Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tournament at TI

I joined a group of people celebrating Jen's birthday last night at Isla Tequila Bar at TI. I wasn't hungry so I just had a glass of berry sangria, which at $7 was well-priced for a bar on the Strip. The food was Mexican, but it was fancied up so much that the quesadillas looked like toaster strudels.

Afterward, a crowd of us went to the poker room to play in the nightly $60 tournament. I have never played no-limit or a tournament in a casino, but I've been curious about tournaments because you can turn a small buy-in into a big cash. So I figured I would give it a shot. There were 43 entrants including re-buys, and about 10 of them were in our group. This is usually a soft tournament, but the people in our group are all affiliated with poker professionally (poker bloggers, poker writers, and poker website creators), so the competition was going to be tougher. Not that it mattered because regardless of the other players, I wasn't going to have a clue as to what I was doing.

In my usual 4/8L game, I am very comfortable. I can chat with other players, and I know what to do in terms of cards to play and number of chips to put in the pot. Last night I was completely out of my element. I was so nervous when the tournament started that I was actually hoping to have bad hole cards so that I didn't have to make any decisions. In limit, all I have to do is count the number of big blinds in the pot to determine my pot odds, but in no-limit, I had to actually count the number of chips people were putting in and how that compared to my stack size. That's a lot to keep track of.

I think I had only one raising hand all night. I had AQo one behind the button early in play. I raised to 3 times the big blind, and the blinds called. The flop was something like 10-10-7, and the blinds checked. They seemed weak, so I knew I had to bet, but I had no idea how much. So I just grabbed some chips and threw them in. I think my bet was larger than the pot, but it got the blinds to lay down their hands after some contemplation. So that was my first success.

Later, I had J-7o in the big blind, and the small blind completed. The flop was 10-7-3, and the small blind raised. I figured he was taking a stab at the pot, so I reraised (again, I didn't know how much to put in, so I doubled his bet). He thought for a long time, and fortunately by this time I had been playing long enough that I wasn't shaking the whole time sitting there waiting on him. Eventually he folded. Again, a small pot, but a small little victory for me.

Eventually, the blinds ate me up. I had 1100 left and the blinds were 600 and 300 (we started with 2000 and I think 50 and 25 blinds). I was under the gun and saw A8d, so I pushed my two chips all in. Everyone folded except the big blind, who called with AKo. The flop was paired with two diamonds, but the turn and river didn't pan out. I went out in 21st, but made it through an hour and a half of play.

I can't say that I had a great time. I would have much rather been playing a cash game at the Wynn where I could socialize, have a drink, and still know what I was doing. I'm intrigued by tournaments, and I definitely have more respect for tournament players now. Perhaps I'll get some practice and try it again one day. But until then, you can find me at the Wynn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend, Part II

Tonight was one of those small-world nights where I ran into a friend from college on the Strip. We met up later at the Stratosphere.
The fancy-meeting-you-here scenario continued because one of the guys in the group was a guy that I spent summer of 2000 with studying abroad in Montpellier, France. We had the time of our lives that summer, so it was great catching up with him and reliving old memories.

The Stratosphere is a casino that has a 1149 ft high tower (to put it in perspective, the Seattle Space Needle is 605 ft high). It is on the most northern part of the Strip, and in fact, it is so far north that technically it isn't on the Strip. I have never been there, but I've always wanted to go up the tower to see the view. To get to the observation deck on the tower, you have to wait in a long line and pay $10. But, the guys we were with knew a better system - you can instead go to the Romance Lounge in the Top of the World revolving restaurant, which requires no wait in line and no entry fee. We went up and enjoyed a drink overlooking an unbelievable view of the city. It was breathtaking. Next time, I will go up to the observation deck to get better pictures, but this one gives the perspective of the view from the bar.

After drinks, we went to the Sahara for some blackjack and craps. This is an older casino, but that's no problem because it means you can find $5 tables on one of the busiest weekends of the year. I broke even playing blackjack, and of course had a great time socializing with the guys we were with. It made me miss college and all of the antics the guys could get away with when they were 21.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend, Part I

Memorial Day weekend is a huge weekend here for tourism, and I was determined to enjoy my 3-day weekend with the rest of them. I wimped out Friday night to catch up on sleep that I missed all week, but on Saturday I woke up early to meet my friend, Leigh, and her friend, Jen, at TI. We had breakfast at The Coffee Shop; I had a delicious eggs Benedict. The prices were decent for the Strip.

After breakfast, Leigh and Jen went to play in TI's morning poker tournament. My no-limit skills need some serious help, so I knew there was no sense in joining them in the tournament. Instead, I went over to the Mirage to play some 3/6 limit. I only played twice around the table before the girls were done with their tournament, but in that time I saw ace-king twice, ace-queen once, king-queen twice, and ace-jack twice. You would think that with those starting hands, I would have left with more money. But, alas, those hands never improved.

After poker, the three of us went over to Fashion Show mall, which is just north of TI on Las Vegas Boulevard. I've never actually been in the mall, and oh my gosh, it is huge! They have every name brand you can think of, and quite honestly, the clothes would seem out of place in my closet that is filled with Target merchandise. The mall was packed, and you could really get a feel for how many people were in town this weekend.

That evening, I went to dinner with Leigh, her boyfriend, and his friends who were visiting from southern California. We went to a restaurant whose lack of impressive food is made up for with an abundance of personality: Battista's. This place is right off the Strip on Flamingo. They have a fixed price menu with several price levels. You pick which main course you want (I got ravioli), and with that you get soup or salad, delicious garlic bread, and cappuccino for desert. And here's the kicker, all-you-can-drink red or wine house wine is included with your meal. They have a carafe of each of the table that they continue to fill throughout the night. Honestly, I could make better food at home, and the wine was so cheap that I had a headache the next day, but it was more about the experience of old Vegas than anything else. I would recommend this as a great place for tourists to go if they are not in to the upscale dining scene that dominates the Strip.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Las Vegas Strip History

Wow, I have been so busy that I haven't posted recently. I have had so much fun in the last few weeks with several friends visiting (including my Mom) and lots of fun activities. I have also been super busy at work, and after a long day of working on a computer, the last thing I want to do is stay online to post a blog. I have a ton of pictures to post, which I should be able to do over this long weekend.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a great website that I just discovered. It's the Las Vegas Strip Historical Site, and it has history and stories of all of the hotels on the Strip. Lots of the information on this website comes from first-person accounts of what each casino was like back in the day and how it came to be. There is a plethora of information on the site, complete with (albeit, small) pictures. It has been so much fun reading about the evolution of the Strip. I can't believe that as recently as 15 years ago, the Strip was a much different place with some small hotels and casinos still in existence. In fact, there's still a small apartment building wedged between Mirage and TI (read that section to find out about the debate over this land). If you're looking to kill some time reading colorful accounts of the history of the Strip, then this is the website to check out!