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Christmas in Vegas!

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  • Christmas in Vegas!

    Just got back from my Christmas vacation in Vegas, and my first ever experience in a real life poker game. What an incredible trip! We did the usual Vegas staples, 10.99 buffets, took in the Rick Thomas magic show, (since he was about $100 cheaper then Copperfield who was in town), and being a Star Trek fan I had to do the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton. But then there was the poker playing, and what an experience it was.

    I won’t get into a lot of detail with hands, but concentrate more on the experience itself.

    First up was a visit to the Sahara. My girlfriend had been to Vegas before and she liked the slots pay out at this casino, so we stopped there first. She headed straight for the slots and I went to look for the poker room. I found it tucked away in the back, tiny room with maybe 10 or so tables and a TON of smoke. Yes I know that you get that everywhere in Vegas, but I wasn’t even IN the room, just watching from the rail and my eyes started to tear up. I watched for about a half hour or so, still too nervous to play just yet. Seemed like a lot of amatuers, with at least five players in on every pot, and many staying to the river. The smoke was just too much after a while, and my girlfriend wasn’t doing well on the slots, so we were done for the first day.

    Day two, still nervous, but am anxious to play. We wanted to see the Bellagio. I’m a radio DJ of a morning show here in Portland Maine, and we had just talked with Phil Gordon as he was doing interviews promoting Celebrity Poker Showdown, and he told me that the Bellagio was the best place to play poker in Vegas. (I have an mp3 of the interview if anyone would like to hear it just let me know) I made a beeline for the poker room, and it was packed! I watched a few games, and quickly realized this was a little out of my league, both stakes wise and player wise. Better to learn to walk before I run.

    We drove down the strip a bit and decided to check out The Excalibur. I didn’t think they would have a poker room, but to my surprise we bumped into one very quickly. Again I watched from the rail and this seemed like a nice place to start. These players seemed to be casual players, who didn’t play much poker. Stakes were 1-3, and 2-6 spread limit. They offered free lessons on Texas Hold ‘em every day at 2 and followed it with a 1-3 game. The sign out front even said they played a kitchen table type poker game where they wanted you to feel comfortable. I decided to start here.

    I signed up for the 1-3 and within a few minutes I was at a table with my $100 in chips. My heart was pounding. This was the REAL DEAL. It was real money, real people watching me make my decisions, and for the first time I had to handle real chips! I think I did ok keeping my nervousness on the inside though.

    I was a little confused at first as there was only one blind, for $1. I also for the first time had to follow the play of the game carefully to wait for my turn, and not wait for the beep from the software to signify I had to act. I acted before my turn once, betting out with players behind me. The dealer was very nice and just said, “hang on until we get to you”. I appologized and no one thought twice about it.

    After feeling comoftable with the structure and flow of a real live game, I started to be able to concentrate more on playing the game, then worrying about the mechanics. I picked up pocket J’s and when J 6 5 came on the flop I rammed and jammed. I had players in until a 7 hit the river when they all folded but one who showed 3-4 offsuit. Straight! With 3-4 offsuit!!! I kept my cool though, and simply said, nice hand.

    I didn’t play a lot of hands after that, deciding I wanted a better look at how these people played the game. I found that the majority of players would play to the river on a straight of flush draw, and manage to catch it. I adjusted my game accordingly and if I saw a possible straight or flush, I folded. Things improved for me at that point, and after a couple of hours of play, I walked out with about $30 more then I walked in with. Not bad I thought for the first time.

    The next day I went to the Mirage, and found a whole new breed of players. No straight or flush chasers here. It was a much older crowd, and they had much more experience. I played a 3-6 game for a couple hours and got beaten up here. I had K6 with a flop of K-6-6. Awesome! I figured I’d slow play it, and just called a $3 bet with a couple other players in. Turn was X. Bet of 6, fold, and I raised 6. Reraise. I called. River was X. Bet 6, I raise 6, reraise 6, I reraise 6 , call. You’ve probably guessed he showed pocket K’s and I felt like an idiot. I never even saw it as a possiblity. I was totally blinded by my full house, not even thinking that there could be a higher full house. I still would have played it to the river, but should not have raised him like I did. Lesson learned, I get up from the table down about $50, to sign up for the 7:30 NL tournament.

    Here was my first real live tournament, and there was a long line to sign up. Apparantly this was one of the Mirage’s most popular tournaments. It was a $60 Buy-in with unlimited
    $40 Re-Buys for the 1st hour with 1 Add-on. Everyone started with $500 in chips, and the buy in was available anytime your chips dropped below $500. This turned into insanity! People would go all in on nothing to try for an early double up knowing if they lost they would just rebuy. One guy at my table went thorugh 5 rebuys!!! I decided for just one rebuy when I dropped below $500. After the hour was up I hadn’t gotten any decent cards to play, but decided against the add-on as I still had about $900 in chips.

    After the break we found out there were 80 something players, with 207 rebuys! Top prize was about 3K. My lack of cards continued for the second hour, and I had been reduced to a stack of about 200 by the second break. Time to make a move. After the break I folded two hands then picked up A-2. Had to give it a shot if I was going to survive. I don’t remember what position I was in, but I went all in, and had one caller. He showed KK. No ace came and I busted out in 42nd place. I was pleased though. I had two hours of real life tounament play and 38 players busted out ahead of me.

    There was a 10am tournament being played at Mandalay Bay the next day for $30 and 250 in chips. It was a freeze out with limit the first hour, and no limit after that. I paid my 30 and sat down. 20 players with the top 4 in the money. Again no cards for the first 45 minutes of this tourney, but I took some chances and lost. By the time we went to no limit, I was down to less then 100 in chips. The blinds at this point were at 20 and 40. So I was down to one $25 chip in no time. I just said, “hope that saying a chip and a chair holds up” to which everyone chuckled. Cards were dealt and I went all in, not even looking. I got two callers, and lo and behold my A paired up and I tripled up. I did it again, all-in, but this time I had pocket Q’s. Two callers. Q on the board, triple up. I was now sitting on $225. when two hands before I had a single $25 chip. Now I had some time to hang in there while I watched others drop out. I managed to hang in there until there were 8 players left. I was still the short stack. Pocket A’s came, and I took down a big pot that put me up to just over 1K. now about 3rd in chips. More players dropped out, and I made it to the money! 4th place was only $25. One guy asked if the four of us wanted to split the money. The player to my right wasn’t interested, and neither was I. So we kept playing.

    Guy to my left busts out, and after a few more hands second to my left busts. Its heads up, and I’m short stacked about 4 to 1. Same guy who wanted to chop earlier, jokingly says, “I suppose you woudn’t want to take 2nd place and let me take 1st?" I laugh and say no thanks. I take him on the next two hands. Bluffed one representing a flush, another I beat him with three 9’s that I caught on the flop to his two pair if I recall correctly. We’re about even on our stacks now, and I think he’s worried. He asks if I want to chop first and second place. I think about it a moment and ask the poker manager what the chop would be. It’s $172.50 a piece. I decide to take him up on it. At this point I felt extremely lucky to get to that point, and like the sound of a $142 profit. We shake hands, and I walk out with $142 in my pocket and a HUGE smile on the inside. Part of me was tempted to take him for it all thinking I could have done it if I stuck it out.

    The final night in Vegas I played 2-6 spread limit at Excalibur, and managed to walk out with $100 more then I walked in with. Those straight and flush draw players were easy to beat when you knew what they were trying for.

    Overall I learned a LOT from this trip. For one I found that it was easier to read people then I thought especially at the Excalibur. Sure you can make notes on players here on PSO, but when you can see just how quickly they bet, and can see the expression on their faces it’s a whole new game. As far as the casino’s I really liked Excalibur and found it a great place to start out. The Mirage is where the real players were, and although intimidated, I felt I could have done much worse there then I did. The little tournament at Mandalay Bay though was the crème de le crème of the trip. Sure it was only 20 players, and the stakes were low, but I made it to heads up in a real live tournament! I was thrilled! There was no better feeling then that druing the entire trip, and I know that I could never have pulled it off without PSO. This site is an absolute gem in the poker world, and has made it possible for me to walk into a live poker game and manage to hold my own, without losing me shirt before hand. (Thanks for reading this far, I know it was a bit long!)

    Jeff (jpars1971)

  • #2
    Hey Jeff
    EXCELLENT!! I enjoyed your report from top to bottom. I had a big smile on my face reading about your first REAL poker experiences

    I guess if I were going to change anything, I would have NOT advised you to play in the Mirage tourney, simply because of the deep pockets there. If you are a new tourney player, I don't personally feel that an unlimited rebuy tourney is the place to begin. I am very pleased that you did so well in the smaller tourney at the Mandalay Bay. (The Luxor also has a very nice low buy in tourney at noon each day..). It sounds like you played a very sound game to make it to a 2-way split for 1st-2nd. CONGRATS!!

    Don't feel bad about that 3-6 game at the Mirage. I usually get pretty banged up in that game, too. It is a tough game to beat. In fact, I find that most 3-6 and 4-8 games are usually a money losing proposition. There are many schools of thought on this topic, so I won't stir up that box of worms tonight! The tourney starting might have saved you some money

    Any way, thanks So much for sharing your trip! It is always fun to hear of a fellow PSO'er who does well in a tourney! Keep up the good work ..



    • #3


      Going from one chip to chopping for 1st-2nd is EXCELLENT.

      And it sounds like you had a good time, and won some money.

      I enjoyed your trip report and wish you the best of luck.

      Shane (Another Jeff)


      • #4
        Hey Jeff,

        Good post. I'm headed to Las Vegas in January for my first B&M play and the info will be helpful. Sounds like you had a great time and what a comeback from one chip to heads-up. 8)
        I would be interested to hear from other members about where to play tourneys during the week there. And I'm a little fuzzy on the whole rebuy process :shifty: Any help would be appreciated.

        Take care,


        • #5

          Excellent report! Way to go! Dont you just love that tingle in your stomach when you walk into the Mirage Poker Room for the first time? hehe Keep up the great work!


          • #6
            Thanks everyone for the comments. Yeah it was an incredible experience. In hindsight I'd say you were right about the tournament at the Mirage NewJane. I was in over my head with that one, but even so the experience was phenominal. I knew I was up against some tough players when I sat down at the table and the guy to my left mentioned he played in the Mirage tournament the night before with Devilfish. I can only imagine how I would have handled things if I was seated at a table with him! I certainly do have a brand new perspecitve on the game now, and can't wait to play in a B&M again.

            Drputt: I would definately recommend playing the 10am tourney's at the Mandalay Bay. It's a $30 entry fee with no rebuys. Limit the first hour, no limit after that, and a good range of players from inexperienced to experienced. Good place to start. If you play a good game and use what you've learned here on PSO, you should do well. Looking forward to hearing how your trip goes!


            • #7
              I also had my first B&M experience in vegas over christmas. It was quite fun. The Luxor tournment was a little odd. they have a $25 buyin for 250 chips with another $3 buy before you are seated for another 50 chips. The binds started at 30/15 and rose pretty fast. After a little more than an hour it goes no limit. What was really odd is that they had 4 tables and 51 players the day I played. So as players busted out, new ones would come in. They would have at most 300 chips and the blinds were 100/50 before the fisrt guy busted out at my table. I finished 17th of 51 and had a great time. Binions Horseshoe was good too. More talented players there. They were alittle over half way through a tourny when I got there and there were some good players waiting for the higher limit tables. I finished even after about 3 hours. It had a much different feel than the Excaliber. It was very much more what I expected. It was neat. I thought the excaliber was also a good place to start. I wonder if I played against you?



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