Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 WPBT Winter Classic Report – Eat, Walk, Play

Another WPBT Winter Classic is in the history books, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to be there. The three activities we engaged in the most on the trip are in the title of this post, with “Play” perhaps being the least of the three. Below is my report on this year’s shenanigans.

First, an observation: hardly anyone who attended this year’s gathering seems to have an active poker blog any more. So, a lot of the links you see below for named people will be for their Twitter handles, since that now seems to be the more common method of communication among this group. Maybe we should start calling it the WPTT (World Poker Tweeter Tour)?

Thursday Nov. 29

This evening was taken up by dinner and the screening of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event with our friends Ron and Barb Moore. Ron was the visual effects supervisor for TNG as well as many other TV shows and films. We met Ron and Barb on a couple of Cruise Treks and have been friends with them since. We had a great time catching up with them and watching the TNG episodes and bonus features at the screening. Side note: Ron has just written a book about his career in visual effects, titled “Flying Starships”; you can get more info about it at his website.

Friday Nov. 30

The big event Friday morning was the hike on Oak Creek Loop trail in Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas. Dan (aka PokerPeaker) suggested it, expecting two or three people to show interest. 15 of us showed up, and everyone enjoyed the easy and scenic hike. A group photo by Astin can be found here; I took some photos too, which you can see here.

Friday afternoon and evening was mixed games time at the Aria poker room. I played for a while and finished up a few dollars. These sessions are more about having fun playing with fellow bloggers, but walking away with a few extra bucks does sweeten the deal.

Saturday Dec. 1

Pat and I started our day with breakfast at the Hash House a Go-Go at The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace). The “twisted farm food” at the Hash House is excellent and highly recommended. We then walked through Bellagio to look at their Christmas decorations on our way to Aria for the WPBT tournament. Bellagio always puts up a fabulous holiday display in their Conservatory.

Things started out slowly for me in the tourney. I took a few pots to keep my stack from shrinking too quickly, but didn’t chip up as much as I would have liked. I made a couple of ill-advised plays that cost me some chips, but managed to stay in contention through the first two breaks. Near the end of the second break (or was it the third?), I was talking to Dan, who was seated to my left and had a very healthy chip stack. I mentioned that my stack was getting short and I was nearing the danger zone. He said a double-up would put me back into the thick of things. First hand of the next round, I picked up AQ and went all in. Dan insta-called with KK. I spiked an Ace on the flop and got that double-up. Those chips allowed me to steal a few pots to keep pace with the table and eventually stick around for the final table. I had never gone that deep in previous WPBT tourneys and was thrilled with making it that far. Plus, my last-longer partner Alan (aka metsfan) was still in the game and at my table, so I knew we had a good shot at winning that prize. My run would not last much longer, though, due to a cooler hand of KK vs. The WookieWay’s AA. He had me covered by about 800 chips, and I was out in 9th place out of 58 runners. I didn’t cash, but I’m very pleased with the deep run. I found out after the tourney ended, with CJ (aka the Luckbox) taking it down, that Alan and I tied with Dan and Michael (aka Grange95) for the last longer. My share of the last longer pool almost covered my buy-in to the tournament, so that worked out quite nicely.

When I tracked down VinNay to get my last longer winnings, I found him at the Monte Carlo Café with Alan and his fiancée Kat, plus my old pal Wil Wheaton, Shane Nickerson, Ryan (aka absinthetics), Chilly and another gent whose name I failed to get. They ate their dinner while Pat and I chatted with them, after which VinNay suggested that we have our own mini slot tournament: each player would choose a $0.25 machine and deposit $20. At the sound of the virtual bell, the contestants would play for 5 minutes, and player with the highest remaining total would take all the winnings of all players for the tournament. I joined in, expecting it to be a chop of zero money left for all of us. But, several of us hit a few winners during the 5 minutes, with Vinnie coming out on top. His haul was something like $180+; not bad for five minutes of slot play.

Sunday Dec. 2

Pat and I decided to go for the Caesars buffet pass, which gets you into any buffet at the Caesars properties, as often as you like, in a 24 hour period. Because, you know, we hadn't eaten enough already on the trip. We started by having brunch at the Flamingo buffet, and then drove away from the Strip which was being closed for the Rock and Roll Marathon to be run that afternoon and evening. We visited one of the outlet malls, plus Green Valley Ranch Casino, and the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and their Cactus Garden which was fully decorated with holiday lights (photos here). The traffic around the Strip was monstrous when we got back, which complicated matters a bit but didn’t prevent us from getting to the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood to use our buffet pass for dinner. Gotta get our money's worth.

Before I went to bed, I played in the Sunday night $3/$6 mixed game at The Quad (I still want to call it the IP). They were spreading some really weird games, only two of which I ended up playing. The first was Stud Eight, but the twist was that each player got four cards to start, all face down, and then each player would look at his cards and discard one. Then a designated player would turn up one card, and the player to the left would turn one up, etc. Play then continued as in regular Stud 8. I won over $40 in a few minutes playing this game, getting some good hands that got paid off. I gave it all back in the next game, though: 3-2-1 Omaha Eight. What the hell is that, you may ask? It starts like regular Omaha High-Low, but three flops are dealt, plus two turn cards and one river card. I’m not the best Omaha player but I have a decent idea of how to play it. This version, though, confused the crap out of me. After I lost my earlier winnings, I decided it was time to call it a day. I’m sure the regulars who were in this game wanted me to stick around so they could try to get more of my chips, but I didn’t feel like giving them that chance.

Monday Dec. 3

We used our buffet pass to stuff ourselves one last time with breakfast at Harrah’s, then headed for the airport for the flight to L.A. to visit Pat’s dad. We spent the week with him and came home Friday.

If I have any regrets from this trip, the first would be not having spent more time with some of my blogger friends, and not getting to spend any time with those who couldn’t be there this year. The second would be not taking more photos, especially at the tournament or mixed games. But overall I had a great time and look forward to doing it again next year. Many thanks for April for organizing the poker stuff, VinNay for handling the last longer, Dan for suggesting and leading the hike, and the Aria poker room staff for everything they did to make us WPBT folks feel welcome.

Happy Holidays to all, and see you next time!