January 2007
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Blackjack Maaaaadness

Took full advantage of two new player signup offers at Sahara on by way back tonight after crashing out of the Venetian’s tournament.  It was all going swimmingly until my JJ was cracked by an over-excited 66 who wasn’t quite as short-stacked as he thought he was.  I never fully recovered.  I did discover somewhere to get a very nice pastrami sandwich to go from the Grand Canal Shoppes though, which was not quite messy enough for me to end up with mayonaise all over the cards.  I’d walked to the Venetian, taking photos on the way including some very sad shots of the Stardust which has been having its windows ripped out from the top downwards since I got here.  They’re nearly done now, so it won’t be long before it goes kerblammo.

The first offer at the Sahara was a totally free $10 slot play, which was mine for the taking as Sahara had wiped my account from their system.  It’s probably been 5 years since I played there with a slot card so I’m not really surprised.  I turned the $10 in machine credit into $10 in real money in 8 spins of video poker.  Mission accomplished!  They still have some machines that pay out in coin, which used to be an inconvenience but now they’ve made virtually everything ticket-in-ticket-out I do miss not getting my hands filthy and having to carry round buckets of quarters.

The other offer was a promo chip deal, where $40 gets you $50 in $5 chips.  You can’t cash the chips in, they have to be wagered – and lost, because when you win you get the winnings as a regular chip but the stake remains in play as a promo chip.  Not sure what this is worth, but it’s definitely worth doing.  I had a similar deal at the Hilton before but I think it’s only for hotel guests there.

If I’d played like I normally would, increasing my bet with each win, I’d have made a killing.  As I’d decided to only make the same bet each hand though, in order to clear the bonus, I only finished up with $90.  There was a long streak where I just couldn’t lose, and when I tipped the dealer the other players looked puzzled and I had to explain what the other chip was for.  Still, free money is never something to be sneezed at.

I’d already noticed that I was the only one there who knew what was going on though.  There’s a reason the Sahara can still make money from $3 tables!  Never mind the odd rookie mistake like standing on a 16 when the dealer shows a big card.  One hand when the dealer showed a 3, the lady to my right hit her 13 and bust; the chap to my left split his pair of kings and ended up with a 15 and a 16.  The guy on third base had a blackjack, but I half expected him to hit it anyway.  The next hand he hit on a 13, drew an ace and then decided that 14 was enough.

The dealer wasn’t much better.  I doubled on a soft 18 against her 5 (turns out this is actually wrong, but there can’t be much in it; with 6 decks you double soft 17 against 2 to 6, but soft 17 against a 6 only) and I was given a 9, and next thing I know I see two red chips flying my way after she hits to 17.  By the time I’d figured out that there was no way I could have possibly won that hand, only pushed at best, everyone had moved on.  I don’t think I was the only lucky one!

Contenders ready!

I just had an email from one of the Poker Dome producers that was sent to all six of the contestants in my heat.  So of course, I’ve been using this boob to do a little research 🙂

I already knew one of my opponents would be Carl Olsen, as he was the other qualifier from my heat.  He was a runner up in the 2005 EPT French Open (apparently dumping out to his best mate) and has a string of other live cashes to his name, and online success as colson10.  In fact, when searching for just his name, Google suggests: "See results for: carl olson poker".

Turns out we also have another possible online pro at the table in Steve DaySharkscope actually lists him (ackbleh) as a loser on PokerStars (current form is "tilt", it unhelpfully says), although he does play $210 and $315 turbo SNGs, which are perfect training for a speed poker TV crapshoot.  Steve has a handful of respectable recent cashes to his name.  Olson also is listed as playing $525 turbos and $500 and $200 heads up SNGs, although he hasn’t been on Stars for a few months.

Of the other three players, I only found one possible hit – Trey Aitken, a cafe owner from Alabama. 

I still don’t think there’s any reason to let this intimidate me.  I’ve known all along the game will be fast and furious, and at least I already expect two of the guys to be prepared for that and play accordingly.  Besides, there’s a very good chance that any skill or experience will be rendered neutral by the TV format.  Virtually every contestant I’ve seen on Poker Dome so far has appeared to be as poor as the show itself.  Oh, should I not say that?  I still have a one in six chance of $25k on Saturday, but I figure my odds of looking clueless are much higher.