January 2007
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Binions: Been there, got the t-shirt. And cap.

Binions are trying so hard to position themselves as the home of poker in Downtown Las Vegas, if not in the whole city, but it doesn’t appear to be working too well.

I played the 8pm tournament on 24/12 – way too tired after waking up at 3am on the first day there to be concentrating properly on poker, but I still made the final table and finished just out of the money.  It attracted just 36 players.  Sure, it’s Christmas Eve – most tourists won’t land for a few days (although you wouldn’t know it from the traffic, which you can be sure I’ll whinge about plenty) and the locals who play there regularly might easily have other commitments.  I thought very litle of the poor turnout until I heard someone asking whether this was typical and the dealer replied that they’d normally run with about five tables.  When I played the afternoon tournament later in the week, five tables was spot on.  Seven spots were paid but the last eight made a deal, giving $400 to me and six others and $1000 to the massive chip leader.

In the summer, these games were regularly getting 100+ runners both afternoon and evening.  I love the Binions card room and it’s not good to see it struggle, especially when the casino floor was busier than it’s been for quite a while.  This may or may not be aided by the new carpet (yes they did have one before, but the replacement is definitely not before time), and the Binion Dollar Babes, who were as good at dancing around to Shania Twain CDs as anyone I’ve ever seen.  These ladies are cunningly positioned right inside the main doors and visible from Fremont Street as you pass.  Who needs fountains to get people to stop walking outside your casino?

They’ve already cut the buy-in on the weekend tournaments (used to be $125) so it’s $70, with a $40 rebuy, every day.  They’re pushing a $29 poker room rate, a $4/$8 game with 5% rake and also trying to draw in bigger players with the Ultimate Poker Championship events.  I did play one of these, buying in directly for $660 after I dumped out of a satellite.  I’d already decided to buy into one, so I would play two if the satellite attempt worked.

This could very well be the best regular tournament in town – 10,000 starting chips and 40 minute levels, with the top seven coming back the next day to be filmed.  Once again, numbers were down and i was amazed that only 32 took part.  Four spots were paid, so three would to get their fifteen minutes on television without taking home a penny!

Those that bothered to show were mostly very tough players, and I was pleased to keep up with the pack until my KK ran into AA, with me getting it all in pre-flop and still wondering whether I could have avoided it.  If you don’t want to hear the bad beat story, turn away now.

I raised first to act and, although just ahead of an average stack, did not have enough chips to put in a third raise of anything less than everything when he came over the top.  The player has only been at the table about 20 minutes and I don’t have much information, but he’s seen me being my usual tight self.  However, I still figure to be ahead more often than not here.  QQ or AK are both possible, and although there’s a very good chance I’m only called if beaten, I move all-in for really no other reason than I can’t work out how to play it post-flop if I call out of position leaving myself with just one pot-sized bet.  I can’t fold KK pre-flop to a single re-raise and I can’t check-fold any flop.

After the long walk home to the hotel next door, I scribbled some dirty maths and convinced myself the push was still +EV, even if we never expect him to have pocket jacks or worse.  Fortunately I binned the notes so you don’t have to endure that right now, but I might have another go sometime.

That $400 chop was on the last night and I didn’t want to push my luck with any more tournaments, so I sat in a $2/$4 game until I could stay awake no longer.  Things started rotten, with me flopping top two pair against bottom set in back-to-back hands.  I swung down $150 and not winning a single pot for over two hours before finally dragging one down with a QQ that I played much too softly against TT on a low board.  With confidence restored, a new beer on the way and having had plenty of time to work out that this table was, in fact, a great one I ran warm enough to claw it all back.  In my last hour at the table I was red hot, making quad jacks and then shortly afterwards quad eights.  There’s no high hand jackpot at Binions yet (so there’s only $4 taken from each pot, not $5) but you do get a shirt or a cap for hitting four of a kind or better.  I had one of each 🙂

I ended the seven hour session with $5 more than I started with. Not the best hourly rate in the world ever, but a respectable recovery.