The Sky Is Blue

Yes, I know Nevada can be excruciatingly hot during the summer, but right now, it’s heaven. Temperatures have been in the 70s during the day with zero cloudiness!

What’s not to like?

My poker playing continues my head’s still above water. I decided to try the afternoon tournament at Caesars Palace.

When I first came to Las Vegas in 1975, Caesars is where I stayed. The original buildings are still there somewhere, but not in a form recognizable by me.

Back then a parking lot sat between the hotel and Las Vegas Blvd. Over the years, more and more has been built in that space and every other space.

The poker room at Caesars is new, spacious and nicely furnished. More important for me, the structure of the poker tournament is excellent. You get a lot of chips and the blinds increase slowly. That benefits a more conservative player, like me.

I still lost my $130 buy-in, placing well back in the pack.

I headed back to the Mirage to nap. A ‘wrong number’ to my home phone, which is begin forwarded to my cell phone, woke me after 30 minutes. Nap over.

I called Helaine and found she had walked dow the block to the Bellagio. I headed out to meet her. In our opinion, Bellagio’s buffet is the best on the Strip. We decided we’d have a buffet dinner there.

Meanwhile, it was early for dinner, so I sat down in Bellagio’s poker room. It was jammed. Actually, it was too jammed!

The poker tables and seats are much too close together for my liking. The room is pretty with a beautiful ceiling, but I’m not on the ceiling. It just wasn’t a particularly comfortable place to play.

I won back around $40. That was Bellagio’s saving grace.

Our nighttime plans took us to the Flamingo Hotel for Second City. Second City is an improv comedy troupe. It is named for, and has its base in, Chicago.

The show was very good… very funny. The theater is fairly small, so even though we sat in the back, the sight lines and sound were good.

I know Second City claims to be improv, and maybe these routines were originally improvised, but there seemed to be very little improvising going on last night. I’m not disappointed, just puzzled.

Before bed, I decided to play some more poker. I found a table at the Mirage which was a miniature United Nations. There was a Chinese man, Laotian woman, and at least two other accents I didn’t recognize. This at a table of nine players.

For the first time on this trip, I thought I played poorly and quickly dug a hole for myself. I was too interested in playing hands – that’s bad. By the time I righted myself, a stack and a half of the chips in front of me had been distributed to other players.

I bore down and scraped back. I was getting closer to even, when I was dealt two Aces. This table was so aggressive, I was able to bet strongly at each stage of the game without scaring everyone away.

The Aces held against another player’s Jacks, and I walked away up $29.

I continue to be ahead at the poker tables on this trip. I’m not up a lot. More importantly, I’m not down.

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.