July 2007
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Day 2: But it should be a dry heat..

Shouldn’t we have left the rain behind?  It’s cleared up a bit now, but it was a very wet morning – for the desert, at least.  It’s probably gorgeous back in England, but if it is, please don’t hurry to tell me.

It gets real slippy here when it rains.  When the temperature has been in three figures for the past couple of months, there’s a fair amount of rubber residue on pretty much every road.  As well as having the "mid-size" 3.7L Jeep we rented slide around a bit – in addition to the "increased risk of tipping" that it helpfully advises on the sun visor – we already saw a nasty accident on Flamingo first thing this morning, which was backing up traffic past the Palms.  Well, that was first thing for anyone who isn’t jet-lagged.  By then we’d already earned enough comp points at Terrible’s for four free breakfast buffets, and redeemed two of them.

It only took about 40 minutes of video poker to earn these (and two more in the bank) so how bad does a free buffet have to be before you ask for your money back?  This one certainly came close, and that’s saying something because I’m really not fussy about quality.  If it’s edible and there’s plenty of it, I’m usually satisfied – especially when I’m not paying for it. 

While I still managed to fuel up on enough pastries to make it worth the $4.99 advertised value (which nobody will actually pay) what I want to know is how come all the hot food was cold already, when we were there when it opened at 7am on the dot?

OK, it’s not the Wynn, but it’s also not $17.95 each.  I can’t expect many different types of egg (in fact, I heard that at the Wynn there are two different types of Eggs Benedict alone; Terribles choice was scrambled, or nothing) but I don’t think it’s too much to expect the eggs – or the bacon, sausage, potato or pancakes – to be warm.

It got lighter this morning earlier than I expected and by 6am it was no longer dark enough to take the night shots of Vegas that I wanted, so I only got one session from the top of the MGM parking structure.  It’s a pretty good view of the MGM itself and Hooters, with Mandalay Bay and Luxor visible from a distance.

Although I’m still getting used to my new camera, this photo has made me feel a bit better about splurging nearly £300 for a super wide angle lens.

Day 1: The little kings’ room

Landed.  Unpacked.  Slept.  Woke up early, as usual.  OK, so there’s a bit more to it than that, but nothing really interesting enough to report.  Except that I was very pleased to see that the New Frontier neon sign is still flashing away. 

3.10am and wide awake.  Nevermind, it’s a perfect time to try to get some good night photos I guess.

Meantime, this is the only thing I’ve snapped so far.  The entrance to the loos at the car rental place.  It’s Elvis for the gents, and a showgirl for the ladies – I just didn’t have the bottle to take a picture of the ladies.

The new airport consolidated car rental facility is a great idea, but still has horribly long lines.  Although they weren’t as long as the line for immigration was yesterday.  We landed just after the MyTravel flight from Manchester got in, and at the same time as another plane full of Germans.  Stuck at the back of the plane, we were some of the last to get through.

BMI called me a few weeks ago to say that the flight times had been changed, from a 10am departure to 9.50am.  Hardly worth the call, but I thought maybe that extra ten minutes would make sure we were at the head of the queue.  No such luck.  However the change to the flight did mean that the seat reservations we made more than 9 months ago had been cleared.  No mention of that at all.

EDIT: Claire took this for me the next time 🙂


Meet “Team Donut”

A very quick update, written the night before but post-dated to look like I scribbed it just before we leave for the airport, to introduce the world to my sponsors for the Orleans Open.  My first tournament begins Tuesday!

In alphabetical order: AMG, Colm, David, Darren, Geoff, Jill, Matt & Paul.

Eight wise men, if we pretend that Jill is a man.

So that’s eight sponsors sharing 21% of my action across four tournaments.  Umm, yeah, I accidentally oversold myself ever so slightly, after I relisted the eBay auction while I had my wires crossed with one of the winning bidders.

No harm done.  Except that I know next time to take all the bloody fees into account.  Even with the $2.00/£1 exchange rate I’m nearly $20 light from the auction sales…

T minus zero.  Off we go.

Two for one

The Cheque Centre in Longton has been the best place to buy US Dollars lately, and I’ve used it a few times to change up money ready for tomorrow’s trip.  Today their rate was a very attractive – and very precise – $2.0000000.

This is a business that sprung up quite recently in a town that few others dare to inhabit – even Kwik Save gave up hope last month and bailed out.  Its No Frills boots have been filled by a brand new B&M store.  If I had to describe what kind of store B&M is, the best I could come up with is "cheap random crap".

In fact, those same three words could also be used to identify Longton town itself.  Perhaps a new motto for the precinct: Cheap. Random. Crap.

The Cheque Centre’s place is all nice and new, with both new paint and new carpets.  Quite unusual for the locailty.  So why go to this trouble, and still set your rates so much higher than the nearest competitor?  The second best on offer today was $1.96 at the Post Office, with the travel agents less than a full cent behind.

Today’s perfect two rate got me thinking.  Maybe it just a case of "two dollars to the pound is close enough, right?".  This is a business that deals only in money, and always in cash.  Perhaps maximising profit isn’t as important as getting the turnover.

Ever feel like you’re supporting organised crime?

Bingo Banter

If you ever thought the chat box in an online poker game was inane, try online bingo.

Yes, I do have a very good reason for playing bingo.  There’s a fantastic offer on right now where you get £30 for registering a new player account and betting £10.  It told me I already had an account, so I had to do some jiggery pokery using my full name and a different email, but it tracked in Quidco immediately once I’d played through the £10.

I didn’t win anything, but that’s probably because I’m a bingo donkey.  I expect I was seeing too many tickets with weak balls.  I guess I also need to try to dab more aggressively with my good numbers.

However, the £20 overall profit from the bonus just about makes up for having to endure an unbearably cheesy online gaming experience.  My avatar was a cartoon dabber with a big grin – do I need to go into this any further?  It really hurts to think about it now.

Looking back at this screen full of chat is especially painful.

We’ve got the universally standard gl, wd and ul (good luck, well done and unlucky) making an appearance.  The tg suffix means to go, so many of these comments are players announcing how close they are to winning a prize – tactics designed to put fish like me on tilt for sure.  Makes you want to mark off a whole bunch of numbers much to hastily.

The one that took me a while to figure out was wdw.  It means well done winner – a fabulously impersonal way of fake-congratulating an opponent who just outplayed, outclassed and outdabbed you.  It’s not like you don’t know who won – it tells you their name and shows you their winning ticket!

It’s like "well I know I didn’t win, so I don’t care who did" so I imagine wdw is said sarcastically just as often as nice hand is used in poker to actually mean nice suck out

As I didn’t stick around very long, I will just have to pretend that this was a real bingo conversation:

wdw lucky fish u suck
nice miracle numbers
oor play rewarded again
so sick

It could be …

Infantile fun for all the family

Putting rude words as your name in the high score table on a pub quiz or "skill game" machine.

There should be a snappier name for this wholesome activity.  May I suggest "poo-tabling", derived from my very favourite – and almost always first choice – word to use?

It’s short, simple, slightly rude, a little graphic (if you think about it for too long) and obviously not a real name – but hardly offensive, even pre-watershed.

Some machines are poo-friendly, some are not.  Yesterday the mix-and-muddle-the-fruit game that I can’t even remember the name of didn’t like like poo, which is a little unfair when a different game on the same machine already had a big cock.  Really.

At least it’s clear to see that we are not alone in wanting to – nay, enjoying – testing the limits of a computer program’s profanity filter.

That’s Claire’s finger doing the honours.  This poo was a joint effort, and top score on the table won us a massive two quid, after an extremely courageous decision to gamble after hitting the £1 mark.  Even so, wanting our first choice of name to be immortalised for days, maybe even weeks, was too much to ask.


Runner runner world champion

Jerry Yang (a new poker millionaire, not the Yahoo! billionaire) took it, with pocket eights against Tuan Lam‘s ace queen with all the money in pre-flop.  After getting outflopped, he runner-runnered a two-gap gutshot straight for $8.25m.  A true champion.

5 Q 9
(unnecessary long pause)
(even longer pause)

Phil Gordon wins at WSOP Main Event

A novelty side bet, that is.  A bracelet… nah, he still hasn’t got one.

Thanks to some dodgy geezer streaming the ESPN pay-per-view coverage on a dodgy web site, I’ve been able to watch some of the Main Event final table live.  Although, I didn’t exactly sit and watch it intently because it’s just a little bit on the dull side.

Of particular dullness are the incomprehensibly long delays where the dealer dutifully freezes (I think he’s also required to not breath) between dealing each round of cards when a player is all-in.  They must have to take a moment to drag in a few more cameras, as it’s very important to make sure they can catch the reactions of all two players in the hand, get a fresh look at the prize money, and also see all five board cards as they sprint across almost half a yard of felt.  How on earth does the ESPN crew cope with NFL games?

When everyone’s ready the announcer says, "Here comes the turn card".  Thanks for that.  These guys have been playing this tournament for eight out of the past 12 days.  Right now it’s level 32 ($150,000/$300,000 blinds with a $40,000 ante) so that’s about 64 hours, not counting breaks, in total so far.  They all know what comes after the flop by now, even if they didn’t when they paid $10,000 to enter.

The live audience may not have been paying such close attention as the players the past fortnight, but they turned up to watch the World’s Slowest Poker Game – it’s not like there’s nothing else to do in Vegas today – so they must have at least a passing interest in the game.  I’m pretty sure they know that the last card dealt is called the river.

The folks watching at home (some of them at least) paid $19.95 to have 16 hours of their life drained away, so they probably know a bit of the lingo too.  Even if they didn’t, there’s still Phil Gordon and A. N. Sidekick saying pretty much the same thing as the announcer at pretty much the same time.  And when it’s shown to the masses on ESPN proper in August, there’ll still be Norman Chad.  (I can’t possibly even start to go there).

So back to the victory.  Phil Hellmuth was making his way to the commentary booth – which is actually a desk – and Gordon made a bet with Sidekick: how long before Hellmuth mentions his eleven bracelets?  The line was set at 45 seconds, and Gordon took the under.

Hellmuth was given a flattering introduction… and then…

36 seconds.  $100.  Ship it.

Coming soon: warm beer …. clean girls

The New Frontier closed yesterday.

The decision to close only came a couple of months ago, but it’s been on the cards – and on the Las Vegas Casino Death Watch list – for as long as I can remember, so I made sure I took plenty of photos in January.

Another classic sign goes dark, and now as far as I can remember there’s just one major freestanding backlit sign left on the Strip, at the Tropicana.  I don’t remember if the Riviera has one out front, but even if it does neither would surely have very long left.

The Frontier was a dump and has been pretty much left to rot for years.  I will have no sentimentality for the casino whatsoever.

The sign, on the other hand, was fabulous…

There are some pictures of the Frontier’s final day here:

What was I saying…?

Remember what I was saying about cheap limit tournaments, where most of the players don’t actually want to be there?  I had the pleasure of getting my pocket aces cracked by one of them just now, but it was more than made up for when I flopped a set a little later.

This is a $1k guaranteed tournament on Empire Poker that I dropped on during late registration.  With 299 players and a $6 buy in, it’s somewhat different to the uber-tight $215 tournament I played last week.  There’s just 159 players remaining at the first break – one hour in and nearly half the field has gone broke already.  I expect most of them wanted to.

As no hand history convertor appears to work with limit tournament hands, I’ll have to do my best to recount the action using actual words.  Skip about four paragraphs if you want to avoid what is technically a bad beat story, even though I couldn’t really less about losing that hand.

I have pocket aces in middle position.  There’s a limp and a raise ahead of me, and I 3-bet.  Six players see the flop: 5c 3c 9d.  Yes, six.  I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t in Vegas yet.  Sadly not – it’s still seven days away.  I check/call the flop hoping to see a good turn card so I can punish the draws on the next betting round.  A risky play, but nobody’s folding for one small bet here, and I don’t expect anyone to raise ahead of me if I bet.

OK, one player folds for one small bet when it comes from the player to my left, and five of us see the turn: Kd.  It looks like a good card for me, except that there’s now two flush draws to avoid in a 5-way pot.  I can’t let anyone draw for free, so I bet.  At first I’m happy to see the next player raise, although when I work everything out it’s not as good as it first seemed.  I realise that I’m way out of practice at counting large multi-way pots: anyone else tagging along now is going to get pot odds of at least 6-1.  It’s really as much as I could hope for to try to force out the draws, but it’s not quite enough.

However somehow we’re heads for the river: Jc.  It’s now just a case of whether I actually have the best hand and I should probably bet/fold here, but I check/call instead.  Of course he had rivered the flush with 7c 8c.

Let re-evaluate: (1) cold-calling three bets pre-flop with a very poor hand (2) open betting a weak flush draw and gutshot on the flop and (3) raising the turn when calling with this draw would be infinitely superior.  This beat was actually great news for me.  His flop play wasn’t terrible, but I now know that this player wants to play big pots and won’t give up with much of anything.  He is playing a death-or-glory strategy and has potential to throw his chips away.  I just need to get lucky to capitalise.

Getting lucky happened with pocket deuces.  I’d limped and our friend raised pre-flop so I stuck around to see three more cards.  One of them was exactly what I wanted.  The flop: Tc 2s Kc.  Can I check/raise him here?  You bet.  I check/call the flop, hoping to win at least half a big bet extra by waiting until the turn to speak up.

It works.  The turn: a harmless 5d.  I unleash the check/raise and he makes it three bets.  Well, if I’ve been screwed by another set-over-set here so be it.  Much more likely he has one or two pair.  I cap it.

River: Ts.  Not great.  Although I have a full house, he just caught up if he had KT.  But, given the high likelihood of spewage, I decide to go for it.  I lead straight out, he raises, three from me and he caps.  His ace-king is far from good, and I rule.  Hello the chips.

A result in this tournament isn’t going to be life changing, although $388 first prize isn’t bad at all for a $6 investment.  But still it’s more much-needed limit tournament practice, and hopefully once the field has thinned a little it will play a little more sensibly.  I just need to run well enough to maintain a playable stack for a few more rounds.

EDIT: 4th for $104.65.  Woohoo.  Trip report may follow tomorrow, not sure yet 🙂