Wow, if I keep up the pace of one post a week, I may get this done before the end of the summer. But, I digress. On with the story.
At the Golden Nugget we discover that they’ve already obliged a group of blogger by spreading a rollicking mixed-game table. There’s only one seat left and Pablo takes it. Gracie, April, John and I all get seats at a 4/8 table. It doesn’t take long for us to determine whether the money is going to come from at this table and we settle in, hoping to find the cards to take advantage. While we wait, Gracie, April and I gossip about the bloggers we met like we’re still in high school.
Unfortunately, the waiting is not producing any results. I watch John work his way through his buy-in with his usual ram and jam tactics and decide that it’s going to be too tough to push anyone off a hand at this table, so I’ll need some cards to work with. The players at the table are emminently readable (and I’m not even a great reader of tells) so it’s easy to minimize the losses. It’s just a matter of finding the opportunity to maximize the wins. Eventually I get a little impatient and start being aggressive in a few hands. One of the players comments that I must have something since I’ve been playing so tight, but he still calls me. I fold on a terrible flop and he shows down his marginal pre-flop hand to take the pot from the other gentleman who stayed in. So I know that I’m going to get paid off when I hit something.
Of course, I don’t get anything. Hand after hand I am dealt terrible cards. Not even anything I can be creative with. I limp into a few hands with some marginal cards, but I can see in my opponent’s faces that they’ve hit the flop that has managed to miss me completely, again. I feel the frustration building and try to remain on an even keel. The mixed-game breaks up and Gracie leaves the table (we a nice stack of winnings) to head back to the Plaza with Pablo. The rest of us decide to stick around for just a little while longer, hoping to hit something big. But nothing emerges. Eventually John busts and April stacks up her chips. I don’t want to leave as I know the game is good, but I decide that maybe I am trying just a little too hard.
When I do get up and cash in my chips (down one big bet, including all the tips and dealer tokes) I let out a deep breath and realize just how tightly I was wound up. I was nearly on tilt and I hadn’t even taken a bad beat. It was probably a very good thing I got up from the table as I was on the verge of pushing one of my marginal hands too hard and losing a chunk of my stack. I’ve been frustrated with cold cards before, but I don’t think I was ever steaming quite as badly as I was right then.
When I get back to the Plaza, it’s time to unwind and I decide to find out how far I can stretch my video poker winnings. I find a quarter Deuces Wild machine and slide in a five. Ten minutes later I’m cashing in my bucket of quarters for $11. That makes a nice 1200% return on my initial investment of $1. Now if only my poker was showing that rate of return.
There weren’t many bloggers left on the floor of the casino (we learned the next day that everyone was up in “The Suite” playing poker) but I settled down at an abandoned poker table with Bill Rini and Grubby. This was probably the only poker discussion I had all weekend. And even then, it was a less of a discussion than advice that Bill was sharing with us about his recent coaching and heads-up play. I was a little more helpful as we tried to explain RSS aggregators and in particular Bloglines to Grubby. How anyone is still individually visiting every single site on their blogroll is beyond me. I have everything set up in Bloglines and there are still blogs that I don’t subscribe to because I just don’t have the time. Regardless, it was great to sit with some of the bloggers I’d read for a long time and shoot the shit. Grubby even gave us some Vegas tips and though I wasn’t sold on the Golden Gate shrimp cocktail, I will have to take advantage of some of the others I remember the next time I’m in Vegas. Eventually April stopped by and convinced me that we should play a little blackjack to pass the time.
I am a little wary as I had intended to stay away from the -EV games. Though I suppose I sat at the NL blogger table, so I’d obviously broken that vow already. After a bit of hemming and hawwing I agree and we head over to one of the Plaza’s blackjack tables, where I buy in for $100 and April for $20, under the careful watch of Grubby. I am feeling unaccountably nervous as we place our $5 bets and the cards are dealt. Blackjack is not a complicated game and I had refreshed my knowledge before I left for Vegas. She ends up with a 10 and I a 9 against a dealer 3. She hits and stays and I look to Grubby to confirm that I should double down. I do so and the dealer busts and I’ve won my first hand of casino blackjack.
But as with any blackjack player can tell you, the rush didn’t last long and in short order April busted out. I was hovering at about my initial $100, winning and losing hands. April and Grubby wander over to watch Mike try out his baccarat strategy. I start varying the size of my bets, pretending that I know what I am doing. Now, you have to understand, I’m not a big gambler. I play poker because I have an edge. I have a math degree and cannot deny the realities of -EV games in the long term. I can recognize the entertainment value but often I cannot block out the fact that it is a losing proposition. So when I started doubling my bets after each loss and end up risking $50 on one hand, I’m well out of my comfort zone. Dropping $100 bucks in 15 minutes will get me in a pretty foul mood. So when I end up with 9-4 versus a dealer 10, I am not a happy camper. I hit and make 16. Strategy says I should hit here, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I hold my breath as the dealer flips his down card but it is a beautiful 5, followed by a J and I’m back up to even. Plus that extra $10 I won on my first hand. I decide that it’s time to call it, tip the dealer, and rejoin the other bloggers.
I don’t want the night to end but I realize that I am virtually comatose at the table. I head up to my room and fall asleep writing my notes by the light of the rising sun.
next: I prove that I can actually play poker!
Fewer and fewer things are jumping immediately to mind when I go to write these, so I thought I’d take this post off and use the CIA’s capsule summary of Canada (from http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ca.html):
A land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Canada’s paramount political problem is meeting public demands for quality improvements in health care and education services after a decade of budget cuts. The issue of reconciling Quebec’s francophone heritage with the majority anglophone Canadian population has moved to the back burner in recent years; support for separatism abated after the Quebec government’s referendum on independence failed to pass in October of 1995.
The Las Vegas series:
Day 1 – A Grand Ol’ Time (part 1)
Day 1 – A Grand Ol’ Time (part 2)
Day 1 – Sunrise at The Plaza
Day 2 – I … See … Famous People
Day 2 – Storming the Castle
Day 3 – The Main Event
Day 3 – A Bucket of Nickels and the Shrimp Sundae
Day 3 – Nugget Poker
Day 4 – Finally, A Win!
Day 4 – Komol O
Day 4 – A Night in ‘The Suite’
Day 5 – Goodbye Las Vegas