Sometimes, when the day doesn’t go the way you planned it out, it works out just fine. Everything went wrong on this day until I finally got into a game at the Planet Hollywood poker room.
This took place on the day before this year’s Super Bowl, otherwise known as Pete Carroll’s brain fart. My plan was to play in the 1PM Aria tournament. Now, I knew I had to get there early for sure. It was Super Bowl weekend and additionally, the Aria was having one of their High Roller Tournaments, with something like a $25K buy-in, in addition to the regular tournament. I was even personally warned by the TD that I should arrive early to insure getting in when the tournament started.
And that was definitely the plan. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into, I was delayed leaving my luxurious accommodations and didn’t get to the Aria until just a few minutes before 1PM. Damn. I knew I could come in as an alternate but that didn’t appeal to me unless I was one of the first alternates. Coming into to the tournament during the 3rd or 4thlevel was a non-starter for me (why start the tournament already in fold-or-shove mode?).
There was a crowd lined up, but it wasn’t too long so I figured I’d at least ask if the tournament was filled up and if so, how many alternates they already had. I heard the cashier tell the person in front of me they were only taking alternates. When I got to the cashier I asked how many alternates they already had. “Sixty-eight,” he said. Sixty-eight? Did I want to be alternate #69? All obvious jokes aside….no.
Well so much for that plan. I had a backup plan. Play cash all day and really (try to) take advantage of all those tourists who poured into town for the big game. After all, that’s why I picked this weekend to hit town, right? There was just one little problem. For the previous two days, the tables weren’t treating me kindly and I didn’t have enough money on me to play cash. I had a little more than the $125 tournament buy-in on me.
Of course, there’s only about a gazillion ATM’s on the Vegas strip. But I hate using casino ATM’s because they charge exorbitant fees, and then my own bank adds on some fees of their own. Some years ago, I opened up an account with Citibank just to avoid the fees. They conveniently have branches in both California and Nevada and at least 75% of the 7-11’s in Vegas have Citibank ATM’s. If I use one of them to get my money, no fee whatsoever. And there are more 7-11’s in Vegas than there are bad boob jobs there (well, maybe not quite).
But not on the Strip. But I have a car and I stay off the Strip so it’s never inconvenient to stop by on my way to some poker. Well, almost never. Because I was rushing to try to make the Aria, I didn’t have time to stop before getting there. Besides, I didn’t need to—I had enough money to buy-in into the tournament and then the plan was to win enough money playing the tournament so that I wouldn’t need to hit an ATM at all (except to deposit).
So…..I could have gotten back in my car, driven to a nearby 7-11, gotten the cash, and found a cash game. But…..I thought I had a better idea. About six months ago, I discovered there actually is a 7-11 on the Strip, and it sure enough does have a Citibank ATM. Even better, it is located between the MGM and Planet Hollywood (on that side of Strip). And if you know your Vegas geography, you know that Aria, where I was, is more-or-less between MGM and Planet Hollywood (on the other side of the Strip). How convenient! I could walk across the street, hit that ATM and then head over to Planet Hollywood.
I had been meaning to get over to Planet Hollywood and play in their new room for awhile. In case you haven’t heard, they moved the poker room a month or two ago. I had been over there to see the new location but didn’t get a chance to play that day (I think it might have been Christmas day) but now I would get a chance. Not that I especially liked the new location. I’m fairly certain that the decision to move the PH poker room was made by casino management and not necessarily endorsed by the poker folks over there. Just another example of how casinos treat poker like a nuisance, not a revenue source. But considering that PH is now the home of the WSOP circuit events, plus all those big tournament series that Caesars Palace used to host but no longer has room for, you’d think they’d show the poker room a little more respect. And you’d be wrong.
The new, somewhat smaller room is between the sports book and the popular Earl of Sandwich eatery. Which means it’s right next to the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops, so it’s almost on the outskirts of the casino. Not really a good location. The old room was right in the heart of the casino, and although it did tend to get noisy at night, the room almost always had some nice moving scenery in the vicinity, in addition to the sexily costumed cocktail waitresses.
Alright, that seemed like a good alternative plan. I left the Aria and headed toward the Strip and hoped to see that 7-11 I’d been to last year. Since I’d actually used the ATM, I knew it existed. But from across the street, although I saw a bunch of shops that looked familiar, that looked like where I sorta remembered the 7-11 being, I couldn’t see it. I didn’t want to cross the street until I knew which direction it was from where I was. Finally I remembered that I have a smart-phone on me and that there’s this thing called Google Maps. And guess what? That 7-11 that had been there six months ago no longer exists. Which means the Citibank ATM is gone as well. One more bad beat.
I had a decision to make….walk back to the car, drive to an off-strip 7-11, or walk to PH and just hold my nose and use a casino ATM. If I went back to my car, I was unlikely to head back to PH because I think their parking is the absolute worst, which means I’d likely play somewhere else. And I really wanted to give PH a shot, since I was so close (at least I thought it was).
So I walked towards PH. I swear I made that walk in December and it wasn’t bad. This time it was bad. Because I was already on the Strip, I didn’t take the shortcut thru the Crystals shopping venue. And there is a lot of construction going on in that area, which not only made the walk longer but took away some escalators and I had to walk up some stairs. The weather had started to warm up and I was still wearing my ready-for-winter ski jacket, so I actually worked up sweat. Then my back started acting up. It had been fine until then. By the time I finally got inside PH, I was in bad shape.
I found an ATM and got my money. They only added on $4.99 in fees. But I knew my own bank would add to it. When I first checked, I thought it was $2. But just yesterday I noticed there were two $2 fees. I thought it was a mistake, so I called the bank. Seemed like an easy mistake to correct. But no, it wasn’t a mistake. In addition to charging me two bucks for the withdrawal from an out of network ATM, they charged me two more bucks for checking my balance at an out of network ATM. Can you say goniffs?
I had one more stop to make before landing in the poker room. I had to swing by the “Pleasure Pit” and see if a certain young lady was dealing. I’ve seen this girl most times I’ve gone to PH during the afternoon. She is an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous blonde. Stunning. Face, figure, she has it all. And she deals blackjack in lingerie. The first time I saw her was the last time I played 3-card poker. I’m lucky I won because I think I would have emptied my wallet just to keep gazing at her. If you ever want to get me a present, she would be my first choice.
And I eventually saw her, just as she was going on break. She was working the $50 minimum BJ table. No, no, not gonna play $50 a hand BJ, no way. For fifty bucks a hand, that hand would have to go in a very specific place.
Anyway, I somehow made it to the poker room (after getting a bit lost, I admit, because I’d only been to the new location once and only briefly). I got on the list and had a nice chat with Chris, the poker room manager (who I had interviewed for Ante Up recently). The room was packed, about five tournament tables and all the rest of the tables filled with cash games. So I went over to a nearby slot machine and waited for them to go thru the list.
I was trying to cool off and relax a bit and hoping that back wasn’t going to get any worse. I was sitting just a few feet away from one of the tournament tables. Suddenly, I noticed a guy at that table reacting happily to having just won a pot. As it he was enjoying the thrill of victory his head turned and he saw me. And he shouted over to me, “Look at this, I just won a hand with pocket Kings!” Huh? I realized it was Vegas724, a reader of the blog who I met and introduced you to in the post here. I got up to say hello as he stacked his chips. “I just won with the dreaded pocket Kings.” Always love to hear other folks use that term back at me. We had a nice chat and he explained to me that he had also intended to play at the Aria but he too was running late and realized he had no chance of getting in, so he wound up at PH.
It was a good half hour before I got called into a game. Up until that point, pretty much everything had gone wrong on this day (other than the pleasant surprise of running into one of my readers), but my luck changed when I took my seat. Sitting to my immediate right was a cute girl who was wearing a rather revealing tank top. Also, her friend, also cute and also wearing a low-cut top, was sitting behind her, railing her. The friend was basically sitting between us, very close to me. I didn’t complain about not having enough space. Finally, I caught a break this day.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a wild game. The very first hand I saw, a guy open raised to $15 UTG, another player shoved for $52 and the big blind cold called the $52, as did the original raiser. Nobody bet the flop. On the turn, which was a Queen, the original raiser bet and got the big blind to fold. At showdown the original raiser (and turn bettor) showed pocket 3’s, unimproved. The guy who was all in had King-Queen and won the pot. I can only imagine what the other guy had.
People were open raising to $15, $20 even $25. Yes, this was a 1/2 game! I knew this was going to be wild ride, and that if I could hit a hand I could do well. Of course, variance being variance, I might have to hit that ATM another couple of times before I was done.
So when I got the dreaded pocket Kings on a hand where someone straddled to $5 UTG (they allow the button straddle but oddly enough, no one ever did) and two people had already called the $5, I went ahead and made it $40. Only two players called, I was surprised it wasn’t more. The flop was 9-7-6, two spades (my Kings were both red). I put out $80 and was glad to take it down.
The very next hand I had pocket Jacks. There was a limper and I made it $15—probably not enough at this game. Again, two callers, again a low flop, again my c-bet ($35) took it down.
Strange hand…I raised to $15 with King-Queen offsuit, three players called, including a guy who put in his last $7. I don’t recall the flop, but I c-bet $20 and everyone but the guy who was all in for $7 folded. By the river, there was a full house on the board and my King-Queen was worthless. He had Jack-8 offsuit, also worthless, we chopped. Note: Even though he wasn’t the blind and didn’t have to do it, he put his last $7 in with Jack-8 off. It was that kind of game.
From the small blind I completed with King-10 offsuit. By this time the preflop action had calmed down a bit and there were occasionally limped pots, this was one of them. The flop was Jack-9-8, rainbow. It was checked around. A queen on the river gave me the nut straight, so I bet $7 and a guy made it $20. I bumped it to $50 and he tanked. There was just the two of us left. He finally called. A 5 on the river didn’t change anything and I put out $100, hoping he had a 10. Otherwise, I couldn’t imagine him calling. He tanked for a long time, but eventually he called. I showed my hand and he just mucked. My impression of the way he looked at my hand and then tanked….he didn’t have a 10. I think he may have had a pair, maybe two, but I doubt it was better than that. I had already gotten the impression he was a weak player and nothing that happened the rest of the way changed my impression.
The very next hand I had pocket Aces. First in, I made it $15. You think I would have learned by then. I only had 6 callers.
Yeah, that’s right, 6! Six players called an early position raise of $15. I’m thinking that’s a few more than I wanted. The flop was Ace-high, two diamonds. I did actually have the Ace of diamonds. Now seriously, anybody have an idea how to proceed there? I would love some feedback.
A set of Aces is sure nice, but I figured with 6 opponents the likelihood of someone having two diamonds was pretty damn good. In fact, I kind of figured that there might very well be players with two suited cards of every damn suit! I really had no idea what to do, other than that there was no chance in hell I was going to slow play it.
I put out $100. I was wondering how many would call. To my amazement, every single one of them folded. No one had two diamonds (or anything else to call with)? Or did I make it too expensive to chase? As I was collecting my chips I wondered if my bet-sizing was right. But you know, claiming a $100 pot on a wet board like that wasn’t such a bad result.
One bad hand, another limped pot. I had King-8 of clubs in the big blind. I think it was 5 to see the flop. It was 8-5-3, one club. I bet $8 and was raised to $20, I called. Now it was heads up. A second club on the turn, I checked and called $20. I missed the flush and checked the river. He only put out another $20. I don’t believe the 8 was still top pair, but the way the game was going I couldn’t be sure I didn’t have the best hand, and a $20 bet into that pot seemed small, I couldn’t fold for that price. But he had flopped a set of 3’s.
Next hand, Aces again. I raised to $14 from the small blind. Only one player called (one by one, the crazy players had left, some with chips, some after felting). The flop was Queen-high and I bet $20 and took it down.
I had been there for two hours and the big stacks had left or gotten felted and failed to re-buy. I had been in town two days and this my first winning session. So I left with a $310 profit. I liked that hourly rate, to be sure. My back no longer hurt as much and I took a slow walk back to Aria, taking all shortcuts possible. I noticed that the tournament only had 120 players total. They started with 70 when I was there so that means only 50 alternates got in. I’m sure plenty gave up even after buying entry. That would still have made for a nice prize pool, but the odds of me getting a better score there than the one I made at Planet Hollywood were rather slim. The odds of me getting a better score in the same amount of time were non-existent.
Guess it all worked out after all. There was more poker played this day, but that story will have to wait for another time.