Monday, June 07, 2010

Fun Friday in Vegas

Friday. The official midpoint of my four-day sojourn to the desert, and as yet I had basically lost money on everything I had touched over two days in Las Vegas. The WSOP on Wednesday was a total downer as I mentioned earlier, and that buyin barely bought me enough fun to feel like I had even taken a real shot at a bracelet. On Thursday it was the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza, and although I played really, really well in that, in the end my lack of playable cards eventually caught up to me as it always does when you've never got anything every single time you ever make a move, and although I got really close to the cash in the end that buyin also did me nothing. I also managed to drop a little bit in those first couple of days at the cash tables in the MGM poker room, and even a touch here and there in the sports book. In all the entire trip had been nothing but a drain on my bankroll for the first couple of days, which had definitely not been in the plans when I drew up how I was hoping the week would go down.

And then came Friday. The Day When the Dam Finally Burst. We had stayed out wayyyy late on Thursday night, and when I woke up on Friday morning I had a big decision to make, as I wrote about here in my last post. Another WSOP $1500 donkament at noon, or another $340 Venetian DSE tournament at the same time? Without exactly realizing it at the time, I ended up choosing option (c) -- head to the Bellagio to do some shopping I had been looking to take care of while in the desert. I took my brother and friends to the Bellagio breakfast buffet -- the MGM's just does not compare, although it's much better than Mandalay Bay's which I ate at on my first morning in town -- and then after some shopping, when they went off to gamble I found myself strangely drawn towards the poker room at Bellagio, the site of my best winning cash session from two years ago the last time I visited this particular casino. It was a little after 10:30am at the time, and I remember thinking I would just sit down and see if I could make something happen in an hour or so, and then I could jump in a quick cab to either Rio or Venetian and play the tournament of my choosing. I got on the 2-5 list and since it was so early, I was able to avoid the one big problem with the Bellagio poker room -- the crowds. I was seated at a new 2-5 cash nl table almost immediately.

Fast forward just 45 minutes, and I was up over $550 just like that. I had the great fortune of being sat at a new cash table that was full of five Scandi friends all of whom bought in for full stacks, and all of whom never saw a preflop raise or a cbet or any kind of a draw whatsoever that they did not love. It was one of the best, most fun, and most importantly, most profitable tables I have ever sat at. No one was taking the game too seriously, and like I said their playing styles were all very overt and thus easy to adjust for. Unlike my earlier two forays into tournament poker at Rio and Venetian this week, it felt like I was dealt a premium hand every 20 or 25 hands or so, and I was able to make pretty much all of them pay off. Within 15 minutes of taking my seat, I was dealt pocket Kings in early position. I raised strongly (4x), knowing I was getting a bunch of callers regardless (three guys and the big blind stayed in), and when the flop came a semi-scary QT4 with two diamonds, I bet out for $75 into the $82 pot based on already having determined that these guys weren't folding any reasonable pair or draw. I got not one but two callers, something as I mentioned that would scare me a little on this board at a normal table. But not at this one. The turn was an offsuit 5, and I led out again, more or less sure that I was ahead, this time for $160 into what was around a $300 pot. I bet a little less than I could have, but again here these guys had already shown themselves to be major chasers and I did not want to lose them with just one card to come and very little chance of surpassing my overpair. Just the late position player called again, swelling the pot to over $600. The river filled with flush with an 8 of diamonds, a card I most decidedly did not love given my view of the player in the hand with me. I hollywooded for a while to try to act strong and discourage a river bluff that I knew I would not want to fold to before I finally lightly tapped the table, and he checked behind. I showed my Kings and he folded. I put him on second pair or a straight draw, and I was up more than $300 just like that.

Maybe 15 minutes later I had my second big hand of the day when I called a preflop raise to $20 from late position into a 5-way pot with 86 of clubs, and the flop came down A75 (again with two diamonds). The original limper bet out $40 into a pot that looked to have more than $100 in it, and when two players called that bet ahead of me, my only decision was whether to raise it up or just to call and hope for the straight. In the end, the flush draw out there is what stopped me from raising, knowing that I only had 6 reliable outs to my straight here instead of the usual 8, so I went for the limp as well. With $260 in the pot, my straight miraculously filled on the turn with an offsuit 9, a hand I knew none of these guys would ever put me on given the action in the hand. The EP guy checked it this time, but then one of the other players in front of me led out for a small $125. Again, normally, in particular in online play, a bet of less than half the pot would be a sign of a strong hand, but in live play when it's very difficult to count exactly how much is in the pot, I see this more regularly and in general against most non-tricky opponents a small bet is more indicative of weakness than strength. In any event I had the nuts, but I thought his bet indicated weakness so I just called behind and prayed for no diamond on the river. We saw the river heads-up with $510 in the pot, and when it brought an offsuit Jack -- making a higher straight possible but not something I viewed as a possibility given the play of this hand -- and when my opponent led out again for a paltry $125 at the river, that was my cue that he in fact had nothing he really liked. I bumped him up to $385 in the hopes he might have made two pairs with a JackAce or something, but after not all that long he laid his hand down, and I was up over a full buyin in my first half an hour at this new 2-5 no-limit table. And, I was having a great time doing it, with all the players at this table kind of laughing it up and just generally not taking things too seriously. And chasing. Oh, the chasedonkery of it all.

Shortly after this hand, I grabbed the cell phone and noticed that it was 11:45am. Time to shit or get off the pot as far as the WSOP and Venetian DSE go. I mulled it over for a few minutes, and eventually I decided I had to do what felt the most right at the time -- I stayed at the Bellagio cash table, in fact right in that very same seat. For over five hours. I won another $380 or so over that time, busting a couple of shorties when I called allins with pocket 9s (was up against 77) and with AQo (was up against 77 again). I lost a few chips when I bet aggressively with some draws, but I also managed to get paid a bit when I bet (once) and even raised the flop (once) on just a draw and got my opponent to fold into a decent pot. I only made one mistake in the session, when shortly before I left in time for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals (more on that later), I called a preflop raise from the blinds with pocket 6s, and then I opted to donk-bet into a guy I had observed to be a fonkey and led out for $45 into a $60 pot on a raggy flop of J54 that I figured he was unlikely to have hit. He smooth called my bet, and I went and talked myself into leading out again on the turn, even though I did not see him calling me on the flop with only overcards. I thought I could get him off whatever hand he was holding, but instead he raised me on the turn and I ended up having to fold in the biggest pot I lost on the session.

Around 4pm local time I cashed in for $1380 or so at the cage and hopped in a cab back to the MGM, where my brother and his wife were staying. Now, I should take some time to describe the levels to which my brother's degeneracy has risen, in terms of what the MGM is willing to offer him. This time around, our sort-of home base for the trip would be my brother's "room" in the very exclusive Skylofts on the top floor of the MGM Grand. And I use the term "room" very loosely, because, when you opened up the door to Skyloft #58 where he and my sister in law were staying, you realized what you were really looking at was not a room in a hotel at all but rather a luxury, ultra-modern 8-room condo-feeling apartment spread over two floors and featuring 30-foot ceilings with floor-to-ceiling windows. There was a full kitchen, a separate dining room area, and a super-modern living room featuring a custom 66-inch flat screen HD tv with an integrated surround sound system, all fully configurable in 500 different ways by the huge master remote on the coffee table that also controls all the lighting in the entire apartment, the automatic blinds on the big windows, and various other amazing features this place had to offer. Upstairs was a separate dressing room, a large bedroom with a low king-sized bed, and an incredible master bathroom with a stand-up steam shower, a tub, and a separate room for the commode. The unit also includes an office, which comes fit with a printer and a laptop with free wifi internet access for your use during your stay.

Oh, and did I mention the butlers? Each Skyloft comes with its own set of personal butlers, who are their to wait on your every beck and call on a moment's notice for the duration of your stay. So, for example, when my brother's allergies were acting up due to something he had come into contact with earlier in the day, he simply picked up the phone and asked for the medicine he wanted, and it was brought right to his door within maybe 10 minutes or so. When one of the many phones in the unit was not working properly, one phone call and within 30 minutes they had an engineer in there to look things over and fix the problem. When my sister in law wanted a strawberry milkshake at 4 in the morning, all we had to do was ask, and within minutes it appeared. Staying in the MGM Skylofts was literally like nothing I have ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of perks that are just hard to beat if you're looking to travel and stay in Las Vegas in style. For example, I know I have mentioned that during past Vegas trips with my brother, we have simply taken limos everywhere, bypassing the main resorts' taxi lines over and over again which can get pretty long during the busy times and on weekend nights, etc. Well, this trip we took that a step further. For the Skyloft residents, not even the regular limousines are enough, so we ended up taking 5 or 6 different trips over the week in a Mercedes Maybach 62, a car I had never even heard of before touching down at McCarron last week. Think of it like a limousine on steroids. It is not as useful as a limo in big groups, but for two or three travelers there is basically no greater luxury on the roads than sitting in your own seat, configurable by you to recline, foot up a footrest, any one of like 35 different options to control your seating arrangement in the vehicle. And there is more room in the back seat than any car you've ever been in in your life, and more features and creature comforts than you could probably imagine. The sunroof opens and closes, and it also can, at the push of a button, convert to either a clear window for the moon roof, or cover over dark entirely, or it can turn itself instantly opaque, staying a shade of white while blocking out the brightest of the sun's rays. There were coolers and heaters for the cup holders, heaters and personal fans for the seats, and satellite tv and radio for each passenger in the car. Oh and by the way, this was not just for rides from the MGM. As a Skyloft resident, we had a card with the Skyloft travel department's phone number on it, and anytime we wanted a ride -- to anywhere, and from anywhere in Las Vegas within a 20-mile or so radius of the Strip -- we just had to call, and there they would show up within 5 or 10 minutes later to take us to our next destination, be it the MGM or otherwise. Tooling around town all weekend in the Maybach was just one of those things that made this week in Las Vegas so special this time around.

OK, so back to Friday afternoon at the Skyloft. I think I mentioned the massive flat-screen HD television in the living room of my brother's apartment. Well, Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals was on, and once I decided to bag on playing another tournament at noon on Friday, the plan was hatched instead to cheer on our hometown Flyers to victory in a game that everyone from our group felt very confident the Flyers would win to tie up the series at 2 games apiece. Although obviously the sports book is another solid option to watch a big game at, ultimately we decided that we preferred the privacy of our own room -- in particular when I mention our dinner plans below in a minute -- but there was one big hitch: my brother's tv did not get Versus HD, who was showing the game nationally. As most of you know if you have ever stayed at one of the big resorts in Las Vegas, these places don't get you to come all the way out there and then put lots of great stuff on tv to keep you holed up in your room all day. No, they want you out in their casino, dropping your hard-earned dollars on all the myriad games they offer that are mathematically designed to beat you over time. That's the whole game plan with these resorts, so they don't offer a huge package of satellite tv stations to their people like many of us have in our own personal homes. And the Skyloft residents are no exception -- frankly, it's probably most important with the higher rollers to get them out on the floor and playing their craps or their blackjack or Baccarat, whatever their game of choice is.

So that is where the butlers come in. My brother had called over to them early on Friday morning and asked if there was any way we could get Versus HD on our room's tv. I laughed at him when he asked that, as obviously the feed would not be available on his one individual tv if it was not already included in the package, but he insisted we should ask and try to see what we can find. At first they just reviewed the list of channels available on the standard room package and told us no, unfortunately we would have to visit the sports book to see the game live. But my brother persisted, and eventually got his butler to agree to kick the request up to the head person who administers the Skyloft program for its residents. We went out for breakfast to the Bellagio, where I stayed playing poker for the next several hours, and wouldn't you know it they they called my brother a couple of hours later to inform him that the MGM was able to change the feed his tv receives from the satellite so that we would be able to view Versus HD way up on channel 738. This, mind you, from a tv that wouldn't even allow access to any channels above 36 that very same morning when we had left. So the plan was for us to meet up at 5pm local time in the Skyloft to watch the game in 66 inches of high-def glory, and that meant I had to leave the Bellagio at 4pm in time to place some bets on the Flyers in the MGM sports book downstairs. After a quick review of the options, I wasn't fool enough to take the Flyers to win by two or more goals in a series that had seen every game decided by just one goal to that point. But otherwise I ended up placing $220 to win $200 on the Flyers to score the first goal -- something I figured went part and parcel with them winning the game at home -- and I did not love the 1.5-goal line so instead I bet $360 to win $300 on the Flyers to win the game outright on the money line.

All this timing around the Flyers game worked out very well with our dinner plans for the evening, which was honestly one of the craziest, most luxurious experiences of my life. One of the things that my brother's host had offered early on when discussing him staying in the Skyloft on this trip is that they can offer us any of the food for in-room delivery from any of the restaurants located on the MGM's grounds. Of course this is not part of the hotel's standard room-service fare, but it's a service they apparently offer to those in the Skylofts as one of the many amenities for their high rollers. And I don't just mean, they'll get us the porterhouse from Craft Steak House because it's my brother's favorite dish. No, I mean instead, that morning, the butlers left for us in the Skyloft every menu from every single restaurant in the MGM. Every last one. It was Pearl and Shibuya for Asian food, Diego for Spanish food, Wolfgang Puck and Fiamma for Italian, Nob Hill Tavern for new modern fare, Sea Blue for seafood, Craft Steak for steakhouse fare and Joel Roubuchon if your like fine, French cuisine.

And so the six of us picked what we wanted to eat out of all those menus, left a message from the Bellagio with the Skyloft concierge with exactly what each one of us wanted to eat and drink, and then they brought it to our Skyloft for us to eat during the second intermission of the Flyers game. And I don't just mean that we each got to pick one place to order our whole meal from, or that there were minimums for individual restaurants, or anything of the sort. Nope, instead our total order ended up including food from eight different restaurants, and we each just ordered a la carte whatever wanted to eat from each place. So, for example, my Friday night dinner ended up being some oysters from Sea Blue, a duck fried rice dish as an appetizer from Shibuya, and the crispy chicken milanese from Wolfgang Puck. My brother, for another example, had onion soup from Nob Hill Tavern, lobster fried rice from Pearl, and a rack of lamb that wasn't even on Craft Steak's menu but which we asked the butler to please request if they could make for one of the hotel's Skyloft guests. Throw in some wine from Nob Hill, and a couple pieces of Tiramisu from Wolfgang Puck and something called "monkey bread" from Craft for dessert, and that rounded out what was without a doubt one of the strangest experiences of my life. So, we sat in the lap of luxury watching the Flyers crush the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, on a 66-inch badboy flat screen tv that wasn't even supposed to get the channel that was showing the game. During the second period, the butlers came in and set the dining room table in an incredibly fancy spread, and then brought in all of our entrees right on time as the second period was ending, and we sat down to eat a meal that was not even normally available for room service, brought from eight different restaurants on a few hours notice. As I mentioned earlier with riding the Maybach all around town for a few days, it's little touches like this that make staying in Las Vegas with my brother such a special treat that you just really can't expect to find anywhere else.

We loved our dinner, and shortly after we were done, the butlers returned to clear the dining room while we watched the Flyers complete a total ass-whomping of the favored Hawks to tie up the Stanley Cup at two games to two. After the game we headed downstairs and cashed in our checks at the sports book, me with another fresh $880 in my pocket on top of the almost exact same amount I had won earlier in the day at the Bellagio poker room. My brother and our friends had been asking me quite a bit about the World Series of poker, so I offered to take them over to the Rio that night, where they could either gamble in the casino for a while or come with me to the convention area and I could show them the real center of the poker universe for the next six weeks. We headed over to the Rio, and after showing my crowd all around, I saw down to play some more 2-5 cash in the Pavillion while one of our friends joined me a different table, and the rest of our group went to go play some blackjack and roulette in the main casino near the lobby of the Rio.

I played 2-5 cash for probably 2, 2 1/2 hours at the Rio on Friday night, and in that period of time I managed to flop a set and a straight, getting paid nicely on both of them as I let my opponent catch up just a little bit but not enough to put my chances of winning the hands in any serious jeopardy. The flopped set came with a King on the board against a guy who paid me off with KQ on my bets on both the flop and the river, although he did not take the bait and bet out on the turn after I bet and got called on the flop and then I checked the action to him on the turn. Likewise, my flopped straight came with Q8s on a very scary 9TJ board in a 4-way pot that I had to play somewhat slowly for fear of KQ being out there to have me dominated. Still, I bet out and got called for smallish bets on both the flop and the turn, and when the river put an Ace out there I opted to check, fearing the KQ slow-play after four players saw this pot for a raise preflop, and figuring I would call mostly any bet in the hopes that the Ace on the river made somebody two pairs. After about 2 1/2 hours of 2-5 nl cash at the Rio, the clock had already struck midnight and I left along with my friends to head back to the MGM, up another full buyin for more than a $500 profit on the session.

In all, Friday was really the turning point for me on this trip, as mostly everything I touched on Wednesday and Thursday I could not win with, but then on Friday it seemed like I simply could not lose. I had won nearly $1400 at 2-5 no-limit cash -- easily my most profitable day of live casino cash poker ever -- over the span of around 9 hours of play spread across two different casinos, and plus I had won another $560 on the Flyers' thrashing of the Blackhawks in Game 4. So I was up nearly 2 grand overall on the day, more than making up for the $1500 I had so cavalierly plunked down to play the World Series of Poker on my first day in town on Wednesday, as well as the buyin to the Venetian DSE tournament I had played on Thursday. That felt good in and of itself, as did the fact that I had crushed it on the cash tables in a way that I can honestly say I've never done before. I know a lot of it was picking up good cards in good situations, and running just well enough when drawing to straights and flushes, etc., but to tell the truth, it was like I was in the zone or something. When I was drawing, I knew my card was going to come on the turn, and I bet these big hands and draws I was dealt exactly the same as each other so people were constantly pushing in hands where they thought they knew more or less exactly what I had, but then we would get it all in and they were constantly being surprised by what I was holding. It's fun as hell running good and playing great in cash poker, and in this case like I said in a day of fun times playing the game for cash money, to walk away up nearly $1500 or basically three buyins at a level I have not had tremendous success at in the past, it just felt great, and, I felt like it was setting me up nicely to get back into the proper frame of mind for lots more poker action to come on Saturday.

My next post will cover Saturday, my last day in Vegas this time around. Although there would be more sports bets, more travelling to different casinos, and even a visit to a popular Las Vegas store made famous by recent exposure on television, the highlight of the day would once again be poker, where I would not only return to the cash tables to try to keep the winning streak and the confidence alive, but also where I would make another appearance on the poker tournament front.

And little did I know, the winning for this trip was not even halfway done yet.

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Blogger lightning36 said...

Your Stanley Cup experience was certainly different than mine. It was nice to watch the game from home, but I think I would have rather been watching from your vantage point.

Hawks looked excellent in game five. I am in the minority in expecting the Hawks to close it out in game six.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Okay, now I'm hungry.


6:47 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

The former head of Canada's largest bank drives a Maybach. Those puppies are hand-made.

Okay, so you get food from wherever you want in the Grand, and you DON'T get anything from Robuchon? What a waste. Only Michelin 3-star in Vegas, and hands-down the GREATEST culinary experience of my life.

11:23 PM  

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