Thursday, December 17, 2009

WPBT trip report 2009

I went to the poker blogger confab last weekend in Las Vegas. I have a poker blog. It follows that a trip report must be posted, yes? Well, here it comes.

This was my third trip out west to get together with this bunch of degenerates wackos fellow poker players. I still don’t feel like a card-carrying member of the community, but the integration process seems to be continuing, if slowly. I met a few new (to me) people this year; saw a lot of people that I had met before, many of whom actually remembered me; missed a lot of folks that either couldn’t make it this time or were there but I didn’t get to talk to; and actually had a couple of chances to spend a bit of “quality time” (read: more than two consecutive minutes) with a handful of them. As so many have pointed out, these gatherings are as much about the people you get to see as it is about playing poker or visiting Vegas. And despite the stories you may hear about drunken foolishness, -EV game playing, ejections from bars or casinos, and other unsavory behavior, this group is actually quite a decent crowd, who will welcome just about anybody who wants to join in the fun. Considering that I don’t drink, don’t play in the regular blogger games on line, and don’t post on my blog all that often, I appreciate the acceptance that the rest of the gang offers me.

But, let me get to some specifics about this year’s trip. First, I will readily admit to being a genuine lightweight in some respects. I arrived at the Geisha Bar Thursday evening around 11:30 PM, caught up with some of my old friends and acquaintances, and then left to get some sleep by 1:15 AM. I know that some were up until dawn or later the next morning, but my biological timer shuts down well before that and I end up pooping out comparatively early. I’m fine with that, and it made it easier for me to get up in time to try the Harrah’s breakfast buffet Friday morning with OhCaptain, who also got up around the time that some were just crashing. It was nice to just sit, eat, and chat over regular stuff. After we ate, we drove down to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum at their new location. I had heard that the PHOF was a big hit with several bloggers last year, and as a big fan of pinball from my younger days I wanted to check it out this year. I had a blast playing a bunch of old classic machines, many of which I recognized from those good old days, while OhCaptain mostly took photos. Before we left, we walked across the parking lot to the Gamblers’ Book Shop, which neither of us knew was so close until we saw it as we drove up. It’s a small, unassuming place but has an enormous selection of books on all forms of gambling, many of which you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. We were there one day too late for the Doyle Brunson book signing which happened Thursday. Fortunately, they still had some books left that Texas Dolly had signed, and we each bought one – I got SuperSystem 2, the New Edition, and I’m glad to have it.

Pretty soon we needed to leave to get to the Neon Boneyard for the 2:00 PM tour. We texted Special K and Kat and picked them up, along with Betty Underground, and headed to the tour. It was fascinating, and many pictures were taken. I want to go back when the museum that they are planning is finished and some of the signs have been restored. Lots of history in those old hunks of metal and glass.

A few hours later, it was time to hit the Hard Rock Casino poker room for the Pokerati weekly PLO/NLHE game. I decided to play in this game as my first live session at either of those poker variants. I had only played either of them in a ring game setting on line for microstakes. I was a bit anxious when I sat down, but decided that I would start off slow and cautious and see how things developed. I got comfortable before too long, and ended up cashing out about $50 ahead thanks to a couple of decent pots. So, my cherry having been popped, I now feel like I can handle some NLHE cash (and in fact played a little more before the trip was over). Things didn’t go as well after that at the MGM Grand mixed games. I played HORSE with a table of bloggers for a couple of hours, but couldn’t catch any hands against the super-aggressive bunch at my table, and lost almost my entire buy-in. Maybe I should have joined the group that went to see Steel Panther, although I heard that some of them still had ringing in their ears the next day thanks to the volume being cranked up to 11.

Saturday was the big tournament, and I was looking forward to that. My first goal was to go deeper than I did the previous two years, and I achieved that. I feel like I played pretty well, and didn’t make a lot of big mistakes. I probably played tighter than some would consider optimal, but I didn’t get a lot to work with in the way of cards, and I had Dr. Chako on my immediate right for most of the time. He was, of course, raising most hands and I wasn’t getting much with which to play back at him. Still, I made it to about 30th place out of 86, and I’m not totally unhappy with that result. Congratulations to Astin for taking it down. Next year, I plan and expect to last even longer, with the final table in my crosshairs. Unfortunately, my team in the Luckbox Last Longer Challenge didn't make the money in that prop bet. But I still thank The Luckbox for organizing it, and Otis and PokerStars for making it even more worth shooting for with the prize pool sweetener.

After I busted out, I hung around Caesar’s for a while to see how the tourney played out, but decided after a bit that I was too hungry to wait until it ended. I made my way to MGM Grand to use a buffet coupon that I had. Who should I see there but Falstaff and Mrs. Falstaff, who invited me to join them for dinner. I had a nice visit with them both, despite the food at the buffet being only average if not worse. It was worth it, though, to have one of those bits of quality time with the two of them.

Falstaff told me about the 11:00 PM cheap buy-in tourney at the Sahara and said he was planning to play in it and drag some others along, and suggested that I join in. I thought that sounded good, so we went to the MGM poker room to kill some time. First I slipped over to the new Hard Rock CafĂ© on the Strip to buy some souvenirs for my family, and then came back to MGM and sat down at a $1/2 NLHE table. When it got to be time to leave for the Sahara, I looked for Falstaff but he had already left his table. I ran down and hopped on the Monorail to ride up to the Sahara, but when I got there, Falstaff was nowhere to be found and he never did make it. I played in the tourney anyway but busted out shortly after the first break. That pretty much ended my night and I headed back to Harrah’s to crash.

Sunday morning, I stopped in at Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo, site of the WPBT Sports Book Luxury Suite party organized by The Luckbox. Beautiful room, plenty of big TVs, a pool table, and a slightly frazzled waitress who tried her best to keep up with us and apparently everyone else in the whole sportsbar. I stayed for a while and then headed for the airport and home.

I had a good time, even if there were periods where I felt like I didn’t quite fit in completely. That feeling may always be there, but the fun parts outweigh the awkward parts, so the odds are good that I will be back in future years, as long as this group decides to do this. What better excuse could there be to get away from the real world for a weekend and live the debauched life that others only dream about? And to share that short interval of craziness with a gaggle of like-minded nutjobs freaks friends? Next year, barring apocalypse or Armageddon, I’m (all) in.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Some last minute thoughts before Las Vegas

A few things to mention before my trip to Sin City this weekend:

A new episode of Gambling Tales Podcast is now available. Go check it out.

My plans for the weekend include the Mixed Games at MGM Friday night and the big tournament Saturday, and possibly the Steel Panther show late Friday night. I also will be checking out the Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum, probably Friday midday, and I'm considering catching one of the Mac King afternoon shows at Harrah's on Friday too. I have heard that Katitude might be working on a tour of the Neon Graveyard and that sounds like something I'd like to get in on. Of course, I will be stopping in at the Geisha Bar on Thursday night after my flight arrives around 10:00 PM. I also want to just wander around town a bit and look at the sights as time allows, and overeat at a buffet or two. I expect to rage solo most of the time, but will welcome anyone who wants to hang out for an hour or three. My flight leaves Sunday afternoon, so it will probably be brunch for me late that morning and then head to the airport.

As I was typing this, I was also playing in a $3.30 90-player SNG on FullTilt. I have been running poorly in these lately, but figured the tide had to turn eventually. Tonight it finally did. I think I played reasonably well, although I know of a few plays that I probably should have made but chickened out on, and a few others that I should have done differently. The main factor in my going deep in this one is that the cards came for me when I needed them. I came from behind at least three times when I was at risk of busting, twice when my pocket pair was lower than my opponent's and I flopped a set each time to double up. When I got to the final table, I mostly laid back and let the others beat each other up, and folded my way to heads-up. After starting with about a 3 to 1 chip deficit, I fought my way to the chip lead, which then changed hands a couple of times until I overvalued top pair weak kicker and shoved my 87off into Q7off. I should have slowed down when he didn't, and I could have lasted longer and possibly taken it down. Still, the $40 boost to my puny FT bankroll is quite welcome. I'm hoping that my good run in this tourney will carry over to Vegas.

Looking forward to seeing those of you who will be there this weekend! For those who can't make it, you will be missed.