Recapping Vegas -- Part I
So here I sit in McCarran airport as I type this shortly before 6am on Tuesday morning, trying fruitlessly to arrange some thoughts in my cloudy, murky head as I look back on yet another annual Vegas trip, replete with the usual bouts of debauchery, degeneracy, and just general excess as I always seem to fall into whenever I come out here these days. I feel this exact same way -- this feeling of not being all there -- every time I depart the fantasy universe that truly is Las Vegas to return to the Real World every summer. It's just the last rite of passage that I really need to go through if I want to truly live the Vegas experience to the fullest. I drank far more this weekend than I ever drink in a year outside of Vegas. I smoked more cigarettes this week than at any time since, well, Las Vegas last summer. And, something I didn't believe could ever be possible: I actually slept less on this trip than I have probably over any four-day period in my entire life, including prior Vegas trips.
Counting today, my last day in the desert, the earliest I went to sleep on any day of this trip was around 4am, and that was my first night into town after a long and draining trip when my other friends were still just straggling in for my brother's bachelor party and everyone was not quite geared up for the true Vegas experience. Friday night saw me playing cash poker at the MGM with Chad, CK and Blinders until sometime after 3am, and even then I ended up staying up gambling and then pondering whether or not I really wanted to play the WSOP that I had been hoping to play on Saturday. On Saturday I headed to the Venetian at noon local time to start the $560 buyin Deep Stack Extravaganza, and little did I know I would be playing there until around 3am before heading back to the MGM, where, once again I couldn't sleep. In fact, I was so wired from the Day One action, and so hungry from having been firing on all mental cylinders for so many hours straight, that I ended up meeting up with Chad for a very late-night meal at the Studio Cafe, a place I've been frequenting in the MGM since I was nearly a teenager. It was a great opportunity for me to debrief about the day, to pick Chad's brain about some thoughts and questions I had heading into Day Two, and just generally to decompress after what had been a very draining day or me to say the least. But I watched the sun turn the mountains to the West of Las Vegas pink with its first rays out my hotel window before I even considered being able to actually fall asleep on Saturday night, so abuzz was I with the anticipation of playing in my first ever poker tournament Day Two. And then on Sunday night I once again ended up at the Venetian blasting my way through the rest of the DSE field until sometime after 3am. And if you think I could sleep after winning almost 51 grand in far and away my largest ever poker tournament score, then you haven't been picking up what I've been putting down over here for the last several sentences. After the big win, I couldn't have kept my eyes shut with staples, glue or any other adhesive known to man. I'm not sure I had ever been that far from sleep in my entire life. But believe me, I didn't catch a wink of sleep after my Sunday Venetian score this weekend until after 8am on Monday morning. By then I knew I would need to pick up my check from the Venetian on Tuesday afternoon due to a technical error they were having with their system on Sunday night, and thus I had already rescheduled my flight back to the beach and my family for Tuesday morning super early. So that left me with one more surprise night in Sin City to actually get some sleep for a change, and what did I do? Well, I'm here at the airport waiting to board my 7 o'clock plane back to the east coast, and I haven't slept a single wink yet today, thanks to a late-night gambling session that happened purely on a whim, but which I did not want to let go after I started winning money hand over fist and I was having such a blast playing a bunch of table games that I haven't really played since I used to frequent Las Vegas in my former life. Before I knew it, three quarter blackjack tables and three hot craps setups later, there it was, 5am, with a flight outta here scheduled for just minutes after 7, completing the circle of me not getting anything that even resembles a good night's sleep on any of my nights in town.
But of course, the total lack of sleep or any kind of rest at all that seems so hard not to do basically every time I'm in town contributes in a big way to my feeling the Day After, or even the Morning Of, of just a general in ability to function as a productive member of Real World society after three or four days in fantasy camp. Throw in the drinking, the smoking and just the general partying that goes on every time I'm in town, and it's no wonder that I'm sitting here today having a good deal of trouble even putting together coherent sentences at all, and certainly not doing a good job of capturing the essence of what makes one of these Vegas runs so very special in my life.
As I look back on this particular trip to Vegas as compared to my forays in recent years, it certainly ranks up there as the weirdest of the trips I have had. From a purely poker perspective, I began the poker portion of my trip as I wrote about earlier by putting in a hideous session of 1-2 nlh cash at the MGM with Chad and CK, losing one and a half buyins and basically calling every value bet like a fonkey on the river as I managed to accumulate a host of second-best hands in spots where it was very difficult to put my opponents on a winning hand. Amazingly, I can read myself the post I wrote very early on Saturday morning just after that crappy cash session where I remember seriously considering not even playing the WSOP the next morning. Of course, cooler heads prevailed in the morning and I realized that I was letting my performance in an unusually unlucky cash session cloud my feelings about playing in a poker tournament, and that just didn't make sense to me. Of course, as I wrote previously, I was unable to register for the Saturday WSOP event, as I and probably about a thousand of my closest friends were all turned away thanks to the geniuses at the WSOP who couldn't even plan sufficiently ahead to make extra space for more than 2700 entrants, even when they had filled all of those 2700 seats more than 12 hours before that event was scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, and you already know the rest of the story that ended up with me at the Venetian to play the Deep Stack Extravaganza event. It's just really funny to me that, for the first time ever since I've been making an annual summer poker pilgrimage to Las Vegas, I actually had reservations about even playing in any poker tournaments shortly after arriving, and then of course this ends up being the time that I record my biggest tournament score. It's just funny how life works some times I guess.
Along those same lines, I will admit here that one of my initial reactions to hearing about sprstoner's and then LJ's incredible WSOP performances this summer -- other than elation mixed with a healthy portion of jealousy at my fellow bloggers' tournament success of course -- was that it, too, left me looking forward that much less to my own upcoming tournaments in Vegas. I know I complained to a few of you out there over the girly how now, even if I went on a sick run and managed to make it deeper than ever before into my WSOP tournament, there was just no way it was going to seem great to anyone, or even feel great to me myself, after seeing these people I know and like have such deep runs, make WSOP final tables, etc. I just remember specifically feeling bummed about that turn of events, solely from my own perspective, because I really felt like I was suddenly thrust into a no-win situation for me, where even if I made it to, say, the top 100 again and cashed for say 5 grand or something in the WSOP, I still simply wouldn't feel like I had accomplished all that much in light of others' recent serious triumphs. And again, this is not to suggest for a second that I was not thrilled to see these guys running so deep on the grandest of scales -- I think my body of work over the last several years makes it quite clear that I am probably more excited about any blogger's grand-scale poker accomplishments than anybody else out there -- but rather just to highlight the fact that I recognized that one of the effects of this great news was going to be the diminishing of what I considered to be even the most optimistic of expectations for my own performance heading into my trip. And, just like my previous point above, I just think it is really interesting and coincidental that this trip was the first time I have ever felt like I simply did not have the ability to do anything at this point that would really feel like a major accomplishment to me given the incredible job some friends had been doing already in the WSOP this summer, and then of course this ends up being the trip where I kick the most ass I've ever kicked in any poker tournament. Again, life moves in mysterious ways I suppose.
I should also mention that I saw without a doubt the weirdest thing I've ever seen happen in any poker tournament happen near the end of Day One of the Venetian DS event I played in. Rather than spoil that one with the details now, I will leave that for Wednesday's post all about Day One of my tournament. But suffice it to say, there was in fact more than one thing that went down during my tournament that were truly new experiences for me -- mostly not
positive ones, mind you -- and overall it leaves me also feeling like the actual poker tournament I played in was also quite weird when it all comes down to it. And that's not even counting how sickly I rallied on Day Two from 2/3 of the way down the leaderboard to the very pinnacle over the span of just a couple of hours, which in itself was really pretty amazing and weird.
One other thing that was different about my gambling experience in Vegas this summer was that I also dabbled this trip in both blackjack and in craps, also things which I have not normally participated in in past Vegas poker trips. Back in the day, when I was a young, single guy going to Vegas with friends and family 7 or 8 times a year, I was Mr. Craps, and since even before that I've been playing blackjack in casinos all around the country, so it's not that I don't know how or don't think these can be profitable over the short-term. But the very fact that these games are by definition not profitable over the long term is what has kept me largely away from those games since I had an epiphany about my gambling proclivities sometime around Y2K and really stopped gambling altogether until getting back in to poker a few years later.
In all, it was an exciting and really amazing trip, far and away the most fun I have ever had during a short weekend in Sin City, influenced largely of course by me playing probably the best poker of my life, certainly on the largest stage and in the most significant spot I have ever played in. I learned all over again in a major way how incredibly draining a poker tournament can be, and after putting in probably 40 hours of poker in a 3-day span counting my marathon cash session on Friday night plus the next two full days at the Venetian, I can say with confidence that my mind hasn't been as worn down in as long as I can remember as it was when this thing was finally done around 3am on Sunday night / Monday morning. Every time I close my eyes -- even still, now 36 hours later -- I see pocket Kings, pocket 9s, J4 of clubs, etc. I couldn't even come close to playing even reasonably good poker at all on Tuesday, even though I had originally expected to do nothing but play poker tournaments from start to finish on this trip, and when I tried to log in to full tilt for some quick online satisfaction, I found myself donking away by not even being able to focus on the hand, the community cards, anything. I will just need a few days away from the game to clear my head, as that much high-stress, high-tension poker really threw me for a loop. But it goes without saying that this weekend will not be one I will ever forget, and I look forward to spending the next couple of days posting all about my performance in the $560 buyin Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza tournament, following it up with a recap type of post at the end of the week about my post-trip thoughts, and my impressions in general of Vegas and of the trip as a whole.
I plan to be back on Wednesday with my recounting of Saturday's action in Las Vegas, which mostly means Day One of the Venetian Deep Stack event. See you then!