Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Merry Everything, Everybody!

Here's wishing a happy, safe, festive holiday season to you and yours, whatever you choose to celebrate! :)

Happy Holidays from!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Happy summer, everybody!

This is the time of year when I exhale and relax, enjoying a little respite from work while making all kinds of plans for what I'll do over the next 3 months... half of which I never get around to. One of those things is to play some poker! I've had a few opportunities lately - there's a home game around, and there's a poker room about an hour and a half north of me - but neither is as convenient as things were back in Chicago. So I was glad when the old online league I played in came back to life. (It had gone under when Full Tilt tanked). We're not playing for league points yet (as far as I'm aware) - just random tourneys - but I'm glad it's back.

One challenge I'm finding, though, is that I don't seem to have the attention span for online games that I used to.  During last night's game, I went against my better judgement and called all in on a double gutshot straight flush draw with 1 card to come. Hey, my mac n cheese was almost ready, and the game was getting in the way of the Runner's World article I was trying to finish! Luckily for my distractions, I busted out.

I'm hoping to at least get up to Hollywood for some table time a couple times this summer. I'd love to make it up to Atlantic City, but I'm about to take trip #2 of 3 (which means, leaving the cats alone and paying a cat sitter). This generally results in some form of destruction of my house, as the cats get pretty mad when I leave them for so long. So I don't think a fourth trip is in the cards this summer (because I would want to spend at least 4 days in AC). I haven't ruled it out, though. The magic 8 ball just says, doubtful.

I will officially kick off my version of summer this weekend seeing Dave Matthews Band at SPAC! There will be camping and good times involved. And when I get back... maybe some poker. :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Spring!

Guess what? I played poker! Wheee!

Last weekend, I checked out the poker room at Hollywood Casino @ Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia. It's about an hour and a half from my house. On Saturday night and part of Sunday, I played $1/2NL. The rest of Sunday, I played $3/6 limit. Then I went back Monday afternoon after work and got seated at an insane $1/2NL table and quickly switched over to $3/6.

The verdict: decent room. Coffee/soda/water and well drinks are free (nice that there's some free booze, even though I don't usually drink when I play). Dealers for the most part were good, if a little slow. They don't strongly enforce things like English-only at the table, or one-player-per-hand, which got a little annoying. But I didn't see any mistakes in the hands or pot calculations/etc. There's a small selection of items available for table-side dining (none vegetarian that I could tell, though they don't have a menu - the waitress just recites everything). Drink service was fast most of the time.

The drive is a bit of a bummer compared to the days when I was 15 minutes from the poker room, but I often opted to drive an hour over to the Indiana boats anyway, so it's not much worse than I'm used to, either. I'm just glad there's a reasonable option!

The only downside on top of the drive is that they don't accept call-in's for seating. The wait for a seat has been 30 minutes or so (even on Monday).

With the exception of the insane 1/2 table I was at for all of 5 minutes, the games are soft soft soft! Back in IN, the 3/6 limit game in particular was usually full of rocks just grinding out their chances at the bad beat jackpot. In WV, it was more of the, 8-people-to-every-flop kind of game... just the way I like it!

With this new addition to my recreational options, I think I may have to fire up my old poker tracking spreadsheet!

I've also been invited to a local home game this weekend. Man, I miss home games!

So as spring starts springing, I gladly welcome poker back into my life. :)

Friday, December 09, 2011

WPBT event #6 for me. The art of the Trip Report is lost on me these days.

I used to write very detailed trip reports (because I used to take copious notes whenever I attended poker-related events). These days, not so much. Couple that with the fact that I have a terrible memory (I blame the advent of multitasking and habitually splitting focus amongst 12 different things instead of honing in on one), and you have a recipe for disastrously empty trip reports.

But don't think that'll stop me from trying to write one. :-D

Day 1.... Friday

Yeah, Friday. For those that missed it, I moved half way across the country and started a new job this past August, and I wasn't feeling up to requesting time off work for a weekend of qualifying for the #degenerate hashtag, so I didn't make the typical Thursday pilgrimage. That means, I missed the reunion at the Sherwood Forest bar, for which I am truly bummed.

So, a day late, I hopped a plane from DC to San Francisco. Paid an extra $60 for "economy plus" seating on United (touting up to 5" extra legroom - and they weren't lying. Legroom was nice). Of course, as my luck had it, the plane was half empty and I had the whole row to myself anyway.

I had hoped to accomplish 2 things on the plane: sleep, and get some grading done. I was on the road by 4am to get to the airport for my 9am flight (2 hour drive from the Shenandoah Valley to DC/Dulles), so I was beat. I passed out before we even took off (and slept through take-off - crazy!), but unfortunately woke up about 15 minutes into the flight and never fell back to sleep. Fail. I also wasn't in the mood to grade anything. Instead, I read the last couple hundred pages of Steve Jobs' biography (SO. FRIGGIN. GOOD).

The next leg of travel was from SFO to Las Vegas. Is it just me, or are United regular economy seats actually smaller than Southwest's? I swear they must be. Holy claustrophobia, Batman. Flight was packed but fine.

Arrived at LAS and hopped the shuttle to Aria. April (Maine!) and Maura and Michelle were kind enough to wait for me to arrive and check in and change clothes (which took for-ev-er due to the slow shuttle and my gawking at the room at Aria... and pressing buttons). We headed out to the Fashion Show Mall, which surprisingly just seemed like a regular mall. There was, however, a California Pizza Kitchen, and that turned into a delicious dinner (complete with the most crazy good mac and cheese balls - thanks Michelle! - and conversations about everything other than balls). What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, people.

I was also treated to a warm-up poker beverage by Maura, who is responsible for the awesome caboose bounty that I gave away this year. (See Falstaff or BrainMc for its significance - though Falstaff might not remember. There were a lot of pitchers involved at the Geisha bar that year). My other bounty was the infamous Wild Turkey shooter, which has passed through many WPBT blogger hands over the years, including OhCaptain and Dr Pauly. They were the only two present of the list of previous bloggers to covet the bottle, so I had them sign the matboard of the shadow box frame I mounted it in (thanks to the TSA for tearing the frame apart, screwing up the mounting, and cracking the glass). If you're a previous winner of the Wild Turkey bottle, see Chilly's friend next year to sign it. He promised me he'd be back with it.

After the mall, I headed down to the Aria poker room to find some bloggers. I'm not into mixed games, but a new blogger NLHE table was starting up, and I scored a seat there. Eventually both April's where there (former CA April and Now In CA April). Huge thanks to the latter for her mad prowess at herding cats and organizing the WPBT weekend, once again.

Not much was happening poker-wise, until Lightning felted me. Queen high flushes would become my weekend nemesis. The nuts! Good hand, sir!

There was a bit of a congregation going on at the Skybox bar next door to the poker room, so I played social butterfly for a little bit (and had the first of many conversations with BrainMc that somehow neither of us would be able to remember). Greeted Iggy and Pauly and Kat and assorted others.

After that, I hit the hay! It was only 1am Vegas time, but I had been up for nearly 24 hours at that point, and I'M OLD, PEOPLE. And I love to sleep. So I called it a night and crashed out in the most awesome hotel room ever.

Day 2... Saturday

I discovered the hard way that the magic computer box in the Aria room that looks like an alarm clock and acts like an alarm clock doesn't actually buzz. It can turn on the TV or lights or open the curtains or change the room temperature at any time you specify, but it doesn't buzz. I set it for 9:45am expecting it to wake me up by buzzing, and... nope. Good thing I woke up anyway. How can such a high tech room not have standard alarm clock functionality?

Off to the Aria Buffet with April, Maura, and Michelle. Yum. So much good food. Pancakes, cheese blintzes, and pesto pizza. Livin' the good life.

We snuck out of the buffet one at a time to go register for the WPBT tournament, just in case breakfast ran late. I ran into Poker Geek but was on my way back up to scarf down breakfast, and sadly that's the last I saw of him all weekend! So that sucked - sorry for bailing so fast! I also bailed on metsfan at another point (due to an urgent call of nature), and didn't end up seeing him later either. So to you boys and all of the others I only got to hang with in passing, my apologies!

The tournament was uneventful on my end. I was surprisingly not nervous (I usually am). Maybe I knew subconsciously that I'd be out soon :) I did go into it thinking I either want to bust out early or go all the way, because being the first 3-time WPBT Bubble Girl just didn't sound like a title I wanted. I was pretty card dead, and lo and behold, the Queen high flush came back to bite me in the ass again. Chilly's friend, this time, held the nuts, and knocked me out. (He went on to finish 2nd in the tournament, I believe, so at least my chips went to good use). I did get to see rcfox, which was a nice surprise! Also got to chat running with Dr. Chako, which is one of my favorite topics of convo.

I hung around the Losers' Lounge (aka the rail) for a while, then took off in search of more poker. The list at Aria was ridonkulous, so I walked over to Monte Carlo. Unfortunately, the average age in the poker room at that time appeared to be about 30 years my senior, so I left without sitting down.

Just then, a tweet came in from maigrey, who informed me that she was riling up a blackjack table at Monte Carlo. Once she vowed to help me out (I haven't played blackjack in years and have long since forgotten most of the rules), I agreed to play. I stalked her out and found a lively table at her command. Things were great, until that toxic woman came to deal! (I remember her name, but I don't want to be mean and post it... heh. I'm so lame). Man. Get. Her. Off. This. Table. We praised our male dealer every time he came back to save us (ironically, I can't remember his name). I won back all of my poker losses to that point, plus some. I think I like blackjack! It was a really fun table, and we were even graced by the presence of Drizz for a brief moment in time, but he vanished as quickly as he appeared.

Eventually, it was time for food, so I tagged along with maigrey, Chilly, Katitude, and [god help me I can't remember who else]. We headed to some cowboy themed place in Monte Carlo. There were cowboys. And line dancers. And college football. Chilly did some 'splainin to help me understand college football playoffs and overall conference organization, now that I'm rooting for a college team (GO DUKES!). Sadly, the Dukes had been knocked out of the playoffs that day. Boo. We had a good run.

Then, again out of nowhere, Drizz arrived, and we all fed him table scraps like he was a DrizzPup. Good times.

Determined to play more poker (now that I live so far away from any live poker options... I needed to get my fix!), I conned BrainMc and OhCaptain and Numbono to join me at the Imperial Palace poker room. (Again, I totally can't remember who else joined us. I suck). My luck wasn't any better at Teh Poker, but we sure had a good time! :) There was a crazy CanAsian guy (*term copyright BrainMc. Definition: a Canadian Asian) in the ten seat that was playing like a total happy-go-lucky maniac. He ran his $200 up to $900 before felting out, all within an hour or so's time. He bought the table a round of Patron (though I declined) and told us how he was in the process of beating cancer and was just out to have a good time and enjoy life. More power to you, sir. I wish you the best of luck and victory in your fight. It's a tough game, though, when you're faced with constant $20 preflop raises at a $1/2 NL table.

That didn't stop BrainMc and I from having great laugh-fests over stories that we couldn't remember 10 seconds later. Literally. I blame the fact that the IP is a black hole for electronic devices. Had we been able to immediately tweet our very, very funny one liners, we'd have had an archive to remember them by. In reality, it's probably a good thing that we were swallowed by the vortex of No-G service. We probably weren't that funny. EXCEPT THAT WE WERE! Seriously. Had a stellar time hob-knobbing it Saturday night. I haven't laughed that much in ages. 

I didn't play much poker and eventually walked away with $14 of my original buy in. Meh. OhCaptain tried to convince me to go on a photo walk, but I was totally lame sauce by that point. I was cranky at the poker gods and sleepy and meh. I didn't feel like going out in the freezing cold (it was colder in Vegas than it was back in Virginia!), so sourpuss me declined the photo walk. That turned out to be a giant mistake, first because I passed up an opportunity to hang out with OhCaptain (OhDumbOfMe) and second because I ended up walking in the cold anyway!!

See, I bid my friends farewell and headed for the cab. When I got there and told the cabbie to take me to Aria, he goes, "That's right across the street." I said, "Ummm, yeah....?" He said, "I can drive you there, but I'm gonna have to go all the way around - it's gonna cost you!" I was totally taken aback. The ride cost us $7 on the way there. What the heck was it going to cost me for the way back?! There was a group of guys waiting for a cab behind me, and in my flustered state, I backed away from the cab and let them take it.

I stepped back into IP to pull up a map of the Strip on my phone. Aria didn't look all that close, but after the cabbie implied that I'm a giant wuss for not walking it, I decided to walk it... in the freezing cold. Turns out, it took about 40 minutes to walk from IP to Aria - which SUCKED because I was COLD and CRANKY already! But I did get to walk through Bellagio, where I got to check out the cool penguin display they had up for Christmas. It marked the first time I took out my camera all weekend. So, my apologies, OhCaptain. I should've just taken you up on the photo walk! I'm losing my ability to party properly. Damn old age.

Day 3... Sunday

Last day in Vegas. I had to leave for the airport around 1pm, so there wasn't much time to hang out. April and I hit the Aria buffet after a false start at another Aria restaurant (where the line was. not. moving). Food glorious food. This time, we settled in and relaxed and enjoyed plate after plate of ridiculous goodness. I made a rare trip to the dessert line and ate an insane quantity of junk food. (That may have been what prompted me to later buy a quarter pound of gourmet chocolate treats in the Denver airport during my layover and proceed to eat that for dinner). Wow. Holy junk food bender.

We headed over to the Skybox bar in Aria to see how the sports betting #wpbt 'ers were doing. I paid Falstaff for my last-longer team debt (sorry, guys!) and ran into Lightning again. I live vicariously through Lightning now, since he hits up all of my formerly-local poker rooms in and around Chicago. We had a great chat about food and fitness and - well, my friend, I am glad you will be around for many more years to continue loving life. May we still be rockin' it next year and the year after that and a hundred more! And if you ever find yourself on the east coast, holler! Would love to play some cards with ya out here. (Likewise, if I find myself trolling the IL/IN poker rooms, I'll keep ya posted!)

On that note, I took to the roads once again for my flights home. Since I was too chicken to try to get Monday off of work at the new job, I could not join my friends that were running the Las Vegas Half Marathon on Sunday night. Oh, how I wish I did! Huge, huge regret. I spent my first flight kicking myself for not finding a way to make it happen. Then I spent my layover (and subsequent snow/ice delay) in Denver obsessively refreshing Twitter to get any nuggets of information I could about the race and how everybody was doing. OhCaptain and Maura kindly shared photos of the runners on the strip, and I continued to beat myself up for not being one of them.

I'm still mad at myself, as I sit here getting ready to head out to Fredericksburg, VA tomorrow to run my own half marathon on Sunday. It just won't be the same without a gaggle of bloggers cheering me on or crossing the finish line with me. Mad mad mad.

All in all, this was yet another most excellent WPBT trip. You're an fantastic group, my friends, and your kindness and generosity and good-natured-ness never ceases to amaze me. I'm so glad to be a part of this wonderful little family. /end cheese

I learned a couple things on this trip (besides how to play blackjack). First, it's definitely worth upgrading seats on airplanes. Second, now that I'm an east-coast-er, flying to Vegas takes a freakin long time - and as such, it's probably no longer feasible that my primary goal when booking a flight is to find the cheapest one possible. It might just be time for me to graduate to paying for a bit of comfort (whether it's upgraded seats or direct flights). Third, 2 nights is just not long enough to spend in Vegas, particularly when it takes a solid 24 hours or so of travel end-to-end, round-trip, from where I live.

With that, I conclude this trip report. I'm forgetting a lot of notable names and events, but such is life. Tomorrow, I head out for my half marathon weekend, and then back to work for finals week. Real life beckons! In other news, I'm getting an iPhone on Monday *squeee!* :) I know. That has nothing to do with anything. But I'm excited!

Until next time, take care! And if you find yourself in Atlantic City, gimme a holler!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

So, I'm a latecomer to the WPBT Winter Classic this year. I will arrive Friday, early afternoon. I'm phlyersphan on twitter if you don't have my cell phone number.

Final weekend details if you missed it: #WPBT Final Details

I can't even tell you how bummed I am to miss the return to Sherwood Forest. Over the summer, I made a group of (non-poker) friends go there for drinks at the end of a night of bachelor-partying (yeah, I crashed the bachelor party. I'm just one of the guys anyway).

I got sucked down the old-blog-post rabbit hole last night (a la Katitude) and have concluded that this is my 6th WPBT event. My first was summer 2005, and there was a lull 2007-2008 where I couldn't make it out. I'm such a bad blogger. I didn't even write trip reports for all of them.

This year, I'm staying at Aria, and considering the short nature of my trip (I leave after lunch on Sunday), I'm figuring that I won't leave Aria all that much.

Friday: Arrive to Aria by 4pm or so. Text everybody to find out where people are at. I hear Monte Carlo is the afternoon hang-out, but by the time I could manage to get there, it'll probably be time to head back to Aria for the mixed games. I don't really play mixed games, so I'll either be in Aria's poker room playing NLHE or maybe hitting up their 7pm nightly tournament (which I really like the structure of). I went deep last time I played it (busting 2 out of the bubble... seems to be my M.O. I'm sooooo due to hit....)

Saturday: WPBT tourney at noon. Planning to play poker well into the evening and win the tourney. Then I will make Falstaff wear a kilt and recruit some minions to carry me around on one of those guys-carrying-a-girl-on-a-chair things, maybe while fanning me with large feathers and feeding me grapes. OhCaptain is in charge of capturing the moment for all eternity. No plans for Saturday evening - will go with the flow.

Sunday: Sounds like football will be at The Pub at Monte Carlo. Since both of my fantasy teams are in the gutter this year, I may be playing poker instead, likely at Aria or MGM. (I'm not sure I can survive a trip to Vegas in which I don't play at MGM). But I might be lured by the desire to hang out with my WPBT peeps. We will see. I have to head to the airport around 1pm, which logistically complicates any plan that has me leaving Aria.

I checked into my flight online this morning and in my half-sleepy state, convinced myself that it was worth it to upgrade to the premium economy seating (extra 5" leg room). $59. It's a 6 hour flight - I have to fly from DC to San Francisco first, then hop a short flight to Vegas. So it's a beast of a flight on the first leg (and NO WIFI, shoot me now). Maybe I wasted my money, but I do have a lot of work to do on the laptop, and I think it'll be more comfortable in the upgraded seat.

My bags are already packed, and now I'm just counting down the minutes until work is done and I can go home and try to sleep - ONE MORE SLEEP till Vegas!! I have to wake up around 4am to make the 2 1/2 hour drive up to DC for my flight.... meh. But it will be worth it, because I'm going to win the tourney, of course.

(Editor's note: more likely, I will bubble like I always do - and that would make me the first blogger to bubble in THREE WPBT tourneys). Go me!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where does time go?

I'll be in the Promised Land for the WPBT 2011 tourney, fear thee not!

Going for WPBT Bubble #3!

Bring it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm back from Vegas!

It always takes me a few days to stop wishing I was still in Vegas. It's like a drug. Real life is so... not Vegas.

My trip reporting skills have declined severely in the past, oh, 6 1/2 years since I started this here blog. My apologies. I don't take notes anymore. I should. There'd be more reasons to actually read this spooge if I did. But I don't.

I was in Vegas for a good friend's wedding, which was on 7-11-11 (pretty sweet, eh?). A friend from my east coast days flew to Vegas via Chicago, and we met up at Midway to trek the remaining miles to the Mecca. Take to the skies, Big Bird! Got to watch the last shuttle launch before we left.

Shuttles go fast.

We figured we'd get to Vegas in about 45 minutes if we were taking a shuttle instead of a jet plane.

Arrived around noon Vegas time on Friday. Checked in at Excalibur (creature of habit? *raises hand*). Started pondering things we wanted to do in Vegas. It was my friend's first time there. Sadly, it's impossible to do every cool thing within the span of 3 days (the fourth being wedding day). But our list looked something like this:

  • Play a lot of poker.
  • Hit a tournament at Aria or Venetian.
  • Eat at Wynn (that was mine - I wanted to try out their vegan menus).
  • Visit the Atomic Testing Museum (that was his - nukes kinda freak me out).
  • See a show.
  • Rent a car and check out the desert, Hoover Dam, or something.
  • Walk the Strip.
  • See downtown/Fremont St.
  • Eat veggie sushi.
Friday afternoon/evening included food (can't remember where the heck we ate) and poker. We hit up MGM, and later popped by Flamingo to greet the wedding party, and ended up fleecing some drunken frat boys at the Flamingo poker tables.

Friends, if you have any desire to hold onto your money, please: do not do shots at the poker table.

Non-friends, keep on slammin' em, because WOW, poker is easy when your opponents are three sheets to the wind!

The one poor guy kept going back to the ATM. He dropped, by my count, $1,200 at our little 1/2 NL table. I'm sure he woke up the next day in a world of hurt, in more ways than one.

Here's the thing: I go to Vegas with the cash I intend to put in play already "out" of my bank accounts. I don't want ANY chance of me getting blitzed or tilted and making repeat trips to the ATM that I might not remember (and will likely regret) the next day. So, my rule is, do not use the ATM in Vegas. No ATM allowed. It's too easy to convince yourself that it's a good idea to throw good money after bad, especially when drunk (or on mega-tilt).

Poor guy.

My friend left the tables with a spectacular win. I was up as well. It was a good night.

Now, Flamingo's poker room.... meh. It was OK. We ended up playing there a couple times over the course of the weekend, and while it's no MGM, the upside to it is that the clientele (at least that we saw) was *weak sauce.* Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The down side (aside from the "it's not posh or fancy" factor) - I'm sad to say, the dealers. Nice enough people, but just not up to the standards I'm used to, I guess. At one table, there were a couple guys that obviously knew each other, and appeared to be violating the "one person per hand" rule. A player to my left pointed that out to two different dealers. One ignored him and let the hushed conversations continue during hands. The other dealer laughed, nodded to the guys in question, and said, "Haha - did you hear this guy? One player per hand, OK?" and then allowed the conversations to continue. They didn't take the rule seriously, and, well, that kinda sucks.

I may be a little too serious when it comes to abiding by the rules of the room, but I believe that sticking to the rules directly relates to the integrity of the game in that room. So I really didn't like the casual attitude the dealers took with the one-player-per-hand rule.

Later, there was an argument between players about what constitutes discussing a hand while it is in play, and instead of halting the argument, the dealer let it go on. A more reasonable way to handle the situation would have been to make the players shut up and stop yelling at each other, and explain the rule! Again, I was not a fan of how the dealer handled the situation. Sure, it's easier to ignore the issue, but that's a really lazy way to go about your job.

My last complaint (and then I'll stop whining) had to do with a private tournament we had there on Sunday. First, the floor did a dealer change with just our table (3 tables total) in the middle of a round - and we literally lost 5 minutes of play because the new dealer didn't realize it was a tournament, then wanted more tournament chips filled, etc etc etc... all while the clock was running and the 2 other tables were playing hands.

Then, we had to keep stopping play (just our table) because the new dealer didn't appear to know how to deal. She couldn't figure out the math of making change.

The last straw was when it came time to color up the green chips. She couldn't figure it out, and with 6 people at the table, it took her over 7 minutes to color up 6 people - again, with the tournament clock running and the other 2 tables playing hands.

It was horrendous. My friend actually got so frustrated that he donk-shoved all in just to get out of the tournament. I busted in 4th (2 places paid).

So, while the clientele in the Flamingo poker room was easy money, the room itself really didn't live up to my standards. It would be my choice to play at when I just want to have a few drinks and play un-serious poker.

We headed back to home base. I knew my friend's game was going to be very successful against the typical Vegas tourists. He's more stylistically aggressive than I am, but otherwise plays a solid base. That works well in the Vegas waters. (I wish he'd pay a little more attention to the math, as that's the only real leak I see in his game, but hey. Variety makes the world go 'round).

So he was on cloud 9, and I could see him adding up all the loot he'd go home with if every day looked like today. I had to pull out the obligatory Mother Hen speech with the whole, "You're up today, but it's only Friday.... enjoy it, but remember it can disappear as quickly as it came." Yeah, I'm a big ol' downer. That's about as close to being a parent as I'll likely ever be - that sensation of knowing there's peril ahead, and being defenseless to protect your loved ones from it. Experience is the only real teacher sometimes.

But enough of the buzzkill.

Saturday started out with a trip to the MGM Grand Buffet.


I was so in love with the MGM buffet that I can only imagine what, say, the Aria or Wynn buffets are like. My head might explode.

So much good food! We were there for brunch, so there was a whole breakfast spread, including custom-made omlettes. Then, there was a Mexican/taco spread complete with wicked good guacamole. Carving station. Sushi bar (no veggie sushi though, boo). Italian spread - nom worthy mushroom ravioli and an awesome veggie lasagna. Some regular ol' American food. Great salad bar. Indian food. And... what I have dubbed... Orgasm pizza.

Yeah. I said it.

They called it "vegetarian pizza" but it was more like pizza of the gods. (Wow, sex and religion, all in one pizza. That's a pretty spectacular pizza. And I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to pizza, the Chicago native that I am).

It was a veggie pizza with pesto sauce. Doesn't sound so spectacular when I put it that way, so let's just go with orgasm pizza of the gods.

So. Good.

It was so good that I went and bought a basil plant at the grocery store yesterday. I will make my own. Yes, yes I will.

Lastly - the dessert table! Gorgeous little bite sized wonderfulness, and ice cream. I fell in love with fruit tarts this weekend.

(As you may have guessed by now, I relaxed my vegan ways and just ate vegetarian all weekend).

Unfortunately, the poker was not as good as the pizza on Saturday.

We set out to MGM, and ended up on the same table. As we approached, I almost called out to my friend to switch spots with me, as my seat was going to be on the end and I have a hard time reading the board from the far ends of the table. But, I hate drawing attention to the fact that we know each other (as it tends to irritate some people re: collusion and such). So I kept my mouth shut and took the far seat.

The very first hand in, things got batshit crazy. Before I even knew what was happening, my friend was all-in with a full buy-in against the Asian guy to my right. If first impressions are anything, the 3 full racks of reds in front of the guy should have made a statement.

My friend had flopped a set, and the Asian was drawing to his flush. Long story short: the rich get richer.

My friend re-bought, and no kidding - very next hand - he's all in again vs. the Asian guy. That bit about experience being the only real teacher sometimes? Yeah. Queue experience. My friend misread his hand. Thought he had the straight, when really, he had 2 pair. No, the Asian guy had the straight, of course.

Down 6 benjamins in the course of about 3 minutes. Needless to say, my friend got up and left the table (as well he should have).

Vegas giveth, and Vegas taketh away.

It hurt my heart to be right on that. But, he was still up more than double what I was - so Mother Hen jumped in with all the little tidbits on perspective and plenty of time left and blah blah blah. He took a break and I kept on playing (hoping to win back some of that loot).

No such luck. I treaded water while the Asian guy went on a run unlike any I had ever seen before. He literally played every single had for at least half an hour - through almost 2 full dealers. And he won. Every. Single. One. Not because he bet people off their hands. The whole table was gunning for this guy, and nearly every hand went to showdown. This guy was hitting the most unbelievable cards. Every hand was a winner.

It was to the point that the second dealer was watching him - and I don't mean, admiring his play. I mean, he appeared to be under orders to scrutinize the guy's play for any signs of cheating/collusion/etc. (He was buddies with the guy to my left). It was almost uncomfortable. The guy had over 2 grand in front of him at one point.

Alas, nothing exciting happened from there on out, and I eventually gave up and cashed out.

Saturday night, we met up with the groom and his contingent for dinner and brews at Hofbrauhaus, a restaurant and beer house with "classic Bavarian flair." It was loud and crazy and quite delicious. I had some sort of glorified German mac n' cheese and a few pear martinis. The groom got his ass smacked by a beer wench with a giant wooden paddle. Yowza! That girl was not messing around. Seriously. I probably would have cried if it were my ass.

Next up, we walked a couple blocks down to the "happiest place on earth" - the Double Down Saloon, home of ass juice (quite fitting after the groom's encounter with the beer wench) and the bacon martini. Ass juice is, for the record, pretty damn tasty. The bacon martini, not so much. But the groom slammed that bacon martini and proved that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and even if his ass is as red as a maraschino cherry, he can still slam a bacon martini like a man.

It was a pretty cool place. Loved the deco, and we were treated to the musical renderings of an all-girl punk band. Something about a chick with blue hair always makes me lament the passing of my youth.

The night wrapped up at the Sherwood Forest bar at Excal after a ride in an SUV limo. Ha - ya like how I tried to sneak that in there? My WPBT peeps are all like, why the hell did you end up at Sherwood Forest?! Quiet. Easy. And they have Smirnoff Ice. Tradition, my friends! Tradition. I'd have suggested the geisha bar at IP, but we were headed the other direction. The last of us stragglers that were still hanging on enjoyed a nightcap and some good stories. I apologize to those that had to listen to me lament the passing of my youth, though, as the blue haired girl got all in my head.

And I still haven't been able to figure out how I met the groom (Rob). Locals - does anybody remember?!

Sunday started out with another date with the MGM buffet, and a trip to the Atomic Testing Museum. If you're into that sorta thing, it was actually incredibly well done. I was impressed. I expected it to be a cheesy lame Vegas thing, but it was legit. Lots of interesting artifacts, well presented historical tidbits, and some nice interactive displays and movies. I still wonder how much radiation I absorbed while there (am I glowing?!) but all in all, worth the cab ride.

We hoofed it over to Terrible's next door to grab a cab, and headed to Flamingo for a private poker tournament for the wedding group (discussed earlier). We hung out a while longer at the Flamingo cash games (1/2NL), and... well, like I said. Easy money. We both walked out of there with a healthy boost to our bankrolls.

And our egos. I gotta say, while it's probably a more legitimate ego boost to beat players that are actually good, my ego is just fine with inflating over beating players that suck. I'll take it.

After Flamingo, we decided to try out the nightly $125 tournament at Aria. I love Aria - it's so gorgeous and slick and it just feels yummy. I want to stay there so bad (yay for the December WPBT game this year!!). We ended up taking a cab to get over there because it was too late to walk it, but we made it in time for the start of the game.

I was at the same table the entire game. 105 entrants. 12 places paid. I busted in 22nd. Boo. It's actually pretty surprising I lasted that long. I was severely card-dead.

Loved the tournament, though. Top-notch dealers and environment. Comfy chairs, excellent drink service. Tableside dining available (which I wish I took advantage of, because I was starving, and by the time I busted out 5 hours after the tournament started, I was getting sick and dizzy from starvation).

It's a deep-stack tourney, starting with 10K chips (which, from what I can tell, is 2500 more than Venetian starts with). 30 minute levels, very nice and slow blind structure. There's one re-entry opportunity if you bust out in the first 4 levels, and they allow late entrants for the first 4 levels as well - so the prize pool gets mighty juicy.

I would definitely, absolutely play the Aria tournament again, and I'm glad that we'll be there in December for the WPBT game. (Here are the details for the WPBT Winter Classic 2011, in case you live under a rock). It's just an awesome place and a really well run game.

I was in such sad shape after the tourney, though, that I had to leave to go find sustenance instead of playing in the cash games. (Turns out, sustenance is hard to find if you're a vegetarian in Vegas after midnight on a Sunday. That shocked me, actually. I couldn't believe all the food places were shut down). I ended up eating a Clif bar from my suitcase for dinner. Meh.

We were up and at em around 11am Monday - just in time for the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. I was there with April and Maura in December and loooooved it. My friend wasn't all that impressed, but to me, it was just as good as I remembered it. Amazing veggie burger. Awesome burger topping options, and impeccable service. Seriously - I think we had the same waitress I had back in December, and she's damn good at her job. We tipped her very generously, and she deserved it.

I love good service. This has been something I've sort of grown into in my old age, but I am 100% willing to pay for the finer things in life - a nicer room, better food, fantastic service. It's worth it to me. Treat me well. I like it that way. (Are ya taking notes, guys?!)

Monday was our last shot at poker redemption, as the wedding was Monday night and our flight home was on Tuesday. We didn't really need redemption, per se - we were both still up on poker play, just not as much as we'd have liked. We debated: MGM, Flamingo, or Other. We ruled out Other because we wanted to stay close to home base in order to be safely ready for the wedding in time. We ruled out Flamingo due to the short time frame we were on. I also suspected the pickings wouldn't be so easy at noon on a Monday, compared to the drunken frat parties on Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights.

So we went to MGM. Played for 4 hours or so and came out no worse for the wear. Nothing exciting. Pretty tight table. At least at my end, I had some really interesting people to talk to (and one guy that smelled really good). Lots of big hands to break up the monotony - just that I wasn't really in any of them. I do wish I took notes, because there were some notable hand stories - I just don't remember them.

Then came the wedding. First, the cabbie got lost on the way there, and never stopped the clock (flashbacks to Flamingo! Gah!). I had to pull out my GPS and tell him how to get there. We arrived in one piece, and all was right with the world. Open bar? Check. Awesome view of the Strip and jets landing at the airport? Check. Gorgeous bride and men in tuxes and Chucks? Check. Good friends, good times.

I am happy as can be for Rob and Mary! Live long and prosper, my friends. You deserve it.

I realized while chatting with Armando that, as far as either of us can figure, Rob was the last single man in our little group. That does not bode well for me!!! :-D But should I ever succumb to the wrath of marriage, I promise in advance a most excellent party in Vegas. Rob, ya done good.

The big news of the night wasn't the nuptials, though. It was that I finally, after 36 years on this planet, have found a beer that I like. I will forever be indebted to Armando, and to Rob and Mary for so ingeniously including Kasteel Rouge on their beer list. Cherries in beer? Are you for real??! Fan-friggin-tastic. I can't say I hate beer anymore. (If anybody has suggestions for beers that are similar to Kasteel Rouge, I'm game!)

The wedding wrapped up and buses took us over to Bill's casino, where we hit up the craps table. (I don't do karaoke!) I love a loud, happy craps table. Everyone loves everyone, and the cheering and laughing... ahh, fun. Armando's wife got to roll the dice for the first time (yay!!) and all was right with the world. Played for a couple hours before calling it a night.

Tuesday... oh sad. Leaving Las Vegas is always such a bummer. You're either sad because you lost all your money, or you're sad because you still have money but no more time to fleece the frat boys at the poker tables.

But, we had one last thing to do in Vegas: meet up with Joe!! It was like a regular ol' run of deja vu, flanked by two of my east coast boys from the olden days. Joe and his wife were in town for a conference (bummed that I didn't get to meet her - next time!!). I hadn't seen Joe in, I dunno, 13 years? 14 years? By the powers of Facebook, we reunited, and got to meet up in Vegas. The three of us had breakfast at Dick's Last Resort (always a fun place, even for breakfast). We played a little craps before heading to the airport.

And that concludes this edition of the Vegas Trip Report.

  • Poker: about even, a little up. Played about 24 hours or so. I definitely plan to try staying at MGM with their poker room rate one of these trips.
  • Craps: ouch.
  • Video poker: double ouch.
  • Food: fantastic!! Very good eats - though I still want to eat at one of the Wynn restaurants, and maybe try the Wynn or Aria buffets.
  • Didn't get to Fremont St or to a show or to Hoover Dam... gotta leave something for next time! Heck, who am I kidding. I'm fine with just playing poker.
I suppose at this point in my life, Vegas is all about food and poker.

Until next time, keep it real, my friends!

Mother Hen, signing off.