ask the floor guy about it (which I had to look for cause no one was manning the desk) he was kinda rude and snobby. So I was outta there.

Last stop for the night was TI. Their poker room is small, and sorta away from the rest of the casino. They had about 3 full tables going when I got there. I sat down at a $1-2 table and once again, broke even. The whole time these guys at my table kept talking about ‘CIS’. I finally asked them what it was. “You don’t know?? It’s only the biggest electronics convention going on in the world and it’s happening this week!” When I told them of my last minute trip one guy said, “Good luck getting a room, buddy!”

Boy, they weren’t kidding! It was about 4am when I was ready to find a place to crash. There was NOTHING, not one room on the strip! Luckily my cab driver took pity on me and gave me a reduced fair as we hit about 8 off-strip hotels before I found a room at a Clariton Hotel. I did have to agree to check out by noon but I got a somewhat reduced rate. Just before I fell asleep I was thinking that this whole trip might have been a big mistake.

I got about 5 hours of sleep before my phone woke me up. I opened up the curtains and AAAHHHHH… the sun was shining! Just seeing the sun that morning was enough to re-energize me. I went to the nearest cheapy store to purchase some much needed items (socks, t-shirt, undies- hey, I didn’t pack!). I grabbed a bag full of toiletries from the front desk, took a long hot shower, and had the hotel shuttle drop me off at The Venetian for their noon tournament. Usually I don’t pay over $100 for a tournament (this one was $150), but the structure is so good ($7500 in chips and 30 min rounds) I couldn’t resist. Besides, I’m on vacation! I decided to look around the place before things got going. The Venetian is the crème-a-la-crème of card rooms. It’s very spacious, beautifully decorated, and the seats are the most comfortable ones I have I ever sat in at a poker table. They have a nice lounge area to relax in and The Saloon were the high-stakes games are played. To my disappointment, there wasn’t a game going on there at the time. The cocktail waitresses were very attentive (not to mention extremely attractive!).

The last thing I expected to see was a pro in that tournament, but there sitting on the other side of the table was 2-time bracelet winner Susie Issacs! I remember seeing her on ESPN a couple of times (once at a final table for a ladies event and the other time she tangled with Daniel Negreanu). Just having her there was a real treat. I was doing well early on. During the first two rounds I got pocket Jacks four times and won each of those pots. At one point I flopped the nuts with an Ace high flush. After I showed my hand Susie said, “I bet you liked that flop.” “I enjoyed it tremendously.”, I replied with a big smile.

But I got crippled late in the fourth round. Here’s what happened (from what I can remember)- I have about 11K and the blinds are $100-200. Three people limp in and it’s on me in late position. I have a J9 off-suit and decided to limp in also. The flop brings JJ6 rainbow! Wowwee! Everyone checks to me so I check also. The turn is a K. So now I’m hoping that someone has hit their King and will bet out. First guy bets $800 and the other two fold. I come over the top with $2000. He ponders things for a moment before he goes all-in with $8K behind him. I call and flip over my hand and he flips over… JK for the boat. Limps in with JK?? Oh well. After that I went completely card-dead. With only $1,500 left I went all-in with AQ suited got called by limper who had pocket Kings. (Limps with pocket Kings?? Whatever…) An Ace never came and I was bounced out of the tournament.

I decided to play some $1-2 no limit and got a seat within 10 minutes. I really loved my table. Not only were the guys sitting right around me fun to talk to but a lady at the opposite end of the table was a classic calling station. And it seemed that she kept calling with nothing because I don’t think she won a single pot! And yet, she kept pulling out $100 bill after $100 for more chips. She was a real beauty. She did manage to suck-out on one guy but before he started to get pissed we told him to relax cause he was sure to get his money back from her and sure enough… he did. She eventually did get up and leave which pretty much killed the table. So I decieded to cash out my winnings, make a couple of phone calls, then headed across the street to the Mirage.

Even though it’s a decent size room, the poker room at the Mirage has a very cozy feel to it. The lighting is easy on the eyes and the décor was pleasant. They didn’t have immediate seating for NL Hold’em but they did for 7 card stud. (I should mention that the Mirage had the best mix of different games.) I never get a chance to play stud at my local card rooms so I decided to give it a shot. As I sat at the table I realized I was the youngest person there by 100 years! The structure was $1-4 spread with (here’s my favorite part) no ante! Any worries from my lack of experience quickly dissolved as I realized how soft my table was. Not to mention, I was getting some great cards. (Even got rolled up Aces over Kings once!) I was having fun at that table but I really wanted to make a run playing some NL. Mirage was still kinda busy so I headed back to the Venetian and got immediate sitting.

At one point, heading back from the restroom, I saw a guy that was a Johnny Chan look-alike, but smaller, who walked right by me. Kinda funny, I thought. Anywho, after playing for a while I decided to peek in on The Saloon because I noticed there was a game going on there and I wanted to see what they were playing. I quietly stood behind one guy at the table to see what the structure was. (I wasn’t even paying attention to the players.) $300-600 NL! Wow! I look up and in the first seat is the Chan look-alike! And then it hits me. I lean over to the floor manager who is nearby and say, “Umm, is that who I think it is?” “Yeap.” Good thing I have a good poker face because I was totally freaking out inside! There he was… the poker god himself… and he walked right by me earlier and I didn’t say a word! DOH! Then the guy who I’m standing behind turns to see who the floor person is talking to and it’s 2006 Main Event winner Jamie Gold! He looks right at me and I can’t even speak. I just stand there with my jaw dropped going “Ahh… umm.” like an idiot. I look around the table and see that Antonio Esfandiari is also at the table. I was overwhelmed to be that close to so much poker greatness. I played for a little while longer at The Venetian but played so-so after being so star struck. On my way out I made sure to find the floor manager and let her know how much I enjoyed my poker experience there. I played a little more NL at the Mirage til I had to leave for the airport and head back home. (And managed to donk off a few chips)

I guess it turned out to be a great trip after all but I did learn a few things…
1. Last minute trip are ok… as long as you get a good deal on your room. (And a reservation wouldn’t hurt either)
2. DON’T play at MGM during nightclub hours!
3. DO play at Caesars during the day.
4. DO play in Venetian or Caesars tournaments (because of their great structures!)
5. If you see a poker celebrity, DON’T just stand there like an idiot! ;-)

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  1. Awesome idea for a trip! I'm sitting here in Iowa facing another week of cold and snow with no end realistically expected before mid-June ... suddenly, I have the urge to take advantage of all these winter specials I keep getting emailed to me by the MGM-Mirage hotels. I can even visualize the late night game at the Venetian, the soft game, my stack of chips, my drink order ...

  2. sounds like you had one rollercoaster ride of a trip. Its actually a common thing what you saw, regarding Chan. I've seen him about a half dozen times and met him once for a picture.... he's a tiny little guy- movies and TV makes him look a lot stockier and bigger.

    Anyway, everytime I've seen him the guy is always getting up and running around- really almost like running. He's on the phone constantly and I've heard him always say, "I'm working, I'm working" so that people don't stop him. On one occasion Sam Grizzle (think thats how you spell it) started bustin his chops about how Chan can't sit still and asked the manager to come over- he asked him if they needed a new rug because Johnny was wearing a path in it.

  3. I give you credit for making the spontaneous move. I wish I had the balls to do it. Glad it worked out for you. I once played teh 120 caesars toureny and had Alexis powers at the table.......that poker bum guy......he was a low rent jerk though!!!

  4. Great TR! What part of Orygun are you from?