On Wednesday evening, I headed west to Las Vegas. As it turns out, I also arrive in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening since time stands still when flying west (in the States anyway). This demonstrates Superman’s superiority as Boeing can merely cause time to stand still, while Superman can actually cause time to go backward. (NOTE: I will not check to see if Boeing makes a jet that flies fast enough to cause time to reverse when flying west in the States.) A couple of friends were also in Vegas and had the good fortune (read, “have gambled enough”) to get two rooms comped at different hotels for Wednesday and Thursday. I ended up crashing in a room at the Hard Rock for free my first two days in Vegas. Wednesday night, I slept.
Thursday, I woke up relatively early (9) and did a few hours of work. Then I wandered over to the Wynn and had lunch at Terrace Pointe Cafe. It was excellent and I was full, so I decided to walk over to Bellagio and get some gelato. I didn’t have any plans for the remainder of the day, so I popped over to Planet Hollywood Casino and played some $1-$2 No Limit. I dropped about $85 over five hours (possibly accounted for by the $90 pot I lost after being about 90% to win when the money went in) and then went back to the Hard Rock to do a little more work and then get some sleep. The next three days would be busy ones.
Friday morning, I woke up and did a couple hours of work and then checked out of the Hard Rock and into – let me finish – the Tropicana. Actually, I just checked my bags at “The Trop” (that’s what the townies call it, probably because it’s a dump and doesn’t really merit more than two syllables) and then walked over to the MGM Grand to meet a friend for boot camp. The friend is a poker pro who was teaching at a three-day WPT Boot Camp that I was to audit for the weekend. (I don’t name-drop here, but her recent tournament winnings put her on a short-list for best female tournament player, and she’s probably moving up the same list for “overall” tournament player. Google is fun.)
Within the first two hours of the camp, I’d already identified why my poker game has been so awful recently and decided it was time to update (and, in many ways, revert) my style. In a nutshell, it was pretty obvious that I had regressed into a weak-tight style. It quickly became obvious I needed to LAG it up a bit and play more (but smaller) pots against my opponents. So far, so good.
The rest of the first day was good, but not as great as the first session. I really enjoyed the other sessions (hanging out with people who’ve written books I’ve read has to be fun), but they were mostly high-level refreshers that didn’t resonate like the first session had. My friend and I skipped out on dinner and met up with her fiancée and some of their friends for dinner at Antonio’s at the Rio. The lasagna was good and I was entertained both during dinner, by the conversation, and after dinner, by the meticulous accounting required to verify proper appropriation of each penny on the check (including tax and tip, of course). After dinner, we met up with another friend and went to see the new Indiana Jones movie (which was a colossal letdown and seemed more like a prank than a long-awaited fourth installment to the series). I then went back to The Trop to officially check in and collapse.
As I was checking in, I began to realize that they may not have reserved a non-smoking room for me. This was going to be a problem. I first began to suspect something was up when the receptionist said, “Ohhhhhh… you wanted a non-smoking room?” Then, clackity-clack-clack tip-tap tap-tap-tap … thunk. She probably suspected I requested a non-smoking room because I had submitted the following “special request” when I booked the room on Expedia:
I absolutely DO NOT WANT A SMOKING ROOM, or a room that has ever been a smoking room, or a room that is near a smoking room.
She explained that they didn’t have any more one-bed non-smoking rooms. I explained that I didn’t care how many beds were in the room so long as it wasn’t smoking, and hadn’t ever been a … (see above). She said she was new, so she was going to get the manager. The manager swooped in, tapped around for a few seconds and said, “We’re going to upgrade you to a suite.” Bummer. Wait, what? Okey dokey! (That was actually all in my head.) Aloud, I said, “Ok.” as if to communicate that we both know they owe me that much. She then explained that Vegas hotels can’t guarantee rooms like that. But she also gave me an insider tip: if I want to make sure I don’t get stuck in smoking, I should book the room, then call ahead to the hotel and tell them I’m allergic to tobacco and smoke. That’ll land me on “the security list” and I should be good to go. I’m getting a suite, suckas!
As I approached the suite, I saw a sign: THIS IS A NO SMOKING AREA. I took that as a good omen, but was a little leery of the slight smokey smell that surrounded it. The suite had most likely been furnished by bargain hunters who scored a bunch of stuff from garage sales in South Florida. Most of the room was coral, teal and wicker. I was curious what the smoking room would’ve looked like. (Probably something like coral drawn toward earth tones via tar stains.) It smelled a little like smoke, and would smell that way for the duration of my stay. I assumed this was the result of 25 years of people ignoring the sign outside my door.
On Saturday, I began the day by bumming breakfast off of the boot camp. Then the sessions began again and, again, there was one particular session that really resonated with me. As before, the theme was “aggression” and it became even clearer to me that I had devolved into a weak-tight player (possibly the worst kind of tournament player to be). After the day ended, I headed straight back to my hotel room to try out my newfound LAGgy confidence in some small multi-table tournaments. Two things were almost immediately apparent: first, this style is obviously effective; second, this style seems pretty similar to what I used to play when I was regularly playing live tournaments. (A third epiphany also began to dawn, but wouldn’t become completely clear until Sunday: it’s too bad I blew $1K in New Orleans because I didn’t have the slightest chance at actually winning that tournament.) I didn’t cash in either of the small tournaments I played, but I easily built a big stack and was in great position to assume the chip lead when we hit the bubble.
…Ironically, one of the topics that came up frequently in my two favorite sessions was pre-flop raise-sizing. The number of 2.5 Big Blinds was mentioned frequently, so I decided to take a look back at my posts from a couple years ago. Sure enough, I had written two long posts (well, long if you ignore this one) called “2.5 is the new 3!”…
Sunday began the same as Saturday, but was more of a wrap-up day. We had a couple of general sessions, then lunch, then a winner-take-all tournament that I didn’t play (because I was freeloading). Before the tournament, my friend was kind enough to look over my hand-history from the $1K in New Orleans. We both had a good laugh and I felt a little embarrassed at how obviously weak my play had been. It wasn’t awful (she occasionally found something I’d done correctly), but it was pretty bad. It was mostly good that it was so obvious to me how bad my play had been – that meant I had actually learned something over the past couple of days.
After my friend busted from the tournament, we milled around chatting with all the other busted pros (the pros apparently weren’t so great in this one) and then headed off the strip and back to her condo to kill some time. We chatted with some other guests she had in town and then she decided it was time to teach me to play backgammon. I remember seeing a backgammon board at a friend’s house when I was really young, but I don’t think I ever played the game. Anyway, the first few games were a little frustrating (probably more for her than me) and she went up 5-0 in a match to 7. But then I won four games straight to win the match 7-5. Of course, I’m aware that I was a total luckbox, and that she helped me make good plays and avoid horrible plays… but it’s also nice to know that she died a little inside when a total neophyte crushed her.
After the longest-odds backgammon comeback in history (or at least my history, which includes only one match), we met up with a friend and went for sushi at Sushi Roku in Ceasar’s Palace. After my friend was mistaken for a hostess (“One for the sushi bar.” “What?” “One for the sushi bar.” “What are you talking about?” “Oh, you don’t work here? I’m sorry.”), we were seated at the least-attended table in the joint. After receiving my latest lesson in the art of the chopsticks, we downed our meal pretty quickly and then jumped right into discussions on morality, politics, social faux pas and the like. We also noticed that our server hadn’t been around in quite a while.
My friend was particularly frustrated by this (we had been trying to get the check for about 20 minutes and our glasses hadn’t been refilled in a while) and decided to use me as an instrument of passive-aggressive revenge. Because she has no soul, she decided the best way to exact revenge would be to give our server a seemingly genuine, but completely fake, compliment. I was offered a 20-dollar freeroll if I would, with a completely straight face, tell our server how much I appreciated her attentive service. And she had to believe I meant it. I mulled it over for a while (I possess a soul, and so this task would be more difficult for me to execute than it was for her to imagine), but decided I was freerolling and therefore only had my dignity to lose, but 20 dollars to gain! I began thinking back to my acting classes to see if I could remember how to find motivation and get out of my head. Mostly, I was concerned I would begin offering up my fake compliment and bust out laughing, which would make me feel awful (yes, worse than I would feel for passive-aggressively taking a shot at our only-slightly-English-speaking server). No motivation became apparent, so I decided to look for the right opportunity and go for it.
I decided that opportunity would present itself when our server brought the check (assuming this ever happened). Eventually, she brought the check, set it on the table and began to make a hasty retreat. Before she could get away, I began:
“Excuse me. This is my first time in Las Vegas and I am just about to leave to catch my plane home.”
“Where are you going?”
“Back to Florida. But I just wanted to let you know that I had a great time here this week, but your service tonight has been really exceptional and is just a great way to end the week.”
By this time, it was obvious that she was a little skeptical of my kindness. Of course, she should’ve been since I’m sure she knew she hadn’t paid us any attention for the last couple of hours.
“So, thank you for your great service tonight. This was a great way to end my trip.”
I was so convincing that my soulless friend felt compelled to stop snickering into her napkin (I wanted to say, “stop snickering into her serviette”, but this is America) and say, “Aw, that’s so nice of you!” This comment finished the job and clearly convinced our server that we were indeed genuinely impressed with her service. I was paid my blood money and we began preparations to negotiate the check. But while we were razzing the server, our friend had sneakily paid the check (apparently, the staff was very quick to retrieve already-paid checks), so I actually made twenty dollars at dinner (and forever lost a small piece of my soul).
From there, we went back by The Trop to retrieve my bags (checking out is substantially easier than checking in) and ferry me to the airport so I could catch the red-eye. I’m pretty sure this is my first red-eye flight, but I’m realizing that one attribute of a red-eye is that they’re difficult to remember, so it’s possible I’ve flown a few before. In about 45 minutes, we’ll touch down in Gainesville and I’ll go home and sleep the day away. Back to work tomorrow.