Thursday, June 10, 2010

Las Vegas 2010: Parting Thoughts

As usual, I had an amazing time in my annual visit to the desert, and for the second straight year, quite a profitable one as well. As someone who has made numerous Vegas runs over the past couple of decades, I am well versed in the different types of visits one can have, gambling-wise. Sometimes you come out of the gates and you kill the casino on the first day, and then you spend the rest of the trip playing with the house's money, win or lose. Those trips are always fun, mostly because there's just no stress factor since you never really have to consider risking much or any of your own money over the entire visit. Unfortunately, such trips are also very rare, as it is exceedingly difficult to come out and win money for the entire trip in just your first session or two.

Another type of Vegas trip just sees you slowly bleed away your bankroll more or less from start-to-finish, and sadly these tend to be probably the most common type of Vegas visit, in particular since all of the games on the casino floor (other than poker, really) are mathematically designed to have a negative expectation for the player. Maybe you don't lose everything you were willing to lose when you came out there, or alternatively maybe you end up going into your wallet or your bank account a time or two more than you had intended, but in the end, you bleed it away little by little, maybe have some fun doing it and maybe with some decent positive runs built in along the way, but there have been plenty of Vegas runs in my day that work just like this, and in the end it's still entirely possible to have a great time even if you're losing I find, as long as it's not a total blowout right off the bat that sees you lose way more than you wanted to be willing to when you started out.

What I had on this visit was the third kind of trip, where I started off unable to get out of my own way, doing absolutely nothing but losing for not just one but two full days in all of my gambling pursuits in Las Vegas. I lost a big buyin ($1500) in the World Series, and didn't play particularly well in so doing. I lost at cash poker as well on Wednesday. I lost more cash on Thursday, plus my $340 buyin to the Venetian Deep Stack although at least I managed to play pretty well in that one. I even lost some small sports bets throughout those first couple of days, and the bottom line is that, while I can certainly afford the money and in fact brought it out to Vegas in cash, fully prepared to lose it, I was pretty much disgusted after two full days in the desert at just how much money I had managed to lose with very little to show for it in real terms. I was down easily over $2000 as I went to bed on Thursday night, and more than that, as I mentioned above, I had that nasty feeling that I can only get when I simply do nothing but lose at every single thing I touched for two full days. It's a horrible feeling, and I'd be lying if I said that the thought never entered my mind that I should just pack away the rest of my cash and not gamble on anything else for the rest of the trip.

And oh what a mistake that would've been! As someone who's spent 4 or 5 days or more at a time at gambling resorts like a hundred times in my day, I can't count the number of times my trip has gone like this, where I just lose and lose and lose some more for several sessions, maybe spanning several days, and then at some point, it's like a switch is flipped and suddenly everything is all rosy. On Friday I had that big session at 2-5 nl at the Bellagio, a very nice set of wins on the Flyers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals -- the only game in the series, it turns out, where the Flyers actually played especially well and failed to give up a single soft goal -- and by the time I got back to the cash tables at the Pavillion in the Rio that night, my entire psyche was totally changed from how it had been just that morning. I was happy, I was feeling lucky, and I was generally psyched to get back out there and play, feeling very confident that I would leave that session a winner. And I did, to the tune of another full buyin on my way to basically erasing all of my losses from the first two days. Throw in Saturday's big win at Aria plus some good coin from the Belmont Stakes, and it's just amazing to think that I actually considered not gambling much anymore after Thursday night because it just didn't feel like I could win anything. So there is a lesson buried in there somewhere, though I am struggling a little bit to express exactly what that lesson is. I guess it's that, when you're playing games that are largely based on luck, it is incredibly easy to run bad for a while and then to run good for another while over a different period of time. Sometimes you're gonna go out to Vegas and get nothing but creamed for 4 days straight and go home a big loser (I've had plenty of trips like that, as I assume most of you have), but hey the next time you're out there you might pretty much win start to finish, and in my mind it's all one big, long session. I think it would have been the wrong response for me to stop playing once I was down after a couple of days, of course because I still had some money to lose, but also because to do that denies me the chance of going on a good run, which especially when it comes to games like poker and sports betting, is entirely possible in particular if I can find some smart spots to get my money in ahead.

One thing I should mention as a lasting impression from this trip is how incredibly slow Las Vegas is right now. Now I know it's hot as hell and summertime is generally the city's slowest time of the year, but to be perfectly honest I've been out there now what, four straight years in the midst of the desert heat? So I can make worthwhile comparisons at least about the level of busy-ness around this time of year over the past four years. And my comparison is that this time was -- by far -- the slowest Vegas has been in the last four years of my visiting in the summertime. I was at the Rio on Tuesday night, where the WSOP itself is held, and even there I was shocked at how totally slow the main casino was, how much availability they had in rooms, how empty the pool seemed, etc. Now you might think this relates only to the Rio due to their less-than-preferable off-the-Strip location, but keep in mind I switched to the MGM starting on Wednesday night, where I stayed for the next four days or so. And even though the MGM is one of the older of the new casinos on the Strip, I spent most of Thursday hanging at the Venetian, and I spent a good deal of time last week at the Bellagio as well as Aria. So I definitely got around, both in terms of geography and in terms of the different "classes" of resort in Las Vegas, and I'm here to tell you: that place is slow right now. None of my party had to wait for a wide open spot at $10 craps or $10 or $15 blackjack the entire week long -- even on Saturday night, for that matter -- and I didn't wait on any list to get a seat at the cash tables in a single poker room in the city, including two visits to the Bellagio's room which as recently as last summer would have between 30 and 50 people on the waiting list at all times. No, business in Vegas in general is just as slow as it's been in years, and you could see it everywhere you looked. Shorter lines to play the table games, more free slot machines, shorter waiting lists in the poker rooms, attendance at the WSOP is down, way fewer slutty chicks walking around looking like ho's on Friday and Saturday night, easier to get reservations at your preferred times in the best restaurants in the city, I could go on and on.

I usually take a paragraph after my trip to review some of the most luxurious or cool things we were offered while out in Vegas, and I imagine that this, too, is directly related to the dearth of big players out at the MGM properties during the time of our stay, but I think in general I already covered this one pretty well in my previous posts this week. Between the Skyloft itself, and the service associated with it, and the rooms that the rest of us were given (nice plus-sized suites just a few floors down from the Skyloft), it was already pretty much worth our while to be there. Throw in the limo rides and the Maybachs, even for travel from one location in Las Vegas to the next (neither of them being the MGM), and then of course there was that incredible dinner on Friday night in the Skyloft room featuring anything and everything that the MGM had to offer. And the best part was -- not sure if I expressly mentioned this already or not -- it was all free. All of it. As in, at the end of the trip, they literally took all four rooms charges off the bill -- including mini-bar charges, wifi internet charges, etc. -- as well as every single meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) we ate on any MGM property. This included breakfast every day at the MGM or Bellagio buffets, it included a couple of lunches or late-night meals at Studio Cafe in the MGM, and it also included dinners at Prime (in Bellagio), Fiamma (in the MGM), and Japonais (in the Mirage), although I missed a couple of those due to playing in other poker tournaments at the time. And the big dinner on Friday in the MGM Skyloft? Also totally free of charge. In fact, the only thing the MGM asked any of us to pay for were a couples massage that one of the couples with us went and got on the second day of our stay -- and frankly, if those two had actually gambled any reasonable amount (they did not, really), that would have been removed too I am quite sure, as I have definitely been comped a massage or two in my day. Of course some of us lost money on the gambling while we were out there, but as far as expenses go, we lived it up in rich style for several days and didn't have to pay a dime for it. You just can't beat that when it comes to affording a luxurious type of vacation.

What do I regret not doing this trip? Not much. I played as much poker as I could handle during my four days in the desert, and although I would have liked in theory to play that second WSOP event on Friday, when push came to shove and I had the time and the money to go and register, I opted not to because I felt simply tournament'ed out after the previous two days' attempts over some 16 hours of tournament play at both the Rio and the Venetian. So I don't regret that. I had wanted to get out to see the Pawn Stars shop, so I was glad to get that taken off the list, disappointing though that visit was. I feel no need to do the helicopter thing to the Grand Canyon, having done it now three times before -- including just last year -- so that's not something I even thought of this time around, and I got my annual dinner at Prime in, so really I hit all the major things I wanted to do. I guess the two things I would put on the list of things I wish I had done on my trip would be, first and foremost, to go and see the Wynn. I've still never set foot in Wynn or the new building Encore, although I have consistently heard that these are two of the very nicest properties in the whole city. For my past couple of trips, visiting Wynn has been loosely on my schedule, although both times it has taken a back seat due to other things (like winning thousands of dollars at poker, silly me). I was glad to get to see Aria and a little bit of the massive City Center project this time around, but in the end that was my time to see Wynn and I ended up going with City Center instead. Oh well, there's always next year.

One last thing I should mention is my tremendous success at cash game poker during this trip. Several people have asked me will I be playing more cash poker since winning so much dough this past week? And the answer is: maybe. For those of you who have read here for a while, I got pretty into cash play maybe three years ago, and in the end I got pretty good at it and was easily able to play a profitable game at any normal-stakes table online. But you know what I found? I really didn't like it. Playing winning cash -- at least the way I play it -- is boring. It's mechanical, and while of course you have to make consistently good decisions under pressure, that's not something I have a big problem with and as a result I find it generally not all that difficult to play a profitable game at low-stakes no-limit holdem. But tournaments, on the other hand, now tournaments are hard. They are far from mechanical, and ultimately the increasing blinds and antes force you into pots you would never ever ever ever ever play in a cash game context, and even though that itself can be a source of some frustration, in general that to me is what makes poker tournaments so difficult to master, and ultimately so much fun. So, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to play a little more cash after my solid success over my last 7 or 8 sessions in Las Vegas last week, but ultimately, having already been there done that before, gotten pretty good and decided that it just wasn't what I was looking for, I doubt it will take over any significant part of my poker play going forward. Maybe it's something I will dabble in more in live play as I always feel like my reads are 10 times better than when playing online, but online I doubt if you'll be seeing me spending a whole lot more time playing cash poker than in the recent past. That said, I did win nearly a buyin last night at the 1-2 nl tables, so who knows where this may end up. I may be on High Stakes Poker next year, prop betting Phil Ivey that I will win a bracelet
during the 2011 WSOP. Stranger things have happened, huh?

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Blogger Unknown said...

Good Run in Vegas and Nice Recap Hoy.

As you mentioned cash game wins after a while become monotonous and mechanical. Not that you don't like to win cash regularly, but, think about the satisfaction you would get if you actually win a WSOP BRACELET! We all can say, I know that guy, I read his blogposts all the time.

I am a new user here and have enjoyed your posts. You provide a good insight and a lot of useful information.

One question, would you be playing in any events at the Borgata Summer Open?

3:20 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

When is it, link me please.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Link 1: 2+2

Link 2: AC Poker Guide

It is also available on their Website.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:11 AM  

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