August 2006
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Self-proclaimed poker fun

The huge poster inside Binions poker room asks the question “Why play poker at Binions?”. Then answers itself immediately: “Because it’s fun”.

Valid as this is, there are better reasons specific to Binions itself. For a start, this is the real home of poker. Screw the Rio and it’s huge, sterile exhibition hall. For all of Harrah’s money and recently acquired powerhouse brands they just can’t compete with the real deal. The real Horseshoe, which made a name for itself instead of buying one, oozes history in it’s large, detached cardroom. It’s the quietest room in town, close enough to the casino that you can still tell you’re playing in a gambling den but not so close that you’re hearing to “Wheel … of ….. Fortune” louder than the guy next to you announcing his raise.

It’s great to see people coming back to Binions too. The casino has been pretty dead the last few times we’ve been here, and even last summer with the “free beer and keep your points” promo that kept us in Budweiser for four weeks it didn’t really feel like a buzzing casino. You can’t walk in with a suitcase full of cash (plus a second empty suitcase if you plan on winning) and set your own limits any more, but that was never really part of my travel plans this time.

I played in the Sunday night tournament with a $125 buy in. There’s a $25 optional dealer add-on, which isn’t really optional – it makes the difference between 2000 and 3000 starting chips. There’s also one rebuy or add on allowed which again isn’t really optional. You get 2000 chips more for $50. For my total investment of $200, I was playing in a field of 108 for a first place prize of $5800, plus a seat in their “tournament of champions” freeroll.

Even though the weekend tournaments with a higher buy in ($125 instead of $60) give you a few more chips and slightly slower levels, the structure still hit a wall with about 60 players to go. The leap from 100/200/25 to 200/400/25 blinds turned everyone into granite and by 300/600/50 the game became push or fold poker. I managed to push three times before going broke – losing with 55 against 22 leaving me with about 2500, picking up the blinds when it was folded to me on the next hand (I had 97o, not that it mattered) and then getting caught out at the 400/800/75 level when I didn’t really have time to wait, saw QTs in middle position and went for it. A6o called me almost immediately and I was done.

Seeing as I’m going to be in town for the Tournament of Champions on August 6th, I need to have another crack at a Binions tournament, but if entry into that freeroll is the target, an earlier tournament (in Feb the 10am tournies were struggling to fill 2 tables) would be an easier route in.

And yes, it was fun, and the ipod and shades count was low. Always a bonus.