Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Quote of the day

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." - Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I admit that I am human

I did something really really stupid yesterday and I fear it has cost me something valuable. I made a really dumb, hurtful and patently untrue comment to a friend of mine and now my friendship has turned sour. I was in the middle of some personal issues and I lashed out at my friend who was completely undeserving of my wrath and vitriol and got caught in the crossfire completely at random. It was a rare moment of frustration and insanity for me that caused me to say what I did and I wish to God I could take it back. But it's 'out there' and there's no going back. I fear our interactions (mine and my friend's) will now always be tainted by this single thing, if there are any future interactions at all, that is. What's more, we have common friends who now may also turn sour on me. All because of a dumb thing that I said in a moment of haste.

I apologized for it very soon after I said it, but to no avail. The damage had been done. We went back and forth, with my friend hurling insults at me and me replying that I deserved it and begging my friend's forgiveness. But sometimes people don't forgive and you have to live with the dumb thing you did. Every action has consequences and sometimes the smallest of things can have the most dire effects. I'm only human and I make evil mistakes from time to time and it hurts me to no end to realize that you can't always recover from those mistakes. I mean I really hurt from this. I'll think about this moment for many years to come and I will always be sad about the thing I did and even sadder that I lost the company of a sweet and kind person because I momentarily turned into a selfish prick.

When I was younger, my parents taught me to do the right thing. When you wanted something, you said "Please". When you needed someone's attention, you said, "Excuse me". And when you hurt someone, you said, "I'm sorry". Too bad they didn't tell me that doesn't always work. I hate the feeling that I hurt someone for no good reason. I hate the feeling that I can't rectify the situation. I hate the helpless feeling that the ripples are spreading.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Florida recap, day 1

The flight down to see my parents was a pleasure, as flights go. I’m a big believer in Jet Blue into Fort Lauderdale airport. Not only is there more legroom on their airplanes but the TV’s on the seatbacks are invaluable for making a flight go quickly. And, to top it all off, all of the rental car companies in Fort Lauderdale airport are centered in a single terminal. Guess whose terminal? That means I save at least 15 minutes by not having to take a bus to the rental cars. When I landed at the airport, I was at the gate within 2 minutes of touching down, off the plane within 3 minutes of that and at the rental car counter in another 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, I was in my car. The longest thing about the whole trip was getting out of the garage! There was a line of 7 cars waiting to get out. Incidentally, I’m having great success (80% or so) in getting free upgrades to my rental cars. I consistently book online at the cheapest economy rate and invariably the economy cars are all gone when I get there. So they upgrade my car and I got nice Pontiac G6 for the price of a Chrysler Neon.

When I landed and called my parents, they insisted on a late night trip to the diner. “It’s 1AM”, I informed them. They would not be persuaded. So I picked them up and we had eggs and toast while catching up. My parents look good, all things considered, by they were already driving me insane 30 minutes into the trip. I wish I could convey that feeling of frustration and anxiety in writing, but I’m not that talented of an author.

I got up the next morning rather late and had a breakfast of excellent fresh rolls and butter and smoked salmon that my parents brought me from Giorgio’s, the local bakery. After showering and getting dressed, I thought a movie would be a nice afternoon with the parents. The weather was fairly nice, but I figured I could get out to the beach another day. So I convinced them to come out with me and we went to see The Bucket List. Eh. I wouldn’t recommend it. It had moments that I liked and a few very funny lines but it was overly sentimental at the end. That damned Morgan Freeman. Every time he narrates a scene, I get to crying. Bastard. We came back from the movie and my parents had something planned with friends of theirs. You know what that means. Oh yeah, South Florida Poker.

I wanted to take it easy and stay at a single place, so I chose the Gulfstream Racetrack which is only 2 miles away from my parents. This is the place where I can explain the current state of poker in Florida. Currently, Florida allows limit poker (Hold’em, 7 Stud, Omaha Hi and O/8) in limits of $1/$2, $2/$2, $2/$4 and possibly higher, but not much more than $4/$8. No-Limit hold’em is also allowed with blinds of $1/$2, $2/$5 and $5/$10. All of the No-Limit games have a max buy-in of $100 for all limits. As a result, as you can imagine, there is not much ‘play’ in the games. Bluffing is hard because most people with a draw are going to be pot-committed with short stacks in front of them. That’s not to say there isn’t money to be made, but luck is a bigger factor.

The Gulfstream RaceTrack, which races horses in season, is a beautiful facility with one of the nicest poker rooms I’ve ever seen. There is a HUGE room with couches and intimate booths and tables ringing the outside half of the room. A recessed area in the middle of the room houses about 20 poker tables with another dozen or so around the rails in a comfortable environment. I got onto a $1/$2 table for $100 and sat and sat and sat, waiting for hands. I invariably limped into most of my hands and hardly ever flopped anything. For three hours, I floated around my initial buy-in until I took a shot trying to take a pot down with bottom pair and got moved all-in on. The pot was twenty at the time and I bet 17 into it. He moved over the top for 50 more and I had to fold. After that, my stack was down to $30 and I chipped up to $100 again. An hour later, I went on a small card rush with a few well-played hands. The first was 77 in the hole. I had flopped a set of 5’s a few hands before that and overbet the pot, getting no callers on a K85 rainbow board. So when I flopped a set with the 7’s and the board of 7c-Qc-8s, I slowplayed it just to mix things up. The guy to my left bet out $10 and everyone folded to me and I just called. I was trying to build a big pot out of what was currently $12. The turn came down with 8c, making the flush draw and boating me up. Perfect! I checked again in early position and a guy to my left made it $15 to go. He wasn’t afraid of the flush or the 3rd 8 so I figured him for either the 8 or the made flush. Either way, I was in pretty good shape. I check-called his $15 bet and the river was Ah. I bet out $20 this time, trying to make it look like I hit my Ace and he bit, hard. “All in”, I heard. Uh, I call? Yes, he could have had A8, but that was the only hand that logically beat me. But he showed AcJc for the nut flush instead and I dragged a nice pot. The next hand, I got AQo and flopped Queen high and took down another $25 pot. That was about it. I played for another hour and finished the night up exactly $100. Not a huge takedown, but a patient profit nonetheless.

I went home to go to sleep and got up in the morning to eat brunch with my parents. It was raining today (boo), so no beach for me. I felt the need to catch up on sleep and did so while watching the Pats/Chargers game. Tonight, I’m off to South Beach to eat dinner with Darko, who is also down for the weekend. I anticipate going to the Seminole casino tonight to play Omaha/8.

So far, Florida is relaxing. But I would shoot myself quickly if I lived here long-term. Please don’t let me move here.

Oh yeah. Best quote I heard at the poker table last night: “Every poker player dies broke. If he doesn’t, he died prematurely”.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer is dead

The great American (now Icelandic) chess champion has died at the age of 64.

Like many poker players out there, the first game I ever learned how to play, even before checkers, was chess. My brother Darren sat with me when I was about 5 or 6 and taught me all of the basic moves. A few years later, I got a copy of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess which is still the greatest interactive chess book for beginners ever written. It was the game of chess which started me on the path to my love of gaming in all of it's forms. I have misspent countless hours of my life in pursuit of these mercurial pleasures and I have hardly regretted a minute of them.

In later years, as Bobby descended into a state of batshit crazy rivalling The Joker from the Batman comics, I understood the madness inherent in genius. Luckily, I'm not that smart. But some of us are going to end up in Arkham Asylum, I promise you that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New tournament policy for latecomers

We have a new policy at Wall Street Poker, starting with the next tourney we have. Thanks to the Rooster for suggesting it.

The issue we're trying to resolve revolves around latecomers to the tourney. In short, people came late to the tourneys. So many people, as a matter of fact, that I often have only 3 or 4 at 7:15 when we have a full table scheduled. It feels unfair to me to start an 11 person tourney with 3 or 4 so I generally wait a bit for more people to show up. You can guess what happen then. The time slips to 7:30 and we have a longer tourney and then all of a sudden it's midnight and we're still playing the second tourney. What's worse is that people come to see this as the norm so they don't show up until 7:30 because they know they won't be penalized!

This is ending. Now. As of this day forward, 7PM start times, as called for by the invitation, will be enforced in the following manner:

All tournaments will start with cards IN THE AIR at 7:15PM. The 15 minutes in-between will be used to collect buy-ins, clean the apt., etc... Tournaments will start regardless of the number of participants. For every 15 minutes you are late from this point onwards, an extra 100 in chips will be removed from your stack and taken off the table, in addition to any blinds you may be sitting through.

I hope the extra penalization will be the incentive people need to respect the players who *do* show up on time.

If you feel this is too draconian, by all means let's hear what you have to say.

Donkey says, "Whaaaat?"

I will say this about the mixed game last night. It was lots of fun. For someone else.

Limit is normally my wheelhouse game. I sit back and wait for high value hands and then crush the pot with bets. I get called down by draws, sometimes they hit and sometimes they miss, and in aggregate I'm up. It's a sound strategy which has served me well for years. Which is why I got a little tilty last night when I got sucked out on in nearly every big pot I was in. Not running good. Grrr...

More frustrating than that, I think, was that W and Darko, both avowed Limit haters, came in last night and rocked the game. I mean crushed it. All while they were spouting how stupid Limit poker is. I. HATE. HATERS.

Worst hand of the night had to be in Pineapple. I have QJT and the board comes 986. The bet comes out, gets raised, re-raised and capped. Matty Ebs, to my right, has a flopped straight, I know. I have the OESD re-draw and I'm not sure what the rest of the players have to call all of those raises. So when it comes to the discard, I sensibly give up my Q in order to take the top OESD. The turn comes with a Ten. Grrrr.... W leads out and gets two callers, myself included (hey, I still have the OESD right? Grrr....). The river is a brick and me and Matty both call W's lead out bet and she shows QJ for the top straight and takes down a huge pot. Ok, she got lucky to hit the guthshot for the nuts, fine. But when the Rooster, Matty and I all looked shocked that she would call 4 raises with the gutshot, her explanation put me on super-tilt: "It's Limit. That's what you do in Limit, right?"


Yes, I know over the long term, I will crush her in this game. But as it stood last night, W arrived late directly from The Borgata in AC, stayed for 2 hours and left with more than twice her initial BI. Darko also hung on to most of his profit after doubling up his BI. Serious Limit player, The Rooster, not so much. Serious Limit player, me? Not so much. Grrrr, Grrrr and Double Grrrr.

On the plus side, I've made a recent foray into online poker again. When someone mentioned I could fill my Full Tilt account with just a simple credit card, I didn't believe them. But lo and behold, it worked! I bought in for $200 just to mess around and I've built that up to $300 in just a few short sessions playing low limit (2-4, 3-6) O/8. God bless that game. I still have a complete fear of online play, so I'm playing super-tight and it's paying off nicely. Hope it keeps up.

In other news, I'm going to Florida this weekend and hoping to take down some of those wierd no-limit games down there. I heard a story that they're getting around the NL buyins there in an interesting manner. The max buyin in the NL games in Florida is $100 by law. So what they're doing is getting 10 guys, at say the 5-10 NL table to all buy in for the max and then all push all in at the same time! Then, when showdown occurs, they all deliberately muck their hands to the button who collects the $1000. They repeat this 10 times and now everyone at the table has $1000. Let the games begin! I don't think I'll be doing this, but I wonder if this little trick has filtered down to the $1-2 or 2-5 tables. Also, as Jordan pointed out, what's to stop anyone from simply picking up their winning when it's their turn and leaving. Technically nothing, except for a beating with a pipe in the parking lot I suppose.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tourney suck (for me)

We had a whole bunch of tourneys the last two nights. First things first: Abbie is a monster! I mean crazy unstoppable. Who the hell wins BOTH tourneys?!?! Congrats Abbie - "The Law" (new nickname). I only played in the second tourney but I had NOTHING in terms of cards. Granted I got bluffed off a few hands by Matty Ebs. How did I know I got bluffed? Because someone else would call and Matty would go all in and Matty would show down his crappy 56o and the other person would show a better hand than mine. I would pat myself on the back and then Matty would suck out. Oh yeah, AA got cracked 3 times last night, all vs. much worse hands. The worst was AA vs. AK where the AK turned the broadway straight.

Poker loses.

Well, after getting my stack choped in multiple ways and delivered to other people, I finally looked down at 33 and pushed. I got two callers and the flop came Ac Qc Tc. Uh, I lose.

Tonight was no better. I busted early in the first tourney after going card dead and pushing with A9 with 1000 in chips. I ran into JT AND QQ. Uh, I lose again. Especially when a Queen flops.

The second tourney was painful, like a band-aid you pull off in one quick motion. Because that's how long it took. I was felted on the first hand. Luckily, I had company! I had Ad2d UTG. I limp and a few other people limp and Cheryl makes it 325 total from the SB. Tony calls and I call. Everyone else gets out of the way. Flop is 4d 5c 7d. Hmmmm....I'm going to get in trouble with the nut flush draw and the gutshot wheel draw. I know this. Cheryl leads out with another 325 and I'm praying Tony smooth calls so I can see the turn cheaply. Yeah, no such luck. Tony raised to 925 straight. I read Cheryl for an overpair and Tony too. My though here is that if I shove, I *might* get them both to fold. OR, they both might call and I'm getting 2-1 with the proper odds to draw. So I did. I shoved all in on the first hand with two draws and what I thought was a good overcard with the Ace. Cheryl looked dismayed, but called. Tony did too! They flipped up 44 for Cheryl and 66 for Tony! Cheryl flopped the set and Tony, the OESD. The turn comes out a black 8 for the straight! Tony looks happy until the river comes a black 7 making the boat for Cheryl, who tripled up.

Guitar Hero anyone?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

So much to bitch about, so little time...

First things first. I got my bonus yesterday.


True, our company did really poorly this year, but the team I support did really well. Shouldn't that count for something. Anyway, I just saw this article in the Times and all of a sudden, I'm just glad I have a job.

What else? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Just back from my trip to Vegas, I'm immediately thinking about where else I can go, if only for long weekends. I spoke to E and since she's prepping for the Jersey bar exam in late February, she gave me the go ahead to travel the weekend of the 17th and the 24th. The 17th is also President's day weekend so I'll be off from work the following Monday too. What a happy coincidence! So I immediately booked a flight to...Vegas. I know what you're thinking. And you're right, I'm retarded. But the idea of going for the Venetian big stack tournament specials (running all through February) was too good to pass up. Also, I won't be flying solo this time. The list of guests who might be there are CK, LJ and Mary. Also, Thomas Gillespie, who played in the tourneys tonight at WSP, happened to mention he's going to be there the same weekend staying at Bufallo Bill's (the old Barbary Coast). Anyway, I did the quick math and with the poker rate I'm getting at The Venetian, it's actually cheaper for him to share the room with me than it is for going solo at that other crappy hotel. Sweet!

So my plan is to fly out at 6:30 on Feb. 15th and take the red-eye back Tuesday night, Feb. 19th and get into JFK at 5:00am Wed. morning. If things go well, I'll get some solid sack time coming back and take a cab home, shower up and go right to work (maybe get an hour nap in my own bed if I'm lucky). I'm going to work Wed., Thur. and Friday and then...back to the airport.

It seems Virgin air was having a great special to fly out to the West Coast and since I have carte blanche to travel that weekend anyway, well....I will. I'm flying out that Friday after I get back from Vegas to sunny Los Angeles. I booked myself into a Ramada about 1/2 a mile from Commerce Casino. I've always wanted to try the big California poker rooms and Commerce is the biggest in the world (200+ tables!!). Also, Bicycle casino is close by as are about 6 other poker rooms. I don't think I'll do the frantic loop I did in Vegas but it will be fun just to spend the weekend out there. Again, I'm coming back on the redeye and going right to work.

I only wish I had known my bonus numbers BEFORE I booked the trips. I might not have pulled the trigger so quickly. :-(

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wii rock at poker

Tonight's tourney/cash game to honor 23Skidoo was a blast! The tourney was only 8 handed but there were some fine players. Fresh off of my 12 day Vegas soujourn, my skills were definitely sharpened up. Early on in the first blind level, I nearly doubled up with QQ in late position. LJ raised to 250 UTG and Robert, a new player called. I popped it to 800 and when it got back to LJ, she moved all in in a flash. Robert folded and it was all my chips. I really had to think about it here. I know LJ is a great tourney player, so why would she shove so quickly in the early part of the tourney. I did some thinking about it and I came to two conclusions:

1. She has the obvious KK or AA.
2. She has a good Ace and she's trying to put doubt into my mind.

I started to settle on option number two when I remembered that LJ had come into the tourney with a sore throat and lost voice and probably wasn't feeling good. She had also mentioned how she probably wouldn't stay for cash afterward because she had work to do tonight. I put two and two together and came to the conclusion she was trying to double up or go home. So I called. Her hand was actually more powerful than I had imagined, AKo, but I won the race and she went out on the rail. I was able to use my powerful chip position to bully a few blinds and win a few pots. There were a few suckout hands and some suckout-re-suckout hands. Darko managed one of those when he took out Brian (poor guy) who was short-stacked with 99 in the blind. Darko shoved with a slightly larger stack trying to steal the blinds and Brian called. Darko showed 7d3d and managed to make two pair on the river to go into contention and eventually into the money.

With Darko and I at nearly even stacks and the new guy Robert at a slightly smaller stack, we ended up chopping the tourney to move onto cash. Thanks to the Rooster, Jordan and Jesse for also participating.

As the tourney broke up, W and Alceste joined us for cash when some of the others left and we played a mixed game (.50/1 NLHE and 2-4 Limit O/8). Even though Matty Ebs didn't come to deal for us (:-p), we managed a spirited game to 11:15pm. It was good fun.

Today also marked the debut of the Nintendo Wii at the Wall Street Poker clubhouse. It's a hot property, to be sure, and I played Guitar Hero well into the night after everyone left. Evidently, the game says, I rock.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

My girlfriend is better than yours

Why? Because she stood outside in the cold for 4 hours this morning to get me the Nintendo Wii! Hooyah!

Of course, this *does* make the return gift I need to give her a lot harder to get. How do you top this?!?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Everything I need to know about Omaha, I learned in Vegas

1. If you're going to draw, draw to the nuts.
2. Scoop pots are the key to profit. Don't pay too much to draw to a split pot.
3. If someone raises, check the board for the nut hand. Chances are they have it.
4. Four middle cards in your hand do NOT constitute a good starting hand.
5. Playing for a set lower than Jacks is an awful play. The chances of someone flopping a higher set are grotesque.
6. Raising with the nut low will often get you quartered. Sometimes Sixthed.
7. Patience, Patience, Patience. A good starting hand will come soon enough.

New Year's Eve pics from Vegas

Pics here

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Vegas Extravaganze - Travel Day back :-(

All good things must end. That sucks.

I got up very early this morning to make sure I could acclimate myself to New York time appropriately. So after waking at 8am and packing and showering, it was 10am and I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I had a 4:55PM flight out of Vegas but I didn't know how early I had to be there since I thought it would be a heavy travel day. I still had time to hit some poker rooms though. Top on my list was Tuscany, which is an Off-Strip room I didn't yet get to visit. And it was close to the airport, so I figured I'd hop into a 1-2 NL game and sit there for a few hours until I had to go. Uh, no suck luck. I arrived at Tuscany and found out the poker room, all four tables of it, was runnning a tourney. I could buy in if I wanted to, the manager told me, but I didn't see the point of buying in late into a tourney. You're at a big disadvantage because you haven't picked up your reads in the early rounds where mistakes are cheap. So I picked up a few chips and headed over to Mandalay Bay. I dumped a buyin at 4-8 and it was still only 12:30. Mandalay Bay is attached to Excalibur and Luxor so instead of rebuying at MB, I thought I would get as many other rooms in as possible. So I visited Luxor and Excalibur as well and managed to get a total of 4 rooms under my belt before my flight! :-)

I needn't have worried about getting to my flight on time. We assume the airport will be awful because we come from New York and that's our experience. The rest of the country, it seems, has great airport experiences. It took a total of 45 minutes from the time I drove out of the Mandalay Bay garage to:
1. Refuel my car at a gas station.
2. Drop the car off at the Alamo Rental Car center
3. Get on the shuttle bus to the airport
4. Get off the shuttle bus and walk to the Continental counter to get my boarding pass and drop off my luggage.
5. Go through security and arrive at my gate.

45 Minutes. Wow.

So I actually had a full 80 minutes to kill before boarding my flight. I had a Pepperoni Pizza and pint of Sam Adams at Wolfgang Puck Express (excellent) and watched USC kick Illinois' ass in the Rose Bowl (at least until the halftime). Then I was on my flight and headed home to Newark. I got into Newark at 12:30a (10 minutes early) and waited until 1:20a for my luggage to come onto the carousel. Welcome Home. But my car service picked me up and got me to my brother's house on Staten Island in record time.

All is right with the world again. Tomorrow is work. I am in dread fear but eager to tackle a new year. Who knows what the year will bring? Except for one thing.

There will be poker. Oh yes, there will be poker.

New Year's Eve in Vegas

I got up at 10am New Year’s Eve and went about my morning routine. It was close to 11:00 when I finished and it was time to hit the downtown scene. There are 5 poker rooms downtown; Binions, Golden Nugget, El Cortez, The Plaza and Fitzgeralds. I had already been to Binions so I thought I would start at The Plaza, which is at the start of Fremont Street. I had another reason to start there as well. The Garage for The Plaza wasn’t likely to be closed since it opened up to Main Street, rather than Fremont Street, so I would be able to get away that night without hitting police barricades.

Downtown Vegas is ‘old Vegas’ and it shows. The hotels are all relatively run-down (with the possible exception of the Nugget) and they cater to a much older clientele. Even the Nugget, which has one of the coolest pool scenes (with a heated waterfall and an aquarium built into the center of the pool) I’ve ever seen, still feels old. The ‘old feel’ started in The Plaza parking garage. It’s terribly laid out and can’t fit more than one car in a lane. Still, it had spots open and I left my car on the fourth level and took an antiquated elevator to the casino floor. The Plaza poker room was empty when I got there. It had only 6 tables in the room, two of which where dedicated to a game called Kondition. I asked the room manager for the rules and he handed me a sheet filled with strange ‘melds’ and other combinatorial rules that would have given Einstein a headache. “If you don’t know how to play,” he said, “this game isn’t for you”. I once had a dealer tell me exactly the same thing about Pai-Gow Tiles. Actually, the Pai-Gow dealer told me the game was only for Asians. Racist bastard.

So I bought two chips from the Plaza, booking it as an official visit, and went off to find an actual running game at the Golden Nugget. Just an aside, I know I’ve already stated that an official ‘visit’ to a poker room would consist of a rotation of the button at a raked game, but I’ve amended my own rules due to recent experience. So, henceforth, a visit will consist of either a tournament entry, a rotation of the button at a raked game, or the purchase of a casino chip. The last item will only count if there are no seats available at the time and it looks like it might take a while, or if the room is closed and/or empty with no games running.

The Nugget is the nicest poker room in the Downtown area. It is very elegant, like the casino itself. I use the word elegant because that hopefully conveys something about age. The Nugget is old and while it has aged gracefully, it is still old. It’s tasteful though. The ten tables at the Nugget are crammed into a small room but everything is nicely done and all ten tables were hopping when I got there. I got onto a 4-8 table and did well for a few hours before deciding to hit the other rooms. I made a quick trip to El Cortez, but I didn’t stay long because the one table (out of 3) that they had going was full. And they were only playing 2-4. This is a really bad room. So I made my way over to Fitzgeralds, which was the last poker room downtown I hadn’t been at. The casino is on Fremont Street and I walked past a stage where they were setting up live music for the evening’s festivities. Some musicians were on stage in heavy coats doing a sound check and I looked at the drum kit and Holy Shit it was the Doobie Brothers! I watched them for a few minutes, warming up and checking mic levels. They are old, by the way, but they’re great musicians. Walking another two blocks down, I saw another stage where The Bangles were also warming up. Let me tell you, they have aged REALLY well. Susanna Hoffs is still a hottie. I was about 10 feet away from them as they played a few chords and checked their instruments, warming up their pretty hands by blowing into them. I wanted to shout out “Susanna, I love you!” or “More Ming Tea” (obscure reference, look it up), but I kept quiet because I’m a New Yorker and we don’t indulge in celebrity worship (on the outside). I finally got to Fitzgeralds where I played for a bit and chatted with some of the locals. It was about 4:30 when I asked about the bands and someone mentioned that you have to have a ticket to get out onto Fremont Street that night. Really? Whoops. I ran out to find the ticket booth and dropped sixty bucks to get a wristband that would allow me to get in and out of Fremont street at my leisure. Good thing too, because I heard that at 6:00, the cops came and barricaded the entrances to all the casinos and cleared Fremont Street. If you wanted to leave or enter the casinos, you had to do it from the back entrance. Some hardcore players told me they spent the sixty bucks just so they could go casino hopping without taking the long way around! At around 8:30, I cashed out and went outside to gather in front of The Bangles stage for their 9:00PM appearance.

At 9:00 PM, all of the casino lights went out, and the Fremont Street Experience began! The overhead show was spectacular and then the lights came up with a flash as The Bangles opened up the show with “Hazy Shade of Winter”. The crowd was shoulder to shoulder and screaming with excitement, alcohol induced hazes adding to the psychedelic Paul Simon lyrics. They followed up with a few other hits, including “Manic Monday” before closing out the show with “Walk Like and Egyptian”. The girls were in great form and they seemed to be having a lot of fun, despite being dressed up like they were in Russia. It was cold in the desert, my friends. Then the crowd moved over to the Doobie Brothers stage where they started belting out the tunes as well. Right around the first strains of “Black Water”, I started to get chilly and I found refuge inside of Binions. It was 10:00 PM and it was time to ring in the New Year where I belonged, at a poker table. Binions was spreading a few games with and I played 4-8. The staff was into the spirit of the moment at they gave out New Year’s hats to all of the players along with complimentary champagne. I was up 90 mobneys after taking a few pots off an old fellow from Georgia who had wanted to play 8-16, but could only find 4-8, so he decided to raise every PF hand blind! Lol! I took a nice picture of my chips with a new card protector I bought and the glass of champagne (I’ll provide links later). The card protector I’m really happy with. It’s a lighter shaped like the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that light up when you flick the lighter. It’s gooot! At 11:55pm, I cashed out and ran outside to make sure I was on Fremont Street for the stroke of midnight. The clock counted down on the Fremont ceiling all the way down to zero and everyone shouted and kissed and a rain of confetti came down on the crowd. It was at this time that I felt very very lonely. Seeing the crowds of drunken tourists groping each other for a midnight kiss made me miss E very much. It also reminded me that this was now the second year in a row that I hadn’t been kissed on midnight at New Year’s, after a proud 16 year streak. Never again, I vowed, and I put it behind me. I was busy documenting the whole experience with camera shots when the confetti stopped and everybody started to either file back into the casinos or listen to the great cover band that was playing. I walked into a little casino, a New Year’s hat on my head, to kill twenty minutes rolling the dice at craps. I rolled 3 points in a row! Woohoo!!! At 12:30, I go back out for the best show of the night, the 12:30 fireworks show at The Plaza rooftop. The fireworks were synchronized to music that was blasting out of the speakers on Fremont and it was great. The whole crowd was pumped up, despite freezing our asses off and it was a great time I won’t soon forget. As the fireworks exploded overhead, it made me think of all the great memories of the year and how much more there is to experience in this world.

I aim to see it all.

Vegas Extravaganza - Day 10

After the tournament win Sunday afternoon, I went back to my room to catch up on some much needed rest. Oh, and I had to shower. Desperately. After I cleaned myself up and caught a few Z’s, I found myself up at about 7:30 PM. Where oh where had the day gone. There were still a few off-strip casinos I hadn’t hit up, so that night seemed like a good night to mop them up. As I browsed my shrinking list of places I hadn’t been off the strip, I noticed that Red Rock Casino was the farthest away. It seemed to make sense to go to that one first and then swing back and hit the other which were closer to the strip.

So off in my car I went. I hit my first snag when I went to punch in the name of the casino and my GPS unit, which has been wonderfully reliable in every regard, didn’t have the listing! Uh, that’s not good. I had already noticed that Red Rock wasn’t even listed on the site I was using to get the list of casinos, Cheapo Vegas. I don’t know why it wasn’t on the site, but it should definitely have been in the GPS. Unless it was such a new place that it wasn’t around when my GPS software was loaded. That was a possibility. Luckily, I’m much more resourceful than your average human. I dialed directory assistance to get the address and then dialed the address directly into the GPS. Yep, you won’t catch me napping anytime soon. Hahaha.

The drive to Red Rock took about 20 minutes, taking me the western suburbs of Vegas. Very pleasant, by the way. And then, in the middle of a huge empty and carefully landscaped area, it arose like a vision in the night. Red Rock Casino. The place is GINORMOUS and whoever built it sank a LOT of money into it. I mean, we’re talking Wynn hotel type money. This was, by a huge stretch, the nicest hotel I’ve been to on this trip. Nicer than the Paris. Nicer than the Venetian (though not by much). Everything was beautifully clean and new. The people were mostly nice looking. The cocktail waitresses were young and nubile. And, most impressively, the casino was laid out in a very nice and organized manner. If you looked up, you could see nicely marked signs for everything you needed and it wasn’t confusing at all. This is a big benefit if, like me, you’ve been wandering through smoke-filled casinos for 10 days trying to find the poker room.

I did find the poker room, and I was very happy. Like the rest of the place, it was beautiful. 20 tables in a real separated room that was quiet and pleasant. It was next to a beautiful restaurant and they chose to put very pretty stained glass squares to cordon off the restaurant from the poker room. They even put a private bathroom in their just for the poker players; a very nice touch. The other thing that impressed me about the room was the number of games they had going on. They had Limit Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em (1-2 AND 2-5) and they had an O/8 limit game as well. This put them up their with The Orleans as the only offstrip rooms to spread all these games and actually get players; there were 14 tables going when I arrived. Most impressively was when I heard halfway through my O.8 session, that they were starting a 4-8 Mixed game. I immediately asked which games they were using and the answer was a cornucopia of games I’d never played. Badoogie (sp?), 2-7 triple draw and Razz were all mentioned. Uh, I’ll pass, but that’s awesome that they actually got that going. This room had POKER players in it. It helped, too, that I cleaned up at O/8. I peaked at +300 but cashed out at +177 after losing some pots on the river.

I really really enjoyed my time at Red Rock. How much, you ask? Well, when I looked down at my watch to check the time, it was 1:40 in the morning! I seriously thought maybe two hours had passed but I had been playing O/8 for a solid 5 hours and hadn’t felt it at all. I knew I would have to get up early for New Year’s Eve since I wanted to get back to New York time for my flight home the day after, so I called it a night, drove back to my hotel room and crashed, determined to make my last full day in Vegas a memorable one.