Saturday, March 06, 2010

14 hours in Vegas

After the RSA conference in San Francisco this week, I had 24 hours before I had to be in San Antonio for my nephew's bar mitzvah. So, I rearranged my flights, got a comped room at Harrah's, and ... free trip to Las Vegas!

After checking in and dropping off my luggage in my room, I walked over to the poker room at Harrah's. It was dark, dingy and depressing looking, and there were only 2 tables with players. So, I crossed the street over to the Mirage, and found a beautiful, large poker room that was hopping. I bought into the 1-2 no limit Hold 'em game for $200 and started playing at 6:30 pm. The table was mostly weak with a few aggressive players pushing the action and several tourists who were in way over their head.

I watched a couple of rounds without playing any hands until I picked up K-Q suited in middle position. An active player with a stack about like mine in second position (player A) raises to $6 (the bet amounts in this trip report are the best approximation I can make based on what I remember). I call, and two other players behind me (players B & C) call. The flop came K-T-3 rainbow, giving me top pair with a decent kicker. Player A, the original raiser, bets $12, which was half the pot, and I call. Player B, behind me folds and player C raised to $30. Player A folds, and after giving it some thought (although clearly not enough), I call. The turn card was another ten. That was a scary card given the betting so far, so I check. Player C pushes all in. I didn't see how I could call for all my chips with top pair decent kicker on my very first hand on that board. Furthermore, I had pegged player C as tight and this was her first big move since I sat down. So, after contemplating it a bit, I folded. Player C shows a pair of tens for quad tens, and in addition to the pot, she collects a special jackpot that the casino paid for anyone showing quads or better.

So, I had a bit of a dent in my stack after one hand, but I had averted early disaster. About 4 hands later things weren't going well, I was down to $15, and in less than 15 minutes from when I played my first hand, I bought in for another $100. I had some unlucky breaks and in short order, I was down to $55. At this rate, it was going to be a very short night of poker. I got up and walked around and tried to relax and decided to tighten up and focus, so that my $55 would last a little longer.

About an hour later, I was doing better and up to about $90 playing very tight and occasionally stealing some pots due to the table rep I had established. I wasn't getting any cards. Then I hit a turning point. I was in the big blind wit Q-5 offsuit. It limps around to me with 8 players and I check. The flop comes 5-5-3. After a couple of checks, one player (A) bets $10 into a $16 pot. Another player (B) calls, and I call, so three players see the turn. The turn card is a Q, completing my well-disguised boat. Player A bets $25; player B who had us both covered raises to $50. I push all in. Player A folds, and player B calls. The river card is irrelevant, and player B shows a pair of 3s for a lower full house than mine. I'm back in business, doubling up to $180. I got lucky because player B flopped his boat and I didn't get mine until the turn. Furthermore, had the Q not come, I would have lost a lot of money with my trip fives.

I decided to shift gears and loosen up a bit. The more aggressive players at the table had left and were replaced by tight, passive players. I was able to chase out limpers pretty often. There was one guy at the table, Don Quixote (pronounced 'Donkey Chote'), in particular who like to limp and then raise on the flop and then fold on the turn to a big bet. I noticed this pattern with regularity, so I started exploiting it very successfully. His tactic, however, had been working for him surprisingly well (due in large part to luck), and he had a decent stack, well over $400.

I had built myself up to about $300 (breaking even for the night at that point) when I was dealt suited connectors. I don't remember which cards exactly, but I ended up in an all in showdown with Don Q., and my flush beat his two pair, and so I doubled up again, to twice my total buy-in.

My worst beat of the night also came against Don, who at that point, not surprisingly, was down to about $100. Under the gun, I bet $8 with pocket aces, and only Don calls. Heads up. The flop comes 8-J-Q with two spades. I bet $25, hoping to shut out any draws he might have and take the pot right there. Don raises me all in. I had to think a little bit. The hands I can think of where I'm not a favorite are 9-T, two pair, and the three sets. Don was always raising preflop with pairs, even low ones, so I had to figure he had flopped two pair or a straight. He was also very capable of a bluff, and I also figured he might make that play with hands like A-Q or (more likely since I had 2 aces) K-Q. The way Don played, I also thought he could push with any two spades as some kind of misguided semi-bluff. I had no idea which of these I was up against, although I suspected it was not a set, and I didn't see much choice with a third of my stack already in the pot and a decent hand, so I called, and he turns over 9-T of spades and ends up getting his flush on the river, although he already had me beat with the straight.

The characters at the table changed over time, and I stayed until 3:00 a.m. - my longest poker session ever. At one point my stack got as high as around $700, and I ended cashing out $518. When I got back to my room, I got ready for bed and called Ann to say hi. She was just getting up at 6:20 a.m. EST in Baltimore. I set a wake-up call for 4 hours later and got a little bit of sleep. I'm on the plane now heading to San Antonio. Tired as hell, but I had a total blast. Can't wait to play poker again, and incredulous that I came out ahead on my first trip to play poker in Las Vegas. I'm sure I'll be redistributing my winnings to the folks at my regular house game before long.