Another World Poker Blogger Tour Winter Classic has come and gone. I know I had fun because the time flew by so fast. Renewing acquaintances from last year's bash, making new ones, playing poker, and generally enjoying the Las Vegas experience - is there a better way to spend a weekend?
I chose to stay at the Imperial Palace this year, partly because that seemed to be Blogger HQ last year, partly because I found a very good rate on a room there, and partly because the hotel has one of the best locations on the Strip. My room was acceptable, and a good value for what I paid, although it showed signs of age and wear. Still, everything worked and I didn't have to complain to the hotel staff about anything, which is always a bonus.
When I arrived at the IP on Thursday night, there was already a big contingent of poker bloggers in and around the Geisha Bar. It would take a while to name everyone that I met there, again or for the first time, but one person I was especially happy to finally meet was Joanada. I first got acquainted with Jo when she wrote for the late, lamented Card Squad blog with my old pal Wil Wheaton. I posted a few comments and questions on Card Squad, and she and I played in Wil's tournaments on PokerStars many times. I still remember the time in one of those tourneys when she cracked my QQ with the Hammer when she caught a four-straight. Recently, I busted her in the NumbBono ten-cent rebuy tourney on FullTilt and won a bounty that she had placed on herself. It's the "Bob and Doug McKenzie Two-Four Anniversary" Special on DVD. She brought it to Vegas for me, and I'm really looking forward to watching it (yeah, I'm behind on that).
I hung out for a while on Thursday night and then crashed early (compared to everyone else, anyway). Friday morning, I met Maudie and Kat for brunch at the Wynn Buffet (good but not fantastic, IMO). Not long after that, it was off to the Hard Rock for the Poker Jingle charity tournament. Lots of poker pros showed up, plus a non-poker celebrity or two like former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser. In the tourney, I sat just to the right of pro Brad Booth. He was easy-going and friendly with all of us at our table, and donated several rebuys to the cause. I didn't get much going in the game, and busted out not long after the first break. I had a good time, though, and I'm glad I got to play. Garthmeister was at my starting table, and went on to finish fourth in the tourney! He won an assortment of prizes but none of the really big ones. Some photos from the tourney are here.
Maybe the best part of the stop at the Hard Rock was getting to spend a few minutes playing blackjack with Gracie and Pablo there. One downside to these gatherings can be too many people and not enough chances to spend quality time with any of them, so I am very pleased that I got to hang with the happy couple for a little while.
Soon, it was off to the MGM Grand for the traditional blogger mixed games. As usual, it was a blend of donkery and confusion, among the players and the dealers, with a good time being had by all. I quit about $60 behind after 4 hours or so, which I look on as a success considering my lack of skill at most of the games we played.
Saturday it was time to try another buffet for breakfast, this time at Harrah's. Perfectly fine, and the $5 coupon I got at the IP made it even better. I drove downtown to meet up with the wedding party for the big ceremony, and on my way I stopped to get my contribution to the festivities. I had asked Gracie a while ago if they would have wedding cake, and she said she hadn't thought about it. I decided that it wouldn't be a real wedding without cake, but how to do it? I knew things were being done on the inexpensive and expedient side, so I stayed with that theme. I went to the supermarket and found just what the circumstances called for: Fancy Cakes, by Little Debbie. A few boxes of those and I was ready. After getting downtown before the rest of the gang, who arrived by shuttle bus (!!! Nobody told me there was bus service!), we marched down to the court building where the judge performs the marriages. The troop of well-wishers was quite a throng, and we couldn't all fit in the tiny room where the ceremonies usually are held. The judge invited us out into the lobby so we could all gather around for the exchange of vows and rings and such. The Rev. AlCan'tHang said some beautiful words, the judge did her thing, the bride and groom said their "I do"s, and several people cried. Afterwards, I passed out the Fancy Cakes, much to the surprise (and occasional dismay) of the guests. Gracie and Pablo seemed genuinely touched by my silly gesture, to which I can only say, it was my great pleasure to do such a small thing for such a wonderful occasion. You can read another nice report on the wedding at Linda's PokerWorks blog.
Shortly after that, it was time to make our way to the Venetian for the blogger tournament. Thanks go again to Falstaff for organizing the tourney and to the Venetian for hosting. I lasted longer than last year, which was my first goal, but didn't go deep. I made a few mistakes, including not paying attention and calling a raise when I thought I was just limping in the small blind. But I also was getting very little in the way of cards to play, so I ended up busting shortly after the second break. Next time, my first goal will be to make it to the third break. One benefit to sitting where I did was getting to know Bacon Bikini Mary a little better. She was directly to my right, and I found out that she is a prog rock fan like me. I discovered this when I told her what my bounty was: a Yes Greatest Hits CD. Dawn Summers won the bounty when her KK busted my JJ. Mary was glad to hear this, hoping that it might improve the music that Dawn plays when the NY group goes driving together.
I played some $4-8 Limit HE at the Venetian after busting out of the tourney. At one point, I was ahead by almost the amount of my tourney buy-in. I should have quit then, but I hoped to build my profit past that amount, and I didn't get there. Instead, the loose players who were giving their chips away left the table and my card rush dried up. I did leave with $20 more than I bought in for, so that was a plus.
Sunday included breakfast at the Flamingo buffet (my favorite of the three on this trip), hanging out in the IP sportsbook for a bit, taking a walk on the Strip just to look around and get some exercise, and railing some of the bloggers playing $1-2 NLHE at the IP. Then off to McCarran and my flight home.
I still don't feel like a full member of the poker blogger group, at least not yet, but this year was a little better than last year when I only knew a handful of people that I had met at Okie-Vegas. Assuming that I go to more of these events, I may feel like I fit in more each time. I'm not a drinker or all-night partier, but I do enjoy some of the same things as several of the other bloggers, such as a nice meal, sightseeing, and some card playing. I don't expect to attend a Summer 2009 bash because of other plans around the time of the WSOP, but I might come back next winter. To all of you that I saw this year, thanks for the good times, and forgive me for not calling you all out here by name. To those I missed in Vegas, and those who couldn't make it, I hope to catch up with you soon.