Vegas in the summer is hot.  I know, shocking revelation.  But it’s something you don’t really fully grasp until you are in that environment.  It’s the kind of hot that you feel in your lungs when you breathe in the air.  And yet it’s sort of a magical place, you can’t help but feel a sense of excitement as your plane touches the ground.

The flight from Chicago to Vegas is about 3.5 hours long.  Usually I fly early in the morning and nap on the plane, but this time I departed in the late afternoon and, not being sleepy, did some reading and video watching, as well as enjoying the view from my window seat.   Granted, there’s not a lot to see until the plane reaches Colorado.  But then you get the most breathtaking view flying over the Rocky Mountains.  Since I’m accustomed to either sleeping or flying over them in the dark, it’d been a while.  I took a few pictures from 35,000 feet up (10,600 meters). 

The majestic Rocky Mountains from 35K ft.

The majestic Rocky Mountains from 35K ft.

 

After arriving I got my rental car and checked in to my lodging.  Instead of doing the hotel thing, I rented through AirBnB.   I highly recommend it.   I rented a room in a townhome located in a gated community off Warm Springs road, good location to get anywhere.   My room locked and I had my own bathroom, and free run of the house including the kitchen and laundry.  The community also had a 24 hour pool and fitness center, which I took advantage of 5 of the 7 days I was there.  The best part was including  taxes and fees my cost was only $30/day.  I got a deal on the rental car through Priceline, which after those taxes and fees was costing me $20/day.  So room, transportation, fitness center access all for $50/day, better than any hotel property which would not include the transportation, and no resort fees! I highly recommend giving it a try for your next trip.  So except for the day I played the WSOP event (because the tournament started at 10am), my general start to each day was to sleep in, once up head to the fitness center for a workout, come back to the house and make some coffee and breakfast (late but I could eat breakfast food any time of the day!), shower up and head out around 2-3 in the afternoon for the day. 

Some days I went straight to poker, but not all of them.  One day for example I decided to take a trip through Red Rock Canyon.   There’s quite a bit to see if you like scenic trips, and I found it peaceful and relaxing.  I’ve been through there before but it’s been years.  It’s still as nice as I remembered.  Another reason to rent a car when in Vegas, the ability to get away from the strip and go do other activities, like visiting Red Rock or the Hoover Dam, or even taking a bit longer day trip up to the Grand Canyon.   Anyway my trip of choice was Red Rock, and it didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Red Rock actually has some red rocks!

 

So of course you probably want to read about some poker hands.  I have a couple for you, one tournament hand and one cash game hand.

We'll start with the tournament hand.  This was from the $1500 Monster Stack WSOP event.  This is huge field (6716 entrants) with a very nice structure.  I'd spent much of the day battling back and forth with mediocre hands, just trying to capitalize on situations.  I had AK a couple times but no big pairs, so there were very few premiums in the mix.  After losing a couple pots I was down to 20 big blinds when I got moved to a new table during the last level before dinner break.  Not running good, I had just paid my blinds at my former table, and moved right into the big blind again at my new table.  It wasn't hard to get a read on one opponent a couple seats to my right.  He had a huge stack and was in a pot as I got there.  After I joined, I witnessed this opponent open raise 7 hands in a row.  While he was definitely trying to be the big stack bully, he did get 3-bet a couple times during that span and folded preflop to the aggression.  I thought here is a good target for a resteal if I get any opportunities.  Then for the 8th hand in a row he open raised again, and I looked down at pocket 8's.  Although I don't generally love jamming 18bb's with medium pairs in live tournaments, this spot seemed like a no brainer to take.  I rated to have plenty of fold equity against the big stack aggressor, and 88 plays well enough vs. his calling range too.  So I invited him to the all you can eat buffet and moved my entire stack into the middle. Unfortunately the player 2 to my left felt his KK made that an open invitation and joined the party.  The big stack bully snap folded when the action came back to him, and although I turned a gut shot and 4 flush with my 88, the river was a harmless offsuit 3 and my opponent's kings got the chips while I got a head start on an extended dinner break.

The other hand I'd like to share was an interesting one for sure.  I had a couple hours to kill one afternoon and headed over to Green Valley Ranch in Henderson to pick up a souvenir chip from their poker room and play a bit.  They had the usual $1-$2 game with $100-$300 buy in range and a seat open, so I sat my $300 down to play for a short session. Now this casino is more of a locals kind of place, off the beaten path so to speak. Mark my words... "locals" does not mean bad or tough games by any stretch of the imagination.  At least not in the lowest stakes like 1-2. In fact many tourists are sharper in today’s game, while many low stakes locals don't work on their game at all.  That being said, a "locals joint" during the day on a weekday isn't usually the best spot for super juicy lineups.  And this lineup wasn't great but weird, as there was an X factor.  I got the 7 seat which I like, any end seat.  2/3rds of the table were retirement age locals... a player category not known for their skills nor for their desire to give action.  I expected the game to be tight and not to play long.  But I quickly learned this dynamic was going to be a bit different.  There was a younger Asian guy on my left in seat 8.  He was kind of saddled back a bit from the table, with a huge pad of paper that I noted was some sort of architectural design.  He seemed to be working on architectural adjustments to the design between hands. That didn't prevent him from playing however.  When the action was on him, if it was unopened or a limped pot, he would raise to $7, going back to his design while further action took place behind him.  He didn't raise 100% of hands like my big stacked friend in the tournament above, but he was raising a good 90% of them.  So now that the stage is set, I had a weird hand take place. I was in early middle position and picked up QQ.  My architect friend already had his $7 in his hand so I elected to limp in for $2, let a few people call his raise, then drop the limp-reraise burger on the field.  He tossed in his $7 as expected.  The button called, and then it got weird.  The small blind, who was one of the tight, older gentlemen that seemed to be playing only strong starting hands, 3-bet to $25.  Against the Asian auto-raiser I rated this to be something like JJ+/AK, although I wasn't sure he would re-raise with AK or that he would not reraise with TT against that raiser. Best case scenario though I thought was TT+/AK, maybe AQs given who the original raiser was but that was less likely from this player type and I block that holding with my QQ as well.  I actually gave consideration to folding immediately as crazy as that may sound.  I was very sure 4-betting would be lighting money on fire, as the 3-bettor would very likely fold everything but KK/AA to it and he may not have much in his 3-betting range to fold despite that.  After some consideration I elected to call the $25. What swayed me was that I had position on him post flop, and I expected him to play relatively straight forward based on his post flop hand strength.  The other player folded and that left us heads up with about $65 in the pot. The flop came KT7 rainbow and he checked to me.  I elected to bet $40.  I'm not really sure why I bet, looking at it now I don't think it makes much sense. What worse hands will call me?  None from this guy (so it's not a good value bet).  What better hands will fold?  Again, none from this guy (so it's not a bluff).  In short, my bet makes no sense and accomplishes nothing other than gaining me some donkey points.   Without much hesitation he called my $40 bet.  At this point I figure my goose is cooked, he's either being cautious with AA or he flopped a set of K's and is slow playing the flop.  Either way my new plan is to stop putting money in this pot.   The turn came a 9 and he checked again.  This time I checked behind him.  He let out a small "ahhh" and immediately went head down to his chips, counting out a bet.  While he's doing that the dealer puts out the river card.  I'm watching him, not the board.  He fires out $50 without even looking at the river that I could tell, making it look a lot like he had those trip kings.  So now I check the board and see that it reads KT79...J!  I rivered a gut shot straight!  How much can I raise to get paid by his set I wonder?  And Im certainly raising, as I have the effective nuts.  What that means, for those not familiar with the term, is that although my hand isn't the absolute best (nut) hand, the true nut hand can't be held by my opponent, making my hand the effective nuts.  Now it's not 100% impossible he can't have the nuts, but I felt the chance was pretty darn close to zero as in order for him to have the absolute nuts, he would have had to 3-bet preflop with AQ, and check-call $40 on the flop with just ace high and a gut shot.  A pretty big parlay since I rated the chances he would 3B with AQ pre to be low, and the chances he would check/call ace high to my flop bet very close to nil. He may have been so engrossed in slow playing a set that he failed to look at the river, but once I raise he'll be looking.  So I figured I can't raise too big or he'll just credit me with AQ and fold.  I decided to go with $100 on top, making it $150 to go.  He asks for a count, then shrugs his shoulders and slides out the extra $100.  I announce straight and table my QQ, fully expecting to hear something between "nice hand" and "nice catch", when much to my surprise he turns his cards over, and they are the other two queens for a chopped pot! Maybe he saw the river card after all, but I was watching him and not the board, and he had his $50 bet almost counted out before the river was even dealt.  And his head never turned up towards the board until after the bet was out. Definitely one of the stranger hands I played on the trip. My net Green Valley Ranch experience was a bit over 1.5 hours long and +$240, so much for the locals.

The rest of my poker playing went well, mostly.  In addition to the WSOP event that I bricked, I played only one other tournament, a small buy in $100 deep stack (although the structure was a fast turbo) at the South Point.  That was not meant to be either.  The first big pot I played I got a free play in the big blind with KTo after several limpers.  The flop came K73 rainbow and it checked around.  The turn was a ten giving me top 2 pair, and I led for $500 into a pot of $1200 and was min-raised to $1000.  Not liking it but easy call for $500 more, especially since the raiser had already shown himself to be a goofball.  River was a blank and I check/called a $1000 chip bet only to be shown a set of 3's.  I went out of that one shoving AJ over a couple limpers for what was an 8bb stack.  The goofball called my shove, the limpers folded and he tabled the J3s.  AJ plays pretty well against J3, until the flop and turn each produce 3's. 

Cash games were a different story however.  I just played low stakes games, relaxed and had fun.  I did like that the $1-$2 NLHE games everywhere I played allowed a max buy in of $300, as I like playing 150+bb deep vs. a bevy of bad players.  I played cash at the Orleans, Rio, Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock, and Planet Hollywood, among others.  I did not play at my usual cash game stomping grounds of the Aria and Bellagio, which was a first for me.  But I didn't miss them, action was great for the most part everywhere I did go, building little piles along the way:

 

Tripling up our buy in at the action packed Planet Hollywood

 

All in all it was a great trip.  It was relaxing and I had fun.  I really needed the brake from my daily routine,  and once busted from the WSOP event I really enjoyed playing low stakes without any money pressure.   Poker is fun, if you allow it to be.     Hope you enjoyed the trip report, please feel free to drop questions or comments below.