Vegas Loose Ends

Part of my plan for Las Vegas was to play a lot of poker. I did just that.

The first table I sat at, a $100 + $15 ‘sit ‘n go’, paid off! I thought the week would be easy money.

After that one tournament, I couldn’t win. If I had good cards, someone had better cards. Or, I’d have awful cards for extended periods.

It was depressing. I know Helaine could see that in me, and she told me so.

What was bothering me was, I was playing well, but still losing. I think I’m a good (not great) player, so this steady losing was making me question what I was doing. A good player should be able to win at poker over a long enough period of time.

Was it the Las Vegas competition?

Maybe I had moved up to competition that was too tough for me? Or, it could have been just the cards. You can’t tell while it’s happening.

The difference between winning and losing, even over a week, can come down to one or two hands! Seriously. The difference between winning and losing could be, as an example, plus $150 (win) or minus $80 (loss). That’s a delta of $230.

The more I played, the more I lost and the more I questioned my play. My goal was to play tight; a conservative player. It is easy to succumb to temptation and play hands you shouldn’t play. I did that a little, not a lot.

Finally, two days before we left, the tide turned. I finished that day up around $150 – though still seriously down for the week.

On Sunday, my last poker day, Helaine gave me a pep talk. It was like a scene from Rocky and she was Burgess Meredith!

First I sat down for a $100 + $15 ‘sit ‘n go.’ I came in second for a $185 profit.

I moved to a $10/$20 limit table. This had been the bane of my existence all week. Suddenly, I could do no wrong. In a few short hours I had made back another $400+.

We had dinner and took some family time. Then I returned for one more session. I was still smoking! My tight reputation allowed me to steal at least one pot with what I’m sure were losing cards. I won a bit less than $200 before calling it quits.

After being a net loser all week, two nights turned things around. Between Saturday and Sunday I made up my losses and added on a profit of a few hundred dollars. Spread over our week plus there, my hourly rate was pitiful – but I was a net winner!

What did I learn in this week of live playing? More than anything, over the short term (and that can be a few days or more) cards can be fickle. Steady play will pay off if you have enough time. You have to be able to weather setbacks without going on tilt.

Oh… and it’s cool getting a pep talk from your wife.

Vacation Photos Added

I’ve taken a few of the 600+ photos I shot in Las Vegas and posted them in my photo gallery.

Aren’t Vacations For Rest

Helaine and I are home. Wisely, Helaine recommended I take an extra day off before returning to work, which is why I’m currently on the sofa in pajamas.

I feel like I’ve been dragged by my feet, tongue down, through the streets of some third world capitol. My body aches. My eyes are sore. I’m not sure if I’m currently capable of adding a column of numbers.

Vacation was once supposed to be soothing and relaxing. Now, or at least this time, vacation was for doing stuff. We did lots of stuff… lots.

Here’s my plan. I’m not going to go back and write all the entries I couldn’t post because of my Internet troubles in Las Vegas&#185. I think spontaneity would be missing and I’m not sure if I could remember everything that happened. After all, what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas (does that include calories?).

Instead, I plan on taking some of the more than 2 gigabytes of photos I took and making them into a narrated slide show. I’ve been thinking about how to do this and have some thoughts about interesting effects with Flash.

Right now tying shoelaces is beyond me.

There is one thing I will post from the vacation and it deserves a story. My father’s 80th birthday was Saturday, October 29. To celebrate, my sister and I (along with our spouses and cousins Melissa and Michael) took my folks to the MGM Grand for a spectacular dinner at Pearl and Cirque du Soleil K&#193.

As we walked across the valet parking area we came upon four Vegas showgirls, waiting for a vehicle to pick them up. Each was well over six feet tall and weighed around 12 pounds.

I walked over to them and explained it was dad’s 80th… could I take a photo of him with them.

It is a keepsake photograph and beautifully sums up the celebration that surrounded my dad’s birthday!

&#185 – While in Las Vegas I could only stay connected to the Internet for 20-30 seconds at a time using my wireless modem. I suspect the problem is mine, not the provider’s. My guess is it has to do with the four access points that were available to me. Why this is a problem is anyone’s guess. But, here I am typing this and connected to my home’s AP with no problem.

About The Blog

I am having terrible connectivity problems with this computer. I can’t stay on the net for more than a few seconds at a time.

So… I’ll have to stop my entries until I return to Connecticut sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

There is lots to talk about, including seeing Ray Romano last night, my poker ups and downs and downs and downs, and my Dad’s 80th birthday today.

Anyway, all of this in a few days.

Avenue Q in Las Vegas

I’m going to stop writing about poker for a while until it’s nicer to me! After a big win early in our stay I have been slowly bleeding at the tables.

Dinner Wednesday night was at Cravings, he buffet at Mirage. It’s an amazing buffet, though that doesn’t leave it alone. There are lots of very good buffets here.

We are pleased at how easy it’s been to sit all of us when we came as 8.

Helaine had arranged to buy tickets for Avenue Q. That’s the Off-Broadway show that became a Broadway Show and now, instead of touring nationally, set up shop at Wynn Las Vegas.

Actually, the Playbill says the first performance was in Waterford, CT. Go figure?

I consider myself knowledgeable about Broadway, but here’s how foolish I was. Until we went to see this show, I had no idea it was lampooning Jim Henson’s Muppets and Sesame Street!

In fact, the Playbill specifically says, “”Avenue Q has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop, which have no responsibility for its content.” So there!

The show is performed by puppets. The puppeteers are on stage, in sight, operating the puppets and providing their speaking and singing voices.

It was really very good and quite enjoyable.

The Wynn Las Vegas version has two companies, so they can perform every day. I’ll call them the A and B casts (only because there is one name, followed by the alternate, for each character). We saw the B cast. They were very talented.

I especially enjoyed Kelli Sawyer (I met her college roommate’s mother during intermission), playing most of the female principals, and David Benoit who played a bunch of characters including Nicky and Trekkie Monster.

Avenue Q is about coping as a young adult as Sesame Street is about fitting in as a kid. And, Avenue Q has taken great liberties to appropriate the Sesame Street style to make their points.

We were surprised, the theater was half full – if that. Granted it was a late show midweek. Still, this is supposed to be a hot ticket show.

All of this was going on at Wynn Las Vegas. Steve Wynn built this hotel, the Mirage, along with Treasure Island and Bellagio. Wynn Las Vegas is supposed to be one step up from that, but it is reminiscent of Bellagio in nearly every way.

Make no mistake, it’s an upscale, stunningly beautiful hotel. As it stands now, it’s too far down the Strip – well past the other nicer hotels. Las Vegas will surely grow nicer down there.

Improv – More To The Story

After an attempted nap, I sat down to play poker. It wasn’t long before a man sat down two seats to my left. He looked familiar.

When he stood up to make a cell phone call, I realized it was Bud Freedman, owner-founder of the Improv. I wasn’t totally sure, so I kept my mouth shut.

When the dealer referred to him as Bud, I knew.

Bud Freedman is to comedy as Benny Binion was to poker. Bud had a comedy club long before that was the thing to do. And to say the majority of the big names in comedy played his clubs is not hyperbole.

I told him I had something to say, but I didn’t want to kvetch. I explained we had been to the show last night, told him where we sat and that the sound was awful.

He seemed concerned. He also had the exact correct and gracious response. He offered to host us another night, his treat, front and center.

I didn’t take him up on his offer. We’re committed. Still, I was impressed.

You don’t survive in business as long as he had without serving your customers. I’ll bet the sound system is looked at tonight and fixed as quickly as is possible.

At least I hope that’s what happens.

Fry’s In Las Vegas

How to describe Fry’s? It’s a geeky electronics store on steroids. I took Cousin Michael and my father. Helaine, Melissa and my mom went to the Forum Shops at Caesars.

Mostly it was window shopping, though I bought a book of Flash programming that looked interesting and a miniature illuminated Las Vegas sign!

I woke up early today. My mom called to say they were at breakfast. Thanks mom.

Now I’ll nap.

Not My Idea of Comedy

There are eight of us here in Las Vegas with the arrival of my sister and brother-in-law. We do lots of stuff on our own, and some things we do together.

We thought it would be fun to do something together tonight, specifically go to the Improv at Harrah’s.

Everything went wrong. Even after it went right, it went wrong!

Helaine (Queen of Vegas) had found a, a website that specializes in half price coupons and tickets for Vegas shows. She had four coupons good for eight tickets to the Improv at Harrah’s.

We all walked across the street to Harrah’s then up the escalator to the box office. We walked up to Yoko who looked at the coupons and said, “I’ve been warned about these,” and refused to take them.

We wanted a manager to speak to, but she said no one would be there until 4:00 PM. I left my card and asked to be called. We headed back across the street.

Meanwhile, Helaine was quite upset. We checked’s website, and sure enough these coupons were still available from Bill. I sent him and email.

With no message from the manager at Harrah’s ticket office by 4:30, I headed back again. This time Stephanie, the manager was there. She too told me they wouldn’t accept the coupon.

I asked them to look at BillHere’s website. If they weren’t accepting these, I wanted them to force him to stop. It wasn’t fair to me or anyone else.

Meanwhile, while all this was going on, I got Bill on my cellphone (As it turns out, Bill too didn’t return my call). Bill said the folks at the box office were wrong, didn’t know what they were doing and should call Brooke in the production office.

The Harrah’s people didn’t want to have anything to do with Bill… or call Brooke.

Finally, after a long consultation with her boss, Stephanie accepted our coupons. This saved us about $100 on a $200 purchase.

Everything seemed fine until we got to the Improv. We sat at the side of the stage a few rows back. It’s not a very large place and the sight lines were fine. The sound was not!

From the time the emcee came on stage it was obvious the sound system wasn’t putting anything but bass in our section. We could hear some words, but often at the punchline we’d all be scrambling for a simultaneous English-to-English translation.

My mom and dad, sitting in front of all of us, understood nothing. Nothing!

It was very disappointing. I can’t believe the Improv or Harrah’s doesn’t know about this problem with the sound system.

We heard other people laughing. There must have been parts of the room that heard fine, but not us.

We came back to the Mirage. My sister and brother-in-law, still bushed from their flight, went to bed. The rest of us had a late dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen.

I had the five cheese and tomato pizza – excellent. Helaine had Split Pea Soup and Key Lime Pie. That’s an esoteric combo, but she said they were both great.

Before I leave for the night, a quick word about poker – awful. I did poorly this afternoon and it went downhill later tonight. It was only a late rush that kept me from being creamed.

This was a night when luck really entered in. I just didn’t have the cards. There was only one hand all night that I wish I’d have played differently. One hand would have been the difference between winning and losing!

More On Monday From Las Vegas

Lots to be done as we settled on on our third day here, but the day that had been scheduled to be the first. Max had to go to the airport, and that was the perfect opportunity for me to pick up our rental car, also at the airport.

Melissa was driving. Note to NASCAR: Any teams needing a new driver, Melissa is your girl. I have flown in an F/A-18, but it didn’t have the maneuverability of Melissa’s Toyota Sequoia.

With bumper-to-bumper traffic on Las Vegas Blvd I’ll swear she hit 80 mph… and that was just changing lanes!

With lots of people to shuttle around, we needed to rent a car with room. Helaine (Queen of Deals) had found a Chrysler Minivan from Dollar for about $130 per week. Taxes and fees added an extra $60!

I have a Dollar FASTLANE card. It cost nothing. The program is now named Dollar Express, but the effect is the same.

We walked into the rental office and saw a long line. Next to it was a space for Dollar Express members. I walked up and was taken next! Without the little, free, card, we’d still be in line.

We saved at least an hour – maybe more.

This car is not stylish. In fact, it sort of represents everything this trip is not supposed to be. It will do, because it is what we need.

On the way back from getting the car we stopped to get water and soda to keep in our room. It was interesting to see both the drug store and grocery had small video poker rooms.

I wasn’t done with poker, and when we got back, I sat back down. My luck from the morning hadn’t changed.

Actually, that’s wrong. My play hadn’t changed. I was playing sloppy, like a tourist who wanted hands to play and was willing to play lesser cards. That was a $180 lesson.

I was still up, but now my winnings were marginal… and I was upset, because I knew I could play better.

We all had dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant at the Venetian – Zeffirino. I had a pasta/seafood dish, which was very tasty.

As dinner ended, the waiter, captain and the restaurant’s strolling mandolin (Was it a mandolin… I’m really not sure. It wasn’t a guitar) player came by with a piece of cake and candle to celebrate my dad’s 80th.

The birthday isn’t until later in the week, but that’s what the trip is all about.

Michael and Melissa and my folks stayed at the Venetian. Helaine and I returned to the Mirage. I needed to redeem myself.

Let me stop for a second and explain something. Even when you know how to play poker correctly, it is always possible to be swayed by the siren song mediocre cards. That’s especially true of someone like me who will be here a relatively short amount of time and wants to play, not fold. I have to fight the temptation.

As it turns out, I did stick to my guns and played very nicely… until 2:30 AM PDT. Bottom line was a $40 win.

It would have been more (it would have been a few hundred more), but, with Aces full, I was beaten by an unlikely four of a kind by a player who went in, in the face of betting action, with nothing but a 2-4 and caught just the right cards.

I’m sure I also had a few unlikely wins, but it’s always the ‘beats’ you remember.

My sister and brother-in-law are on a plane now, heading into Vegas. I’m the designated driver, so I’d better get going. More later from Fabulous Las Vegas.

Wish you were here.

Poker – Grrrr

We had a family breakfast this morning. Then, while my parents and cousins went to look at the animals in the Secret Garden behind the Mirage, I went to play poker.

All that was open was $3-$6. That’s what I used to play, so I sat down. I was in for a rude awakening.

I should have known early on when I caught a good card on the flop. I bet and EVERYONE called – everyone! C’mon, they couldn’t all have good cards.

I lost one big pot when another player caught a flush on his J-4 clubs. Nothing wrong with that, except he went in to see the flop with those two miserable cards even after there had been a bet!

It’s tough to think of worse cards, but he was here to play, not sit.

Bottom line, I gave back $120 and it was painful doing that.

We’re going to drop off Cousin Max (flying home to Orange County) and pick up the rental car in a little while. I’ll write later.

Who I Saw

Years ago, on a trip to Vegas, you might claim to have seen Sammy, Frank or Dean. Or, maybe you stumbled across Elvis while getting middle of the night sandwiches.

Not me.

Tonight we went to have the buffet at Belagio. While the gang waited in line, I snuck over to the poker room (much, much, larger than when I was last here) and spied Jennifer Harmon in one of the two ‘private’ rooms, playing Hold ‘Em.

If you don’t know who Jennifer is, don’t worry. If you do, you’ll be glad to know she looked her normal harried, worried self. I was unable to see the size of the stack in front of her.

My First Action – Poker In Vegas

We were up and at ’em before noon – a major accomplishment considering our cross country trip and fatigue.

My folks spent last night, unhappily, at the MGM Grand. Nothing went right. All that was left were smoking rooms. There was an ironing board and iron in the middle of the room. My mom couldn’t sleep.

They were coming to the Mirage Tuesday, but Helaine managed to get them in today. They are now safely ensconced here, along with my cousins Michael and Melissa and their son Max. My sister and brother-in-law get here Tuesday.

Helaine, Queen of Las Vegas, had arranged for line passes. These are worth their weight in gold. Getting to the head of the line can be very valuable when the line snakes forever! These aren’t comps – we’re paying – but it’s still worthwhile.

We went with Cousin Melissa and had breakfast in the Caribe Cafe. It’s a Vegas coffee shop and everything good that implies.

After breakfast, and moving my folks, I headed to the sports book to watch the Eagles. It was ugly. It was a win.

Michael and I headed out for a walk, but when it was his turn to watch Max, I headed to the poker room for my first tableside action.

I have been playing $10-$20 of late at Foxwoods. None of that here. I signed up for a $6-$12 table, but before I was called a “Sit ‘n Go” tournament opened.

In a “Sit ‘n Go,” 10 players ante up $100 plus $15 for the casino. Each then gets $1,000 in tournament chips (no value off this table). The 10 play until there are two left. First place gets $700, with the remaining $300 for second.

In the beginning I was incredibly nervous. My play was fine, but I was intimidated to be doing something live and in person I usually do at home, on the couch, in pajamas.

I took a quick lead, amassing $3,500 of the tables $10,000. It didn’t last. I stayed up, but was soon in third and probably fourth for a while. I played steady. I measured my bets, studied the pot, figured the odds.

I have been reading Dan Harrington’s poker book and used some of his advice.

The table leader was a man from Alabama who played very loose and had been lucky. I knew he would burn out.

Finally the table was down to three. The player to my right went all in against the player to my left. They were nearly even in chips. That meant there would be two… and one of them would be me!

We continued to play. The player to my right was up by a few thousand chips. With me holding King/Queen off suit, he made a bet. I decided to take a stand and go all in. He asked if I wanted to split the $1,000 cash 50/50?

I was a crap shoot. Who knew. But, right then, half the pot seemed good to me. We shook hands.

I’ve played once and so far, I’m up. I was pleased at my play and pleased at the quality of the others playing. They are beatable.

This doesn’t mean i will leave Las Vegas a winner. It does mean I have a fighting chance. Even if I lose a little or come out even, I will be a winner, because I enjoy the action.

Of course, I could lose a lot. I’ll try and limit that.

We’ve Arrived In Las Vegas

We live in a wonderful time. You can get in a plane (or two) and fly cross country. In the history of the world, that’s only been possible for a few decades. Still, 12 hours door-to-door is a little much – and five hours on the leg from Baltimore to Las Vegas was brutal.

My folks had no idea we were coming last night. My cousins told us where they were all eating and we walked in and surprised them… and they were surprised.

We were all very tired, so Helaine and I got settled and went to sleep as soon as we could. First, we looked out the window.

We are on the 25th floor. We have a view looking south down the Strip. Caesar’s Palace covers a significant portion of our view, but we see the Eiffel Tower at Paris, The Rio and Palms, Flamingo and MGM Grand.

Unpacking the bags brought an unpleasant surprise. Either at Bradley or BWI, our bags must have been left outside, uncovered. A few of our suitcases were soaked.

This morning, in the Las Vegas air, they are dry. We’ll have to look one-by-one to see if they’ve been injured.

It’s a football day, and we plan to watch at the Sports Book here at the Mirage. Other than that, our early arrival has left us with little in the way of plans.

What Am I (Not) Thinking

I am writing to you while on my butt at Gate 5 (thanks Northwest) Bradley International Airport. The wireless connection is free, but the only seats near a power outlet are taken.

I wasn’t going to write, but it’s been an eventful ride so far… and the flight is an hour off.

Last night, after I moved my reservations, I printed my boarding pases. Southwest allows you to do that 24 hours in advance. I sat the passes on my desk at work and forgot about them – even when I threw them out with the rest of my trash!

Luckily I remembered before the trash was taken.

Helaine packed the bulk of what we were taking. I packed a computer, camera, cellphone and enough chargers to choke a TSA agent. I event bought a strip plug for all the electronics.

As always I scouted the hallway, taking bags down to the car. I closed the door, Helaine got in and we were off.

A half hour down the road I turned to Helaine to ask if we’d taken everything? Good question when beyond the point of no return. She looked but could see one of the carry ons. Oh sh**.

I got off I-91, pulled into a convenience store parking lot and opened the doors. Helaine got out like the baggage assurance inspector she had become. Yes, everything was here.

On to the airport and the parking lot we use. We unloaded the car into a van and headed off to the terminal. It wasn’t until we’d checked in that I realized

I had left my computer bag, with all the electronics and chargers, in the car.

I called the parking place. Within five minutes their van had arrived with my bag! OK – they deserve a mention for service above and beyond – Thanks Roncari.

And now you’re up-to-date… except for the fact we had to walk by a non-stop for Las Vegas (full) to get to our gate for the first stop in our journey, Baltimore.

More coming from Las Vegas, if I remember everything.

Shhhh – Don’t Tell

My parents leave for Las Vegas any moment now. What they don’t know is, we’ve also changed our reservations and will be there tonight too.

More on that from Fabulous Las Vegas in my next post.