First time, lotsa fun (@ MGM, Binion's, Excalibur, Luxor)

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First poker of the trip was at the Excalibur on Monday night @ 10pm. You guys were absolutely right about the "Kitchen table" style... dealers there were a little younger and friendlier, toned down the 1-3 blinds when we weren't a full table, and actually used real quarters during play. I didn't lose or win money there, but I had fun. As the dealer said, "Do whatever you want, we're just happy you're here."

Tuesday came, and I knew what I wanted to do first - play in the $65 no limit tournament at MGM (where I stayed, awesome hotel rooms too). I got there at about 9:15am, and had plenty of free time to walk on the Strip before it started at 11AM. We were given 1200 in chips, and with the first blinds at 25-25, that means I only had enough for 48 small bets, about the same as my Taj tournament. That meant, play conservative. No re-buys allowed, but they allowed alternates to start play when one of the 60 people got knocked out. So, as I was hovering around 1200 for the first hour, some people came in late, and didn't have to risk their chips that whole time. Whatever.

Blinds doubled every 20 minutes, so after the first break, when I was at 1400 and blinds were 100-200, I was in the danger zone. So, whatever had I would get would pretty much mean all-in. I did that a little while and was able to get everyone to fold. I was only doing it with the best hands and pocket pairs. As blinds were increasing at this high rate, people started to go all-in with anything. So when I had something like A-J, someone would call with A-x and lose. I go all-in with 44, someone calls with K4 and loses. By the time we were down to 20, I had knocked out 4 people this way! I was getting quite a bit of pocket pairs, and whenever I put someone's tournament life on the line, my pair would hold. I then made it to the final table with not that many chips compared to the rest. I really only had about 3x the big blind. Only six people would cash, so I immediately assume that I will finish in 7th.

First key moment - someone goes all-in, big stack next to me, the small blind, calls. I have A-3 in the big blind. I think that the first guy will go all in with anything, so I go all-in for 3500, wanting the big stack to fold. He doesn't, turns over K-x. First guy turns over JJ, and I walk away from the table. Flop comes a J, and I think I'm done. But the A on the turn wins me the side pot, and I'm still alive. 2nd moment - I'm in the big blind again with J-5, and see the flop against an old guy who has been extremely lucky. Flop comes Q-J-x, and he pushes in, with way more than me. I take a long time to think about calling. I figure that I'm way down in the hand, but I make a crying call. He flips over 10-10, and I stay alive. Somehow, 5 others lose, and I'm in the top 5, guaranteed to make money. After winning a desperate all-in, I did something I will regret - I pushed all-in with A-7, and got called in the big blind with A-Q and lose. It was the one time I was aggressive, and I got burned. If I had made it in the top 4, we probably would have split the remaining ~$4,000 left. Instead, I got $239 for my effort. I learned a whole lot about tournament play, and I'm convinced that my strategy can work in real tournaments.dda

I then went to the Luxor, and its cool looking pyramid to play some more poker. I played 2-4 limit there, and when my pocket Aces got crunked by a 2-3-4-5 board, that was the beginning. I started with $100, but took my remaining $60 over to a $50 max no-limit table they had set up. It was a very lively and young table, with one guy and one girl getting great hands and dueling for most of their chips a lot. Best hand I saw there was the girl going all in with A-5 on an A-Q-5 board, but got called by A-Q. Turn was another A, for two full houses, and the river was another 5! She still lost, but we all were in awe at the time. I couldn't ever get the courage to play a lot, and lost my $60 bluffing at a pot. If you want to know what NL is like, and don't want to risk a lot of $, go here!

I didn't think a Vegas poker experience would be complete without going to Binion's. Their room had a much different feel to it than any other poker room I saw on the strip - a dark, intimate atmosphere, with a more seasoned crowd of players and dealers. I figured that more poker "otaku" like me would want to check out the birthplace of poker, but it wasn't that crowded at all. I lost $120 playing 2-4. The guy to the left of me won lots of pots against me and everyone, flopping full houses and making inside straight draws on the river all night. The only hand of consequence I won was flopping 3 kings with AK suited against KQ. I also was playing any hand that looked remotely good, which was a huge mistake. And it seemed that any time I tried to "bluff," it didn't work. My half of the table was extremely interesting and talkative though, so I think I had a good experience there. I don't like to lose, but it was still cool.

I ended up back at the MGM... and played 2-4 limit there. I really didn't like that I was losing money gambling, but I wanted to prove to myself that I would play better and be rewarded. Well, I was rewarded with pocket kings on my first hand, and did not play anything like K-x suited out of position. Here's the official move of the day - I tell everyone at the table, "this is my final hand", then pick up pocket aces, then say, "eh, it's the last hand, I guess I'll raise" - and get 3 people to pay me off all the way. I ended up $58, to get me about even gambling. I spent a good amount on souvenirs, which were quite cheap. Overall, this was a cool experience that I will want to do again, albeit a little differently.

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