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Has it been 50 weeks already?

Craps, Football, Free market, Gambling, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas, Milwaukee Brewers, NFL, Nostalga, Poker, Reno, Restaurants, Television, Vacation, YouTube


Let's see, there was...

November 2009

September 2010

October 2011

That would make this the "4th Annual Poker Guys Trip to Las Vegas for Playing Poker"!  On with the report...


This report will be done completely chronologically (well mostly, as I left my watch on the nightstand) except for this first part.  The problems that I had dealing with the sports betting app that I had downloaded to my phone was constant; every time I tried to make a bet or even reference my account ended in frustration.  But if I referenced these problems in order as they occurred, it might give the impression that I was always angry or frustrated, and that was not the case.  Everything (except this sports betting app) was as wonderful as could be hoped for, so let me get this rant out of the way.

Cantor Gaming manages nine seven sports books in Nevada (Side note added 8 hours after first posting this; see the paragraph above the split for more details).  They are marketing a phone app, and once you set up an account with a sports book and make a deposit, you can make a legal bet (within Nevada state lines) from anywhere, day or night.  In past years, I’ve had an issue because I’d place a sports bet in whatever location I happen to be, then have to make a special trip back to that casino to cash a winner.  I was very intrigued about the convenience that this app would bring.  I should have been very concerned when, upon downloading the app at home, I couldn’t even enter the app in a demo mode to review it or to try to get comfortable with it.

As soon as we landed in Vegas, I dropped the boys off at the first poker tournament, and I drove to the Tropicana to set up my account and get a very (very) basic tutorial on how to use the app.  I made one bet on my phone (Mark Belling told us he liked New Mexico to cover against Boise State) so I placed a small bet on that game.. Just as a test drive.  Winner!

Saturday around midnight from my hotel room, I decided to get my NFL bets in for the next day.  Once I was done and tapped on “Confirm”, I got an error message that my location could not be confirmed.  Assuming that my bets didn’t go through, on Sunday morning I entered those same bets again.  Only upon confirmation of THOSE bets did I notice that the previous night’s bets had indeed been accepted.  That wasn’t a big problem with my $25 on the Rams to cover against Seattle, it was a big problem with my $75 bet on the Packers.

But that wasn’t the only issue.  On Sunday, impulsively, I decided to bet on the Brewers to beat Houston.  When I clicked on the game on the app, it also listed an over/under total of 4.  Thinking that was awfully low for baseball, I bet heavy on the over.  The Brewers lost the game 7-0, but as far as I recall, seven is greater than four, so I should have won that bet… but the app graded that as a loss.

On Monday, I bet a few more baseball games and all of those over/unders were very low, so I bet all of those overs… and despite all of them “winning”, they were listed as losses.  Monday night I tried to call the Tropicana to find out what was going on, and learned something that I did not know… you cannot contact a sports book by phone due to gaming laws.  It actually makes sense, except that it is harder to argue about something when you can’t contact them.  I was white hot about this Monday night, because I thought I was about $200 up, when the app told me I was about $100 down.

So Tuesday on the way to the airport, I stopped at the Tropicana (so much for not having to make a special trip to collect sports bets).  I figured I was going to get screwed with some horse-hockey like the lines were wrong on the phone, but a loss is a loss.  But the real issue was sillier than that.

Apparently I was betting the over/under of the First 5 Innings, not the game. Long story short, there is nothing on the app that SAYS you are betting the First 5 (or Last 4), but "I should have known the line wouldn't be five runs" (as the floor supervisor at the Tropicana told me). The prop bets also have a four-digit code instead of a three-digit code.

Two problems with that... when placing a bet to a teller at a sports book, you announce your code (instead of saying "I want $20 on the Brewers", you find the code on the board and say "$20 on 541". But it is irrelevant on the phone app as you tap the screen with the bet you want to make, so I didn't even notice a code, much less how many digits there were. The other problem is that whether I noticed it or not, nothing on the screen (or even the confirmation screen) SAID that they were prop bets. The supervisor of the sports book was completely nonplussed about my issue (and to re-iterate, unless I knew these were prop bets, how the hell could I know they were prop bets? I thought they really were the final lines) and said that ultimately, I am responsible for the bets I make.

That may be true, but this truly horribly produced and executed app did me no favors whatsoever. Granted, I could have won them all, and maybe I wouldn't feel so crappy about it. But this is Vegas. Fortune never smiles like that.

EDITED TO ADD ON 10-11-12 @ 2:30 CDT - I just received an E-mail from Sarah Laufer, a Communicating and Marketing Associate wtih Cantor Fitzgerald/BGC Partners.  Apparently it took less than eight hours for my blog to make it to her office.  After reading about all of the issues that I encountered using their smart phone app, she sent an E-mail with the following ...

"Please correct your article as Cantor Gaming currently manages seven race and sports books."

I am speechless.  But let the record show that I corrected MY error.

OK.  On with the good parts.  All times are PDT except for the first couple of entries…


Saturday 9-29 at 6:00 AM CDT - Who the hell decided to leave before breakfast?  6:00 was bad enough, but the alarm going off at 3:45 was hard to deal with.  But a shower, shave, last minute check of everything (except the watch, apparently) still got me to our meeting point in plenty of time for the flight.  To review the cast of characters (with all names changed to protect the guilty)…

The guy I currently work with will be called “Scott”.

“Scott’s” stepson will be called “Ben”.

The older guy that I used to work with will be called “Pat”.

“Pat’s” co-worker will be called “Phil”.

Just to make the trip more fun, Pat used to work at the same company as me and Scott, but left to join our fierce competitor.  Since he and Phil work together, there is sometimes a Power Gen Cooling Package producer rivalry that rears up.

We ended up on this early morning flight because it was the best priced flight - by far - at the point we were looking to pull the trigger (though we’d have preferred to arrive on Friday) and because we thought getting into Las Vegas at 9:00 AM would give us an entire day of fun.

It turned out to be fun, of course.  Zombie fun, but fun.  (Side note; if the boys only knew how much driving I did while looking through the back of my eyelids…)

Saturday 9-29 at 7:30 AM MDT - It should be noted that I am very helpful.  Before boarding in Milwaukee, the Frontier Airlines folks asked for volunteers to gate check their bags.  I have done this numerous times for other airlines and have always been given the bag at the top of the jet way.  No reason to think it would be different, right?

Yeah, right.

When we get off in Denver, I asked for my bag.  The lady checked my claim stub and said that it had been checked through to Las Vegas; "You saved $25" she said.

“Oh-oh”, thought I, "The guys aren’t gonna like this."

Saturday 9-29 at 9:30 AM PDT - Having arrived in Las Vegas 20 minutes earlier, the rest of the guys are hanging around baggage claim to get my bag while I skedaddle off to the Rental Car facility for our vehicle.  Good thing they weren’t typical guys about it…

I had reserved a full size car for $89 total, but knew that we’d want more room.  Last year, they were out of full sized cars when we arrived, and they begrudgingly gave us a minivan.  This year wasn’t quite as easy.  The counter guy offered a Lincoln Town Car (Hmmmm….) for $15 a day extra or a minivan for $35.  Since the car was supposed to be about $18 a person, I couldn’t bump that by three times just to get a van, so I declined.  We finished the transaction, and he said “What if I gave you the minivan for $15 extra a day?”

Well, duh, I wasn’t named Rocore Corporate Negotiator of the Year by the Sr. Purchasing Agent at the Rocore branch in Franklin for nothing!  He tore up all the paper I had just initialed, started the process over, and I was in the van before the boys had collected my bag.

Saturday 9-29 at 10:30 AM - Since we booked our plane tickets last March, we had talked about hitting the poker tournament at the Mandalay Bay or South Point at 10:00 AM. But in doing my yearly canvass of all Las Vegas casinos with poker rooms, the Stratosphere’s tournament at 11:00 stood out.  For about the same entry fee, you got almost twice as many starting chips, and the room was run by the manager of the former Sahara’s poker room (and in the last couple of years before the Sahara closed, the poker room was about the only quality department in the joint.)  I managed to talk the guys into that game… in which I didn’t play in anyway!

Saturday 9-29 at 12:00 PM - I didn’t play the Stratosphere game because I had to drive back to the Tropicana to open that Cantor gaming sports book account.  But on the drive back, I spotted that In-N-Out Burger right by the freeway onramp.  Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the fat guy (without any dissenting opinion in the car) wasn’t going to be able to pass that up.  A 3 x 2 animal style w/ extra toast and an Animal fries later… I was in a food coma so muscle memory got the van back up to the Stratosphere.

Saturday 9-29 at 1:30 PM - When I got back to the Stratosphere, all four guys were still in the tournament (18 entries at $65), so I lost some money playing video poker when Ben dropped out and found me, and Pat soon after that.  It had been discussed before we left that if we got in a situation where a couple guys were out and a couple of others were still playing that the bored guys would take the car to the next game, while the occupied ones took a cab somewhere (or stayed put until we were done).  Seemed like a pretty good idea in theory, and this would be the first test run.  We kept Phil and Scott behind and left to go to a game at the Flamingo.

Saturday 9-29 at 3:00 PM - The most exciting part of the Flamingo’s tournament (14 entries at $80) was the break taken at the top of the hour.  I wasn’t getting a lot of cards and was a little bored, so on the break I went to the high limit room to blow a few bucks on video poker.  On the second or third hand (one credit per… I mean, I still had three plus days to go) I got a flush which turned my $20 into about $60 so I cashed out and headed to the poker room.  But The Green Machine called my name (Side note; Each month, my wife and I get a mailer from Potawatomi that includes about $10 in free slot play.  One day this summer, I turned that free play into $141 on The Green Machine without risking a nickel.  Could I get it to pay me again?)

Saturday 9-29 @ 3:07 PM - YES!!!! On the very first $5 spin, I got $126 in the reels.  The break in the poker tournament won me over $160.  Who needs a cash in poker tournaments when I can “Who‘s Your Daddy“ to The Green Machine?

Saturday 9-29 @ 4:30 PM - I got knocked out of the tournament pretty quickly and Pat and Ben not too long after that.  We contacted Scott and Phil (who did cash at the Stratosphere) and found that they had cabbed it downtown to check into the hotels (and were not particularly thrilled with buying in on the car and then paying for a cab so we could play poker; I think this idea died on the first trial run).  Phil and Pat stayed at The D, Scott and Ben in a room at The Plaza, and I had a comped room at the Golden Gate.  After checking in, we decided on a quick dinner at the Paradise Buffet at the Fremont before determining the next game.

Saturday 9-29 @ 6:30 PM - The Paradise Buffet tasted pretty good, but didn’t have a lot of variety.  It did have steaks (kind of like Golden Corral), but that line was quite long.  I waited for my steak and walked back to the table, and see that Phil is eating sushi like he knows what he is doing.  I’d never really tried sushi.  I think I did once, can’t remember if I liked it or not.  He’s gotten Ben to try it, so I (paying homage to my teenage years as a peer-pressure-succumber-to) tried it, too.  I tried the first one, and it was OK.  Second one had a thin layer of wasabi and it was really good.  The third one, well, could have had a little (and by a little, I mean HOLY SCHNIEKE) too much wasabi on it.  My sinuses were cleared.  Still are, now that I think about it.

Saturday 9-29 @ 6:31 PM
- Wasabi!

Saturday 9-29 @ 9:00 PM - The next poker game was at the Hard Rock Hotel (14 entries at $60).  This game has everything… the most comfortable poker chairs that we’ve come across, the table is right next to the waitresses’ changing room, the music is at a reasonable level and is a constant stream of good classic rock, the drink service is fast, the chip stack ($10K) is deep enough to ensure a long play, and the hotties walking around (Side note; Goodness gracious, every woman in that casino was better looking and had a better shape than the one before it.  And you know the best part?  You could stare with a slack-jaw and with buggied-out eyes as much as you want, because they are so full of themselves that You. Don’t. Even. Exist.  Absolutely incredible.)

The problem, though, is that the Hard Rock tournament has everything except players.  Only 9 people that weren’t on our 6:00 AM flight decided to play.  It is the consensus of our group that this is the best tournament of all that we’ve played in four years, and we’re very concerned that it won’t be there next year for a visit.

Saturday 9-29 @ 10:30 PM
- Besides the miniscule prize fund (generally with under 20 entries, only two people cash), another problem with a small tournament field is the potential for two people to amass most chips and basically refuse to play until everyone else is knocked out.  That happened in this tournament as Ben and I were the last two small stacks that really had no chance to make any hay because the other two guys wouldn’t play.  I did finally get knocked out but Ben hung on for awhile, but he, too, was bumped without a real chance to cash.

Saturday, 9-29 @ 11:30 PM
- We headed back downtown and parked the car at The Plaza.  We realized in quick order that Las Vegas Bike Fest was in full swing (Side note to non-Milwaukee readers; Since Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee over 100 years ago and the marketing of this luxury item is in overdrive, Milwaukee holds a massive Harley Fest every five years as an anniversary party.  Three days of loud, smelly motorcycles and - at risk of offending some of you - some of the ugliest people that God saw fit to create.  But Bike Fest in Las Vegas is a teeny-tiny little kaffee klatsch compared to Harley Fest.) (Second side note; Here is what a kaffee klatsch is.  You're welcome.)

Saturday 9-29 @ 11:50 PM - Though the mind was willing to Go 24 (hours without sleep, that is, because we had all gotten up around 1:30 AM Vegas time) the body was weak this year.  This is about the only clock time that I was sure of, because I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe that I am in Las Vegas on a Saturday night… and going to bed before midnight.  I am pretty sure I was out before midnight, too. 

Sunday 9-30 @ 7:00 AM - Quite surprised that I was awake this early, but then again, about seven hours (less the 18 tinkle runs) sleep is plenty in Las Vegas. 

Ahhhh!  A beautiful Las Vegas morning (actual view from my hotel room window)

The plan is to meet at breakfast at 8:00, but that should give me some time to get some casino-ing in… Michael James-style.

What is Michael James-style?  Well, losing, of course! 

No, not “of course”, even the sun shines on a… whatever.

Sunday 9-30 @ 7:40 AM
- I made my way over to Main Street Station because I heard about some good video poker pay tables, and, well, let’s be honest… the stupidest things sometimes excite me.  One of my Facebook friends named Royal Flusher (whose trip reports are almost as good as mine.) (Side note; I kid, I kid.  When I started this blog in 2007, I kind of patterned it after ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook.  The first time I did a Las Vegas trip report, I patterned it specifically after this one by ESPN’s Bill Simmons [his trip report is hilarious, and worth the detour from my blog.  Just make sure you come back.]  I thought I was pretty good, until I read Royal Flusher’s reports.  His are so good that I almost didn’t do one this time, as I can’t do it justice.  What kind of stuff makes him so funny?  Stuff like this.  OK, digression over, maybe he will mention me in one of his blogs or Facebook posts now) actually let his wife, Mrs. Flusher go to Las Vegas without him.  She sent photos back to him of every 4-of-a-kind she hit on video poker.  One particular one, looked like it was from a game produced on a computer that predates the Atari 400.  I asked him where that was from, because I new I HAD to play a game like that.

Well I make it towards that back of Main Street Station, and there are these 1978-era video poker machines as far as the eye can see!  It was so great… the pay tables were part of the plastic cabinet masking, and they were faded!  I almost expected to turn to my right and see an advertising sign for Phyllis Diller, Rich Little and Totie Fields.

My fingers trembling with excitement about feeding a bill into this relic (yeah, it had been updated a little) I watched the Benjamin disappear from view, it occurred to me… this was going to pay out in real quarters.  Barring a miraculous losing streak, I was going to be carrying a bucket of quarters to the cashier pretty soon, as I had to meet for breakfast at The Plaza at 8:00.

I played for about 15 minutes and didn’t lose too much money… which just meant that I had to wait for that many more quarters to plink, plink, plink from the hopper.  The cashier was more than happy to turn the quarters into real money, but there were no wet naps to be found.  Coin dropping machines may be kitsch, but TITO is a much better way to play.

Sunday 9-30 @ 8:00 AM - I meet the gang at the Hash House A Go-Go at The Plaza.  I had been to various locations in the past, but never for breakfast.  Not being an egg eater, it eliminated most of the menu.  But not the pancakes, so I ordered the Blackberry Granola pancake with whipped cream.  As we were talking, Scott showed off his sports bets - especially the teasers and pleasers from Binions, and Pat and I decided that we needed some of that action, too.  As soon as we got done ordering, we hustled down to Binions to make our bets.  How did I do?  Over all my bets (including my phone app) I got lots of underdogs correct.  Unfortunately, one teaser included the Packers - 1½ and another included another underdog, the Jets (them losing 34-0 took care of that one).

Sunday 9-30 @ 8:30 AM
- We get back to our table just as breakfast arrives.  Phil, who is also a volunteer fire fighter, ordered the Pork Tenderloin Eggs Benedict for 12.  Well, I made up the “for 12”, but this 6’4” 260# of muscle man barely finished half of it… even with forcing each of us to “taste it”.  My pancake was phenomenal… the right combination of tart, sweet and crunchy. 

Sunday 9-30 @ 9:00 AM - We have a tradition that if you cash in a poker tournament, you buy the next meal,  Phil had dutifully paid for our dinner at the Paradise Buffet the night before, but nobody had cashed since.  Scott took this opportunity to prime the Karmic pump.  He picked up the check for breakfast with the expectation that he would be cashing in a tournament.

Sunday 9-30 @ 11:00 AM - What is starting to become a standing plan is to begin Sunday with a tournament at South Point (22 entries at $60), then head to Rum Runner to catch the Packers game. 

One of the things that I really like about Las Vegas during football season is that the dealers in most casinos wear football uniforms.  It is a real conversation starter, and in this poker game, both starting dealers are wearing Tom Brady Patriots jerseys.  Before long, Buffalo is leading New England and takes that lead into halftime, and both dealers are getting the business.  But its all in good fun, and the dealers get the last laugh as the Patriots take the lead and blow past the Bills in the fourth quarter.

Sunday 9-30 @ 12:30 PM - Usually after getting bumped from a poker game, I seek out a craps table.  However, a few recent trips to the Horseshoe Hammond in the Chicago area have netted me some nice Blackjack wins. As I wander through the South Point aimlessly, I find a $10 double-deck game.  I pull Phil off the Shoot to Win Craps game (a game with Pop-O-Matic dice is NOT craps) and we sit down for Blackjack.

I start at $15 a hand, and with each win add $5 to my bet.  When I lose, I start over at $15.  Well, before I even lose one hand, I get my bet to $40 and get a chance to (successfully) double the bet.  My streak stays white-hot and I start coloring-up and rat-holing $100 chips.  When I think I have four in my pocket and a few more on the table, the streak starts to cool and I decide to walk away with my winnings.  Turns out I have five chips in my pocket and $100 on the table for a cool $500 win in only about 40 minutes.  Phil (who cashed out with his original buy in, snicker-snicker) and I walk back to the poker room just as Scott busts out without cashing and we head over to Rum Runner.

Sunday 9-30 @ 1:30 PM
- We get to Rum Runner about five minutes after the game started, and to my estimation, the crowd was above fire code.  The five of us find a wall with a beer glass-wide rail and settle in.  I have this feeling that the old fogies (Pat and Scott) will want to leave, so I text another Facebook friend that I know is in Las Vegas watching football, and ask if there is any room where he was (the Mirage) and he says it is packed. By happenstance or good planning, Pat has purchased a round of $2.50 25-oz PBRs, and Phil gets the party started with a round of Car Bombs (Side note; I am not much of a drinker.  A Car Bomb is a deep cup with about 8 ounces of Guinness, and you are supposed to drop in a shot glass of Bailey’s, and drink it as it foams.  To me, it tastes like liquid car exhaust, but Ben loved it.  What do I know anyway?)

Sunday 9-30 @ 4:00 PM - The Packers are making the game way closer than it had to be (and I am risking my daughter’s college fund on my accidentally-doubled Packers bet) and I can tell Scott (who is not a drinker) is getting a little bored.  But he does notice that Phil and Ben have become well lubricated, especially after that round of Liquid Cocaine (Jagermeister, Goldschlager and Rumple Minze).  I had specifically asked to not have any more drinks, but the Goldschlager overpowered that drink, which is good because I like the taste of hot cinnamon.  Our original plan was to go to Red Rock for their evening tournament, but that casino is about 15 miles from downtown, and it’s Scott’s opinion (which I couldn’t argue with) that Phil and Ben will need to stay near their hotel, so we cancel that plan and decide to head downtown after the game.

Oblivious to this discussion is Phil, who is putting the full-court press on this lady at the bar, and I think the feeling was mutual.  When she got up to go to the bathroom once, she put her hand on his shoulder, gazed into his eyes and told him not to go anywhere.  I mean, this is as serious of a romance as can be had in Las Vegas!

Sunday 9-30 @ 5:00 PM
- Phil, after doing the mating dance for three hours, DID NOT GET HER PHONE NUMBER OR HOTEL ROOM NUMBER.  On the ride back downtown, some of his best friends give him words of solace; “Phil, we are going to call your parents and yell at them for raising such a decent boy.  What were they thinking?” and other such shows of support.  I tell him that this is Las Vegas, and anything is for sale.  For the right price, I’d turn the van around and head back.  But I don’t think he heard me, what with the sobbing and all.

Sunday 9-30 @ 7:00 PM - Vegas has them now.  We don’t see or hear from Phil or Ben the rest of the night.  We later hear rumors about their dinner at the Heart Attack Grill, though they don’t remember much after getting their hospital gowns, and also rumors about the porcelain Goddess at Glitter Gulch, but I don’t know that, because Pat, Scott and I are all at the Golden Nugget for their tournament (24 entries at $105). 

I am making a good run through the tournament, and though it has limited entries, the higher entry fee allows for paying four places.  When we are down to seven players (and Scott and Pat already knocked out), I get AA in the hole, and get a couple of callers pre-flop.  The flop is a bunch of nothing.  I make a bet to try to build the pot, but one that is reasonable for others to call… and everyone folded.  Drat.  Ultimately, I drop in 5th place, right on the bubble.

Sunday 9-30 @ 10:00 PM - Pat, Scott and I head over to Binions to play some relaxing Pai Gow Poker and because, frankly, it is one of the quieter places downtown.  When we started this trip four years earlier, the Golden Gate had go-go dealers and loud thump-thump music to match.  Since then, one of the owners of the Golden Gate bought Fitzgeralds, re-named it The D, and put in similar dancers and the same soundtrack at ear-splitting levels.  In addition, the Fremont Street Experience added three rock stages, chock-full of 80s hair cover bands.  From end-to-end, you can’t hear yourself think while outside.  It used to be fun to wander under the canopy, it is now just an effort to get into one of the quieter properties.  Now get off my lawn.

Another reason we like to play Pai Gow Poker near the end of the night is because the pacing is nice and slow, it allows for conversation that is tough to carry on at a poker table.  Scott and Pat and I chit-chat and play for awhile, and Scott gets tired and leaves.  Pat and I try to engage the dealer in small talk, but she just won’t talk much.  No smiling, no talking, just a stare into space while dealing cards.  Kind of disappointing, so Pat calls it a night, and I consider it, too.

Sunday 9-30 @ 11:59 PM - Who are we kidding?  I am not going to bed before midnight two nights in a row in Las Vegas.  I’d lose my membership card or something.

I head back to Main Street Station.  I decide not to play the Atari video poker, but many people (including Royal Flusher… he means so much to me) mention that you can get beer from Main Street’s brew pub comped while playing video poker at the bar… and if you get 4-of-a-kind, you get a scratch card that will get you $2 to $5000 additional.  Free micro brew and free money?  Sure!  I reach for my player’s card, but I must have left it in my room.  But my hotel is two whole blocks away, and if I go back, I risk seeing the bed and shutting it down, so I just do without.  I do check around, and the player’s club booth closed at Midnight, and I had just missed it.

Anyway, I play for a little while, sipping some lighter brew and bingo!  My 4-of-a-kind!  I proudly call the bartender over… who says that I need to be using my player’s card.  Sigh.  Granted, from every report I have heard, almost every scratch card is for $2 or $5, but since I was too lazy to get my card, I don’t even get a shot.

After about an hour of playing (and three beers), I cash out about $25 down, and take my TITO to a Blazing 7s slot machine.  Pretty quickly, I hit three 7s for $300 and cash out.  I am heading out, but see a craps table (with real dice and everything) with guys whooping and hollering, so I decide to buy in.  Right away the boxman takes my money and asks for my card.  When I say that I forgot it, he offers to have a new one made for me.  Sigh again.  I could have played craps first, then I would have had my shot at the scratch card $5.  I play craps a little while and win a little under $100.  I do the math (yes, I do note every dollar won and lost… I am anal that way) and at that point, two days in, I am up $87.

Could I keep that winning trip going?  What do you think?

Monday 10-1 @ 1:15 AM - Dinner at Pop-Up Pizza at The Plaza, taken to my room at the Golden Gate. What a way to wrap up a great day in Las Vegas.

Monday 10-1 @ 8:00 AM - Another night with about six hours sleep.  Must be in Vegas!

Monday 10-1 @ 9:00 AM - Breakfast at the café in Binions.  It is centrally located between The D and the Golden Gate.  Ben, though in recovery mode, is feeding the hangover.  Phil, however, is MIA.  It does keep his streak alive, as he has missed time due to Vegas-ness for three straight years.  Not wanting pancakes, I go with a BLT and hash browns, and the bacon is in excess.  Which is a good thing, despite this (propaganda, I tells ya).  Remembering Scott paying Karma forward (which, to this point, hadn’t helped) I decided to pick up the check for breakfast.  Last year, I remember paying for a meal at Binions with my points to zero out the card (not knowing how long they go until expiration).  This year I played about 90 minutes of Pai Gow Poker at $20 a hand.  I flashed my card expecting the cashier to just take a few bucks off, and he said I had $31 in comps available!  I certainly didn’t argue with him, paid the $10 balance in American greenbacks and got out of there before he could change his mind.

Monday 10-1 @ 9:30 AM – Remembering previous year’s problems finding a good poker game on a Monday morning, and knowing we’d want to start with Planet Hollywood’s tournament which guaranteed $2000 in the prize pool, I parked the car at Bally’s valet because of its center Strip location.  Figuring we’d stay on the strip because that’s where any tourists would likely be playing cards, parking the car there allowed us to walk to a nearby casino for the next game.  But that was for later.  For now, off to Planet Hollywood.

Monday 10-1 @ 10:02 AM – Just as the first hand was being dealt in Planet Hollywood’s tournament (38 entries at $75… now we’re getting somewhere) the Cocaine Cowboy sat down the table.  He is young, brash, annoying (way too much so at 10 AM) and clearly strung out.  He announces “Just so you know, I am raising everything”, and does so in the first hand without even looking at his cards.  On the second hand, he also raises pre-flop, and the guy to my left goes all-in over the top of him.  The Cocaine Cowboy finally looks at his cards, calls, and gets lucky on the board to knock the guy out of the tournament.

Monday 10-1 @ 10:06 AM – Now the third hand, and it is getting exciting.  Same set-up, the Cocaine Cowboy doesn’t look at his cards (and his drug enfueled self-worth massively inflated by having twice the amount of chips as anybody else) makes a huge pre-flop raise, and this time Ben goes all-in over the top.  He again calls, and Ben is leading until the Jimmy card.  Three hands into the tournament, this idiot has knocked out two guys and has triple the chips of anyone at the table (Side note; In our home poker games, Jimmy is a guy who has made a living of winning pots on the river card – the last card dealt.  The very first time we went to Vegas for poker in 2009, one of our guys won a big pot after the river card and I yelled “Jimmy!”  Believe it or not, a couple people at the table knew exactly what we were talking about.)  The Cocaine Cowboy (who is always chattering anyway) mentions that he is going to win the tournament because he is great, we all stink, and “By the way, no offense to any of you”.

Monday 10-1 @ 10:45 AM – The wiser players at the table (including me, once) made sure we played good hands against him, and ate away at his massive chip stack.  Fifteen minutes before the period to re-buy into the tournament (generally you can re-enter after the first hour, then entries close) the Cocaine Cowboy wants to call somebody’s big bet, but it would put him all in.  He calls anyway and is already grabbing for money to pay for his re-entry.  He does lose the hand, but when he goes to the desk, he is told that there are others ahead of him on the waiting list.  Sweet!  The last fifteen minutes go by, and the Cowboy rides off into the sunset… probably looking for a toilet stall to hit some more blow, then another poker game to take down.

Monday 10-1 @ 12:00 PM – I get knocked out of the tournament when my AA in the hole gets cracked when the other player hits his flush on the turn.  I find Ben, we hit some Pai Gow Poker, then Phil texts that he is on his way in a cab and will be there soon.  He arrives but doesn’t want to play with us.  Ben sees an Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em game with empty seats, and Phil jumps at the chance to play that with us.

Monday 10-1 @ 12:15 PM – Well over $100 later, we walk away from that game and find Scott and Pat.

Monday 10-1 @ 12:30 PM – Scott cashed for almost $700 in the Planet Hollywood came (Side note to self; Paying Karma forward takes 24 hours to be returned.  Got it.) and we consider our next game.  Hearing rave reviews for the Earl of Sandwich at the Planet Hollywood, Pat and I get in line while the others discuss where we are headed.  I had The Original, and it was nice.  Nothing to shout home about, and nothing to schedule an entire trip to Vegas for (like it seems that some people do).

The group chooses the next game at the Monte Carlo at 2:00 PM.  We walk out the front door and we can see the sign.  We are smart enough to know that Vegas resorts are further apart than they look, and it is only 98 degrees outside.  Piece of cake.

Monday 10-1 @ 2:00 PM
– After Phil fireman-carries the four of us (at once) the last quarter-mile, we are seated in the Monte Carlo tournament (22 entries at $60).  Neither Phil nor I win even one pot, but it wasn’t bad play, just no cards. 

Monday 10-1 @ 4:00 PM – Phil and I find a Blackjack game, and I start another roll and am up $350 in a little over an hour.  Phil is killing it, too, when Ben finds us.  We tell him that the dealer is handing out money and that he should sit down.  As soon as Ben buys in, the luck changes.  We still manage to grind for almost an hour but after losing $150 of my chips, I call it while I still make a decent profit.  Well, a profit on the game.  I lost a fast C-note on video poker in between my bust out and Phil’s suggestion to play Blackjack.

Monday 10-1 @ 5:15 PM – Scott has cashed in this tournament for about $200, and everyone is anxious to get to the next game.  But first we have to get the car.  Not from Planet Hollywood… from Bally’s.  What was a great idea eight hours earlier really sucks now.  We manage to make the 17.4 mile walk (though the temperature has dropped to a frigid 96 degrees) and get the car in plenty of time to drive to the M Resort for their 6:00 tournament (30 entries at $55).

Monday 10-1 @ 7:30 PM – Part of the reason that M is such a nice place is that I show up every now and again and hand them a few hundred bucks, and tonight would be no exception.  I drop out of the tournament pretty early on when I flopped a straight, but after going all-in, another player Jimmy’s a flush.  I lose another $100 playing video poker (Side note; Hey, all youse guys that say how you can make a hundred bucks last 42 hours of consecutive play, let me borrow a hundred bucks next time) and start chasing money (unsuccessfully) in $1 slot machines (when you see me playing dollar slots, it is one of two scenarios… I am ahead trying to press my winnings, or getting killed and hoping for a quick catch-up).

Monday 10-1 @ 8:30 PM – Along the way, Scott, Pat and Ben all find me (Pat is carrying a shot and a beer… he got busted before his drink could come) and we find an open Pai Gow Poker table with Carrie dealing.  We are having the time of our lives (even though we are all struggling to stay even).  Carrie is joking around with us, two other players join us for some fun and we are laughing on every hand.  On one hand, I get dealt a “wheel” (A-2-3-4-5) and I say something like “My wheel beats your trips!” and she says that she has never heard of a “wheel” (which is only the second highest straight in Pai Gow Poker).  I call over the floor supervisor, Harry, and I ask him if he knows what a wheel is.  He says “A-2-3-4-5, of course.  Who doesn’t know that?”  I tell them that Carrie doesn’t, and he says that all of the Pai Gow dealers in his pit know that.  Carrie says “Sure I did” and as soon as he walks away, she playfully throws a chip at me and accuses me of trying to get her into trouble.

Then – in a sequence of events that will forever change Pai Gow Poker – she asks if we know what a Cricket is.  We all look at each other like idiots and she sticks her tongue out and says “I knew you guys didn’t know scrapbooking”.  Not sure how she connected a poker term with scrapbooking, but the four of us (silly Phil is still playing big-boy poker and missing the fun) are now determined to apply Cricket to Pai Gow Poker.  And we did.

In Pai Gow Poker, a hand is considered a “Pai Gow” when there are no pairs, straights, flushes, etc. in the hand.

Starting Monday, October 1, 2012 a player “Pai Gow” that beats a banker’s “Pai Gow” is now a Cricket.

We test this new law, and when the banker has a Queen-high Pai Gow and three players have Crickets, the rest of the table roars in approval.  We call Harry back over, explain our new term, and he says he likes it.  Carrie (mockingly) argues “No no no no no… this is poker, not scrapbooking” but Harry agrees with us.

This is going to take off like wildfire; just you watch.

Monday 10-1 @ 9:55 PM – The five of us are back at The Plaza eating dinner at Pop-Up Pizza again, and Pat realizes that the Golden Nugget tournament starts in five minutes.  He talks Phil into running down there to enter the game, while Ben, Scott and I all agree that three tournaments in one day are enough.  Scott talks about going to bed while Ben and I decide to find a craps game, so we start walking to Main Street Station.  Somehow, we get sidetracked and end up at the California and to up to the craps table. 

Monday 10-1 @ 10:15 PM – I get a text from Phil that the Golden Nugget game was full at 10 players and they didn’t want to hang around as alternates, so they were going to find us.  I tell them to head to Main Street Station and since we bought into the craps game, I tell Ben that we will finish this roll and walk over there (conveniently, you can cash California chips at Main Street Station).  The dice are in Ben’s hands, and he is on FIRE.  Point, six, eight, eight, eight, six, point, repeat, repeat, repeat.  Phil texts that he is at Main Street Station and can’t find us, I tell him that we never left California.  They walk across the street and Ben is still rolling… and Phil touches the table.  Sevenout.

Phil and Pat apparently walked all the way over to tell me that they are going to play at The D, and I tell Ben that we will play once around the table (there were only about four other people playing).  That one more time around the table cost me $150 of my winnings and almost all of Ben’s.  Maybe he’ll stop listening to me now.

Tuesday 10-2 @ 12:10 AM
– Pat has long since gone to bed and Ben has joined Phil in playing Sigma Derby.  If you aren’t aware, this is a mechanical horse racing game, with five mechanical horses and you sit around the perimeter and plunk quarters in to bet on one (or more) quinella with varying odds.  This game, if you are drinking, drunk or have a low tolerance for losses, is a game for you.  If you are completely sober and in the presence of eight drunk ladies, all with cigarettes dangling from their mouths and wearing pink shirts honoring someone’s 50th birthday party… not so much.

Growing up in bowling alleys, though I’ve never smoked, I had built up quite the tolerance for second hand smoke.  But since Wisconsin (and may other states) have instituted laws banning indoor smoking (which I disagree with, government should not tell a business if they can or can’t allow smokers) I have gotten more used to smoke-free environs than I had thought.  Just watching Ben (a smoker, too) and these eight ladies had me hacking and my eyes burning.  Finally, the party breaks up, a seat opens for me (from Phil, who went to bed) and I join Ben and three other normals to play Sigma Derby.

And it was boring as hell. 

If you bet the quinella combo with long odds, it will never win.  If you bet the favorite, if it does win, you don’t win much.  The only way to make this exciting is to bet on three or more sets of horses, and by doing so you are betting against yourself.  I had been looking forward to playing Sigma Derby based on so many reports and websites devoted to it, and it was such a bomb that I can’t see what anyone sees of this game.  It is like Keno, pick some numbers and hope that one of yours is right.  I hope those of you that love it flock in droves to play it, because it ain’t getting too many more of my quarters.

Tuesday 10-2 @ 8:00 AM – The plan had been to go to the Golden Gate and Du Par’s deli for their World Famous Pancakes, but when I text Pat and ask when we’re meeting, he tells me that he and Scott have already had Dunkin’ Donuts.   Now for those of you who have a choice, what percentage of the time would you choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Du Par’s World Famous Pancakes?  I do make contact with Ben and audible to the El Cortez for pancakes.  Not only because I’ve heard good things about them, too, but it gives us an excuse to stretch our legs and take a walk before it gets too hot out.

Tuesday 10-2 @ 9:00 AM
– We’re walking to El Cortez and talking on the phone with Phil (who is coming to join us) when I get interrupted by a panhandler.  I brush her off and Ben starts telling the story of how he and Scott have encountered numerous panhandlers inside The Plaza.  We get inside the casino to wait for Phil, and this lady walks in the door and starts bothering customers.  It takes some cajones to walk into a casino with omnipresent security cameras and beg for money.

Tuesday 10-2 @ 12:30 PM – There was time for one last poker game before heading home and we go back to the Planet Hollywood for the game with a guaranteed prize fund (35 entries at $75). I figured that Scott bought Sunday breakfast and cashed big on Monday, that since I bought breakfast on Monday… my time to shine!

I am playing very well, getting the right cards at the right time, and have a nice chip stack the entire tournament.  The final eight players include myself, Ben and Phil who falls out on Scott 8s.  Are you laughing?  Because it is pretty funny.

OK, let me back up and explain.  Years ago, Scott got bumped out on back-to-back tournaments with pocket 8s.  He commented on how he hates 8s because he always loses with them so we called them Scott 8s.

But that’s not the funny part.

The night before at the M game, the hand that got Phil knocked out of the tournament was Scott 8s, and about a dozen times since, he said that he will never again play pocket 8s.  Well, here we are at another tournament, Phil plays the Scott 8s and gets knocked out of the tournament again.  Ben and I from the table, and Pat and Scott from behind us are all getting on Phil for not even making it through another game without breaking his own rule. THAT’s the funny part!

Phil’s bust leaves seven players, and four cash.  There are two huge chip stacks, me and one other with a decent sized stack, and three (including Ben) that are short stacked.  A couple hands later, I look at my cards and see Scott 8s.  I make a call, because I had enough chips that if it looks hinky, I can fold and not be too affected.  The big blind (who is the shortest stack) goes all-in.  I sense it as a move of desperation as opposed to him having good cards, so I call.  One of the other short stacks call as well… I have two people in and if my Scott 8s hold, I am about equal to those huge chip stacks.

You see how this one is going, don’t you?

The flop is nothing, my 8s are holding, when the turn is an 8!  I let out a holler, and turn around and tell Phil “That’s how you play Scott 8s!”  But there was one more card to go, and it turns into a miracle flush for one of the other guys.  I am stunned.  From almost top stack to well short stacked in the matter of one card.  That’s Karma screwing with me.  Scott paid full price, I used comp points.  That had to be it.

Not so funny now.

I hate poker.  I never want to play again.

Tuesday 10-2 @ 3:00 PM
– A fate worse than losing a few hundred dollars that I had already mentally spent is boarding the plane for home.  I played eight tournaments, and for the second time in four years I did not cash in one of them with some really bad beats along the way.  I lost about $750 on the weekend, which isn’t horrible overall, but pretty bad considering that 30 hours earlier I was up almost $100.

I never want a Vegas trip to end, but this one had.  I get to Reno in May for the National tournament, though, so it’s not all bad.

But there ain’t nothing like Vegas, baby!


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