Hidden gems found at the TTI

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Trip report: March 15-17

I may not have the same style as the party description/ casino hopping/ result after result trip reports here. This will just really get into the few games that were played.

I came out for a 2 free night jaunt, staying at the Palace Station. But I played poker strictly at the Treasure Island. I have a record of winning there in the tournaments. I placed third once out of 2 tournaments in the Spring of 08. Then, in the Fall of 08, I placed 2nd twice out of 4 tourmanent entries. At all other casinos, I am oh for 5. I think that when you have success, even if you can’t name the reason, you go back to what works.

The family was along, so I only entered two tournaments: the 7:00 PM Sunday night headhunter format and the Monday 11:00 standard. Each had about 20 entries, expanding to 22 with some re-entries. The headhunter tourney was different to me. I asked the office lady signing me up, if it caused a change in what might be normal play. In other words, do people go all-in early to try and take a few of what they call “Bounties”. She said, to some extent you might think that would be true. But she said, actually players are maybe more protective of their bounty. They don’t want to give you their bounty when they’re near the edge. I understood the concept but had trouble believing it or seeing it. Players don’t lose any money giving up their bounty – only the other players make out. Why begrudge them the bounty?

This is a $125 entry ($25 house take) and I was afraid there would be locals. Sure enough, on our 2nd table someone asked the dealers if there’s locals around. He said that they’re mostly at the other table. “They’re talking up a storm, not like the silence of this table”. I kind of like the silence in early play, making the experience more intense. Plus, let the locals beat up on each other was the sentiment at our table.

Big hand one
Four hand marked my evening. In the first I was up just a little bit. I was dealt a pair of 10s and went 3 times the big blind. The player to my left, a “jukebox hero”, just listening to his IPOD the whole time and rocking out while riffing his chips (apparently in beat to the music), had made a little bit also. Well, he up s the pot to all-in. By this time, that was around 3 times my bet. Other players dropped out. I put him as impulsive and capable of going all-in with any pair or with an Ace-King combination. Frankly, I thought of his pair as being anything from 2s to Aces and my tens were high on that totem. I called and saw Kings against my 10s. The turn revealed a 10 on the river and to the collective groans of all, I collected. Yes, I’d rather be lucky than good. Every tournament I’ve ever been in had the moneymakers winning a luck-out hand.

An aside for people observations
I glanced at the other table and saw it was at full cry. Then, I spotted a lady from the office staff who was PLAYING THE TOURNAMENT. I don’t know, but having players who are bets buds with the dealers seems a little too nepotistic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve registered with this lady before – she’s nice (like all the TI dealers/staff), she even drafted up a certificate for me in the Fall 08 trip, something I could put in the office showing I finished 2nd in a tournament. I watch poker on TV and she looks familiar - I think this is her dealing in Poker After Dark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HkUlv0mmWk. Anyhow, all concerns with nepotism faded when she was knocked out about the same time as the jukebox hero.
Two other faux famous people were at my table. First, a ringer for William H. Macy :
Then, I swear this Hmong guy at the table had the same mannerisms and gentle spirit as “Toad” from Gran Torino: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm31230464/ch0120193

Big Hand Two
Anyways, we get to the final table by maybe 9:30 and here come the local pros. One guy’s yelling obnoxiously “bounty time” every other hand for no apparent reason. Another guy shuffles his chips and is perpetually calculates something in every call/fold situation, taking about 2 minutes per decision. But everyone respects him, like he’s the resident genius. Another guy, a Josh Beckett ringer (looked like this: http://www.elwebman.com/images/fredjosh.jpg ) has his girlfriend behind him the whole way. Anyhow, I get dealt an Ace D – K Club and go three times the big blind. Josh Beckett calls. The flope comes out: King D – 8 D – 3 D. It’s a flush draw, but I know the odds are against one of only two players hitting it. I go ¾ of the pot with a bet. Josh goes to a deep all-in, maybe 3 times the pot. I look at high pair. I look at having the flush draw with an Ace D. I call without much hesitation and without giving any serious weight to the possible flush (I think it’s like 1 in 50 in that 2 player spot). Well, we turn them over, he’s got I think a K spade, Queen diamond and is LIVID. He’s got top pair but is dominated, even by the possible flush. I mean he is PISSED. He’s spouting off to his buddies about something: either my always hitting the flop (I don’t, but I often bet like I do hit the flop because so few people do) or he’s ticked off that I didn’t buy the flush. Anyhow, with his throwing a tantrum, I wasn’t going to seek clarification: “Sir, can you repeat again what misplay I had so I can defend myself.” Whatever it was, I think it dawned on me that (a) I didn’t play like the locals and so they were all thrown off their games and (b) the locals really, really don’t like losing their bounties. Either piece of information helped.

Big Hand Three
No big hand here. But when there were 4 players left, the 20something kid from Texas ( a ringer for “Cole” in this Negreanu video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur7BDUq3lww&feature=PlayList&p=8A637CFF3C497E4F&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=2) and I are tuning in to a little strategy. The small stack guy, William H. Macy, is waiting for the big moment to go all-in combined with his wanting to give his bounty to his local buddy. So “Cole” and I keep raising his big blind. No table talk going on here, just an observation. I’m sure he would have called with a high pair or whatever, but he just wouldn’t play with us and it made for a nice blind collection agency. Eventually, I knocked him out and collected bounty #5. At $50 a pop, this is a nice compliment to the prize money. Eventually, William H. Macy went in with Q-J o and I with an Ace-King.

I respected “Cole”’s game – sort of, He was driving me nuts, always hanging around for pots and making raises on what seemed like every other hand. The only drawback was that he bobbed his head to the”Poker Face” song by Lady GaGa, it kind of threw me off. I mean, does the world need a song with the lyric “Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin”? Even if the world needed it, does my sanctuary of the TI poker room need to be invaded with this crud? It kind of caused my teeth to grind. Maybe TI staff can do a little tune-check and keep the 80s rock for the grinders and the tourists. My wife (not EVER in the poker room, but out at the slots somewhere) says it keeps the wannabe crowd coming, so I guess I’m OK with the tunes the way they are, if it opens the door to level C players.

Big Hand Four

There was about one full hour of chip swings with no one quite going all in with 3 palyers. Then “Cole” got caught in the cross fire and went down. The last guy left (no a ringer for anyone) was getting weary. He said he was from LA, but the local guys seemed to know him. Anyhow, I hadn’t factored in the fatigue factor. While players seldom drink alcohol at the table (a surprise to me), few were downing Bailey’s and coffee like me. So, I’m on a buzz / edge at midnight and the LA guy is losing it.

He is actually slurring his words and is no longer looking me in the eye, but just looking at his chips. I would have said he was drunk, but I think he was dead tired. I suppose most of his local buddies just chop to pot at this point. But I like playing poker and it’s especially fun when you’re already a winner and just riding it out. But LA guy was sleepy and folding often and then going all-in suddenly on about one out of around 10 hands. With each all-in drawing a fold from me, I was winning maybe 2/3 of the blinds and battling back quickly.

After having a lead, he falls slightly behind. Then, I raise the pot to 3 times the BB. I’m sitting on King-10 clubs and decide to give it a whirl and calls. The flop comes out: King D – 9 C – 3 H and LA goes to full pot bet. I read weakness for some reason and go all-in. He calls and now I’ve got him with pair of Kings against his Ace-Queen diamonds. He had no business calling my all-in, but now he’s got to ride out the loss until the Ace hits on the river. I’m down to a few chips, make a brief comeback and go down in defeat.

The guy giving out the chips at the end, a dealer named I think John, has this veneer of saying “What a great tournament for both of you guys. There were a lot of great moments there - Bla-bla-bla.” Give me a break – it wasn’t the WSOP; there weren’t any bracelets in this room. Anyhow, the shtick of vividly complimenting the players afterwards probably rubs the right egos, but for me it sounded pretentious. Of course, my writing a trip report is a tad pretentious too.

Day Two

So I sit down for the $65 tournament ($15 to the house) and there another guy next to me with his girlfriend right behind him. What is it with this trend – there’s 507 shopping malls in Vegas and these women would rather spend 5 hours sitting behind the boyfriend nibbling his ear? The guy, Cal Ripken, minus 20 years (http://autoracingsport.com/wp-content/uploads/nascar2007/ripken.jpg but subtract the 20 years), says to me “You don’t mind if Smookums sits behind me, do you?” Well, when you put it that way I can’t complain much now can I?

So, I’m distracted easily in life and am now really paranoid looking at my hole cards. It kind of ruined the whole spirit of the event for me. Every other hand, Cal and Snookums are doing this little kiss ritual when he wins and doing a lot of strategy talk after the hand in other play, “You see, honeybuns, the guy on the end raised because he had 4-to-the-flush. That’s why when the next heart came, he could go all-in like he did…” Table talk among the players is one thing, the color commentary for the girlfriend was a bit over the top.
So, Cal Ripken gets in a couple of raises against an Asian dude. The Asian dude looks at a King – 10 – 6 flop and goes all-in. Cal hesitates for a while, and goes all-in with him, having a few chip advantage. Anyhow, the Asian dude has like three tens and Cal is looking at a his King paired with a 3. Then, the King hits on the river and Call, gets a three-of-a-kind. “Hey, sorry man, tough break, bla bla bla”. The Asian guy is steaming and walks out and ignores the handshake offered.

With this moment, I perceive that Cal is going to be reluctant to chase after someone again. So I plot a strategy, as I’m sitting to the left of Cal, of chasing him down with big raises.
The strategy was foiled, as 2/3 of the time when I tried this, Cal hit and hit big on the river. He hit a 3-of-a-kind. He hit a flush to finally knock me out. At least he was sincere: “Well, sir, I’m going to have to raise you all in on this one I’m afraid.” But I’d rather just get gutted in wordless fashion. Note to self: it’s cold comfort to call someone sir when you put them all-in.

Leave hunnikins home or give her some shopping money, Cal. Better yet, let her enter the tournament. After watching you for 5 hours and getting the priceless advice, she’s probably tournament-ready now.

Trip results: 2 tournaments: entries of $125 and $65.
Tournament One: 2nd place, $330, 6 bounties at $50 each: $300. One tip of $30.
Net: $600 minus $125 minus $65. Plus $410.

As stated elsewhere in trip reports, the dealers were excellent. The drink service was very good. The office people put you at ease. The room is great- the lighting is perfect for a poker room. The fact that you’re in your own cubbyhole makes it seem exclusive, unlike the open seating of so many places where you feel like part of the floor circus. I would highly recommend this location, even if I hadn’t finished in the top 3 on 50 % of my entries here (up to 4 out of 8 now).

One note: could the TI office people, who have to record people’s names anyway that collect, consider posting the winners’ names on the Treasure Island website? Wouldn’t that be great for business that people who win can tell their buddies: check out this link – I just finished 2nd in the tournament last weekend. And your name is up there forever. People who run the racing 10K’s know this. People who run the triathalons know this. Why can’t casinos figure this out?

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  1. I also don't like it when employees play poker at their own casino. Althought factually it probably does not matter but it does give the appearance of possible collusion. I agree more 80's rock in the poker would be great, I would be in heaven drinkin,playing cards and listening to Guns N Roses. Great report.

  2. Thanks for the report - really enjoyed reading (hopefully that's not pretentious of me saying that :wink: )

    Anyways I also like the idea of posting tournament winners - I've been thinking about it for some time and am in the process of redoing our blog (much easier and faster to get results on it than the actual ti website) and with that I will have tournament results.

    Hope to see you again!

  3. Congrats on the Headhunter Tourney win! It's one of my favorite tourneys due to the structure and bounty aspect. I also agree with your assessment of TI's strengths; it's easily my fave small Vegas room, and in the running for my favorite room overall.


    I agree. I used to run a lot of road races (back when I didn't play poker Friday nights and could wake up at 5:00 am Saturdays), and it is kinda cool to be able to see your results online. If people want to protect confidentiality, you could give them the option to go with first name, last initial, and hometown. Might make the TI poker website a more effective marketing tool as well; people think, "hey my buddy cashed in this tourney, maybe I can give it a try". I could see my group of poker buddies using this to taunt each other. Hmmm, maybe post first bustout of each tourney as well?

    I also cast my (irrelevant) vote for 80s rock. On the other hand, if a dealer or manager offers you a compliment on playing well, it's perfectly acceptable to simply say, "Thanks, it was a fun tournament."

  4. @biffo99

    Biffo99, meet Yappy Dave. Yappy, meet Biffo.