Friday, July 5, 2019

May 2019 Vegas Trip Report (Part 2)

Sorry for the long delay in getting to the rest of the trip.  Life, as usual, got in the way of my good intentions.  I'm going mostly from memory and the trip was about 2 months ago, so I'll do my best to recap our very mild shenanigans. 

On Day 2 we slept in until about 10:30 or 11:00 since we didn't hit the sack until after 4:00. We got ready and headed down to the food court at Excalibur to try to find some food. We settled on Schlotzky's Deli and got in the line of about 10 people.  It soon became apparent that there was only one guy working there taking the orders and making the food and the line was not moving.  We waited nearly 15 minutes and only one person had been served, so we made the call to go somewhere else.  We settled on the New York New York food court across the street. My brother-in-law got a breakfast burrito from a deli (don't remember the name) and I got a slice of the square pizza Trooper97 has recommended in his video blogs.  It was decent, but probably would have been better if I had asked to have it warmed in the pizza oven. 

After that we cut through Park MGM to Aria to play their $140 1 PM daily donkament. I had made pretty deep runs twice in that tournament on my birthday trip last year, so wanted to play it again.  Turnout this time around was even lighter than last year.  They barely filled up two tables.  It was pretty uneventful and I don't remember too many hands.  I was seated in seat 2 and the guy in seat 1 was your classic east coast talker. He saw probably 90 percent of the flops and was getting 2 pair an inordinate amount of times.  There was an older guy with an Army veteran cap on my left in seat 3 who clearly did not like seat 1.  He was making snarky comments under his breath at all of his boastful stories about expensive meals and extravagant spending. 

One of my only memorable winning hands was against the grumpy vet.  I don't remember exact betting amounts, but I know he raised preflop to about 3x the blind and I limp-called along with one other person with something like 87 suited on the button. I flopped an open ended straight draw and he made about a three-fourths pot bet.  The middle position player called and so did I.  The turn checked around.  I caught my straight on the river and made a bet of about half the pot on the river which was somewhere around 2,000 tournament chips.  He made the call and grumbled about my "loose call" on the flop when he saw my straight.  I told him he probably could have won the hand if he had bet the turn, but he gave me a free card to get there. 

My brother-in-law busted before the first break.  I busted just before the second break. 

After that we headed over to Planet Hollywood to see if there were any juicy looking cash games.  We decided the games didn't look that tempting so we grabbed some dinner at the Earl of Sandwich.  After that we headed down to see about getting in a game at MGM Grand.  We both got in separate cash games.  I wound up at the exact same table I played at on my birthday trip in May 2018 and there was an Irishman at the table who was also there a year ago.  I distinctly remember him because I was seated in seat 9 back in 2018 and seat 6 was a young Brit, the Irishman was in seat 7, and a Scotsman was in seat 8.  I later told my wife it was like the start to a joke. "An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a poker room..."

Right after I was seated they sent a young man to our table who told us he had just turned 21 and this was his very first time playing live poker in a casino.  He said he had played a bunch online though.  He was just killing time until he went to the David Copperfield show.  He needed a little help with the mechanics of the game like posting blinds (especially when he didn't have any $1 chips to do so), tipping, and letting the dealer make change for you.  But his play otherwise was solidly tight aggressive.  He wasn't afraid to put chips in play and made a pretty tidy profit in the 90 minutes or so that he played. 

I had an extremely uneventful session and when I started to catch myself yawning and losing focus I decided to call it a night down about $30 or so.  My brother-in-law had jumped into a late night tourney at MGM Grand.  He was a real fan of those small tournaments with overlays and had some success cashing in a couple.  I bid him good night and headed back north on the strip to Walgreens to grab some beverages for the room.  It was raining just hard enough to be annoying.  I honestly don't remember ever getting rained on before in my many trips to Vegas.  I just kind of hugged the buildings so I was under the awnings most of the way, so I didn't get all that wet. 

The plan for Wednesday was to play some disc golf.  My brother-in-law is really into it and wanted to try out a local course while we were there.  We woke up around 9:30 and after showering etc. grabbed lunch at Schlotzky's at Excalibur food court.  I stopped to purchase a Cubs cap at the Lids store so my bald noggin wouldn't get fried by the Vegas sun.  We caught a Lyft over to Sunset Park which is along E Sunset just on the other side of McCarran.  I downloaded a disc golf app to help us navigate the course.  We were struggling to find the first hole when a couple of locals who were playing came along and pointed us in the right direction. I decided not to play and just acted as caddy and carried his camo backpack and helped find our way to the next tee box. (I completely forgot to share this little incident. At the Des Moines airport his camo backpack was pulled off to the side for a more thorough search.  I asked him why and he just said it always gets searched probably because it's camo.  Well it turns out he had forgotten a big bowie knife in the bottom of the bag.  He just surrendered it and they let us go on our way.)

We were pretty whipped after traipsing around in the sun, so we headed back west across the street to Village Pub and Poker to cool off and have a beer. It was a nice little find.  They serve beers that are brewed at Ellis Island and both of the ones I tried were very tasty.  It turned out there was a little disc golf supply store right next door, so my brother-in-law picked up a specific disc he had been looking for back home.  We then caught a Lyft back to Excalibur to get ready for the evening's activities. After cleaning up and napping for a tiny bit we caught another Lyft over to the Rio for dinner at the Carnival World Buffet and the Penn and Teller show. 

The Carnival World Buffet did not impress me as much as it has in the past.  I thought the food quality was not as good and it seemed like they had a lot fewer selections than I remembered from 10 years ago or so.  Definitely didn't feel like we got value for the price which was almost $40 a person. The desserts were the best part of the buffet to be honest. 

After eating we putzed around in the casino playing some video roulette, video poker, and at least one slot.  I told my BIL that I wanted to get to the show early because I heard they had a decent jazz trio that played for about 30 minutes prior to the start featuring Penn Jillette on the upright bass.  Well it turned out I had the show time wrong and we actually arrived just as it was about to start.  As we were walking up the hall to the theater lobby the ushers started urging us to hurry up or we would miss the beginning of the show.  We had seats in about the 3rd row of the balcony right on the aisle in the middle.  They were good seats and being in the balcony meant we were safe from being picked to go on stage which was just fine with me. 

The show was very funny and there were several jaw dropping magic bits.  I'm told they change up the tricks in the show quite a bit, but I don't want to spoil too much by telling you about what happened.  I will share the trick that I thought was maybe the most impressive.  Penn asked for volunteers from the audience that were good at identifying the suits and values of playing cards and selected two gentlemen to join him on stage. He opened a new deck of cards and had them shuffle and split the deck into about two equal halves. He then had one start organizing his cards into suit and value order from A up to K. Then he had the other person fan his cards out and he examined them for exactly one minute.  Then he talked to the audience while that volunteer put his cards in suit and value order.

After that he proceeded to stand between them and as he pointed back and forth from one to the other he went through the suits one by one indicating which of them had which card.  And he didn't go slow.  It was incredibly impressive.

After the show both Penn and Teller and their incredible jazz pianist Mike Jones stayed in the lobby taking selfies with anyone that wanted one.  We got one with Teller (who actually spoke to us):

After the show we caught a Lyft to Planet Hollywood.  I had planned to get in a cash game there, but they had a pretty sizable list and didn't seem like they were inclined to open anymore tables.  I decided to call it a night around midnight and my BIL went to MGM Grand to get in a late night tourney.

On Thursday we woke up late and killed time around the room.  While the BIL finished showering I headed down to the Excalibur casino floor.  My 88 year old mother loves to play slots, but since she moved into assisted living she rarely gets to play. Before I left for Vegas she gave me $40 to play for her while we connected via Facetime. I started with a buffalo gold slot and we lost $20 without winning a single cent.  I then found a penny slot that had a dragon that would occasionally breathe fire on the reels triggering some wild spaces.  We won and lost a bit on that one, but eventually lost it all too.  I rarely play slots so I'm terrible at picking winners.

I then joined a $5 blackjack table and for the first time this trip had a little luck.  I cashed out up about $125 for the session. It was the typical low stakes blackjack table on the strip with a mix of experienced players and complete newbies with the newbs making lots of weird plays like hitting when they have 13 and the dealer showing a 6.  I don't like it when people do that, but I don't get as angry as some players.  I'm a firm believer that players only remember the times that it hurts them and forget all the times that it helped them.

After my BIL came down we headed over to the food court at MGM Grand and grabbed a burger at Johnny Rockets before catching the monorail over to the Westgate for Trooper Thursday.  This was my second time participating in a Trooper Thursday and probably my last. Nothing bad happened either time, but more than half the players at my table were regulars who apparently play in the game every single week. Two of the regulars elected to sit out for the bomb pots so that meant you were getting even worse odds on that blind $10 bet. Also Tim barely spoke to me or my BIL except when I was purchasing a hat as I was about to leave.  He spent all of his time brewing coffee and bantering with his buddies that play every week.  It felt like I had stumbled into someone else's home game and none of the regulars went out of their way to make the "new guys" feel welcome at all.  So it was just another 1-3 game except some of it was filmed and put on YouTube.

I left the game down about $100 and my BIL was up a couple hundred.

We caught the monorail back to Bally's and my BIL got into another of their tourneys with the overlay.  I ran into a nice guy from North Carolina that I had played with there earlier in the week.  He started  to tell me how earlier in the evening he had made the decision to rack up and leave, but a buddy convinced him to sit back down and continue playing.  I was sure it was going to be a bad beat story, but quite the opposite.  He said he went on the biggest heater of his life and cashed out almost $1,400 an hour or two later.  He showed me a picture of his 2 plus racks of chips.

We had a very early flight on Friday morning, so I decided to turn in around 11:00 PM. First I headed back to Walgreens to get some water and Gatorade.  Especially in the desert I like to have some caffeine free and alcohol free beverages around the hotel room for overnight and early in the morning.

I have no idea when my BIL made it back to the room.  I'm guessing it was after 2 AM for sure.  We had to be downstairs to catch a Lyft to the airport by 5:30.  That was it...I won a little at video poker and blackjack, but lost pretty consistently at poker.  I never had an disastrous sessions, but pretty much lost about $50 to $100 in each cash session I played.  I only spent about half of the bankroll I saved up for the trip, so it definitely wasn't the worst gambling result I've had on a trip to Vegas, but it for sure wasn't anywhere near the best.

I enjoyed having my BIL along with me, but I think I enjoyed my solo trip last year more.  It's just nice to have the freedom to do whatever you want without doing that dance of "what do you want to do?"

A couple observations about Vegas.  The food and other things just keep getting more and more expensive.  It just isn't the value it used to be.  I know I'm just joining the chorus here, but the resort fees are ridiculous.  I don't use the spa, fitness center, or pool so it's just lighting money on fire for me. Also literally half of the escalators to the sky bridges on the strip were out of commission this trip.  The one that goes over Harmon on the east side of the strip had the up escalator AND the elevator out of order at the same time.  If you had a mobility issue and wanted to go south over Harmon on that sky bridge you were shit out of luck.  The number of panhandlers, fake Tibetan monks, and general hustlers along the strip and the sky bridges was higher than any trip in recent memory.  The only one that almost earned money from me....almost....was a guy on the bridge from NYNY to Excalibur in the wee hours of the morning loudly singing, "IF YOU PUT A DOLLAR IN MY CUP, I'LL SHUT THE F#$% UP!"

Even with all of those negatives I still can't wait to go back again soon.  Currently pricing trips around Thanksgiving and talking with my boys about when they would like to go in 2020. I'm thinking early in the WSOP so I can play the senior event.  I also heard rumors they might run another tourney with the same structure as this year's Big 50, but it wouldn't be called that.  I would for sure take a stab at that if they do it again.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.