September 2007
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The Vegas Classic

Here’s a little piece of Vegas to look forward to, coming soon to a McDonalds near you.

I don’t really know what makes this a Vegas burger, let alone a classic.

If it’s to be a Vegas burger, surely it has to be a "world’s most somethingest" burger. 

Like the most expensive, the $777 Kobe Beef and Maine Lobster burger at Paris Las Vegas.  Actually I’m not sure whether that holds the record for most expensive, they may have missed out on that honour to maintain the novelty price tag.

But the Carl’s Jr $6000 combo definitely is the world’s most expensive fast food meal deal, and it’s only available at the Palms.

So what about a spectacularly huge burger, like the 9lb Big Daddy Barrick Burger at the Plaza.  It’s sadly no longer on the menu, but the web page that bragged that this beast could "feed a softball team" is archived for ever here.  The deal used to be that if you could finish it in under 24 hours, it was free (well, you weren’t going to be leaving the casino, let’s face it).  The world record is just over 48 minutes, and was set by a girl.

So thanks for the effort McDonalds, but I’m just not sure that simply using cheese that’s a bit more fancy than usual is quite enough.

Dusk Till Dawn wins casino license

Word is out that Dusk Till Dawn have finally been granted their casino license this afternoon.

There’s such excitement that the Blonde Poker forum has effectively crashed right now – it just took a good five minutes to load this thread with the announcement, which already contains about 300 pages of awesome MySpace-style graphics or armies of clever dancing smilies congratulating them, with other wittily appropriate comments like "ship it".

The Nottingham card room should now open in November.  Good luck to them – they’ll need it.

The delay to the opening, originally planned for April, is thanks to objections from three major casino chains (two of which did not even have a casino in Nottingham when they protested) and has already cost an estimated £100,000 a month.  Building the club before being given permission to operate was a fantastic business decision.

They’re also still adamant that no house-banked casino games will take place on the property, even though the full casino license that has been granted would allow them to do this.  It is to be a poker-only venue, and poker – particularly low-cost, well structured, dealer-dealt tournaments that the majority of their pre-registration members will be expecting – is just about the least profitable game that a casino can offer.

Winning a license to print money but choosing to produce only a handful of fivers is another fantastic business decision.  The club will have all the overheads of a casino, but without any of the cash cows.  We’ll just have to wait and see just how soon blackjack and roulette are introduced "due to popular demand".

Meantime, they could use the the "session fee" loophole to charge whatever they need to do to survive, but thanking members for their support in showing that there is indeed enough demand to warrant a casino license by stinging them with a 30% or higher rake just doesn’t seem right.

So they’ll probably have to rely on live action for revenue.  Since September 1st, cash games can be raked or charged hourly – and how.  I picked up a copy of the new charge schedule at the Vic at the weekend, where they’re more than happy to lighten the wallets of rich Londoners by up to £15 per hour – and that’s without a dealer!  If people in the East Midlands are desparate for a game of cards, then maybe they’ll pay that too.

Crapshoot #3

The Vic has a dice table.  Just the one tucked away in the corner, but nevertheless it’s the first I’ve seen in a UK casino, amid the gazillions of electronic roulette stations.  The roulette there has two video feeds from separate wheels and you can pick which one to bet on.  This gives punters a reason to play on two adjacent machines at the same time – for the multi-tabling professional.

Vij had come along on Saturday to watch me set fire to his 5% and clearly had the urge to lose more money after he’d seen me bust out of the poker.  Craps was going to be his game of choice, although he’d mostly forgotten how to bet – and how to keep the dice on the table!  So Vij concentrated on trying to shoot while I got to call the bets with his money.

The thing with craps is that it has to be a busy, rowdy table to be fun. Well, the two of us made it three (although that miserable bastard wouldn’t bet unless he was shooting) and at one point there were as many as five people standing around the table.  We didn’t quite reach critical mass to keep the game going and hi-fiving and shouting were unsurprisingly not present, but if there was even a little bit of a vibe I’d probably have wanted to stay longer.  The game wasn’t that bad at all.

They only allow single odds but with 50p and 20p chips in play you don’t get penalised for only betting the minimum.  Place the 6 and 8 for £3 each and you win £3.50 when it hits.  If you can still find a $3 craps game in Vegas (clue: it’s not on the Strip) you won’t get any change when you press a winning place bet to $6.

Without the change, there’d be no point taking odds on a £3 line bet for any number other than a 4 or 10, but a 6-5 true odds bet pays £1.20 for every pound behind the line.  The English denominations actually work out pretty well for the small-timers.  They definitely don’t let you bump up the bet to get a round payout – I tried! – and when I only put £2 down for 3-2, the dealers really didn’t know whether that was allowed.  To prevent all hell from breaking loose, just make sure your odds bet is the same amount as your line bet.

Frustratingly, hardways had the same £3 minimum as all the other bets, so there was no chance of a heroic parlay with loose change.  The odds were pretty good though (for sucker bets) giving 9.5-1 on the hard 6 and 8 and 7.5-1 on the hard 4 and 10.  The deliberately confusing 10-for-1 and 8-for-1 in Vegas actually mean a payoff of 9-1 and 7-1 respectively for a house edge of about 9% or 11% – one of the worst bets in the casino.  These adjustments halve the edge, and if only they had made it a quid minimum I’d play a hard six or eight with 4.5% juice all day long.

Crapshoot #2

I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t know how to adjust to the standard of play in the EPT satellites.  Particularly on Sunday, it seems I had a lot to learn.  The following mania all happened during level 2 (blinds 50/100).

The under-the-gun player raises to 350.  A frustrated Scandinavian calls and the next player re-raises to 900.  The re-raiser only has 700 left, so he’s going nowhere and I’m suspicious about why he hasn’t just moved all-in already.  I find pocket jacks in the cut-off.  It’s the best hand I got to see in either tournament, but with an UTG raiser who has me well covered, it’s not a good spot to gamble my stack so I fold.  UTG makes the powerplay of a smooth call.  Obviously he wants to take the flop 3-way, but the other guy dissapoints him.  Naturally with a pot of over 2000, the remaining 700 gets thrown in on a low flop.  We see the re-raiser’s pocket 9s hold up against UTG’s T8s.

Lessons learned: Pocket pairs are always raising hands.  Folding to a re-raise is weak.

I stayed out of the way for this one.  All folded to the button who raised to 350.  He had 98o, but the steal attempt is OK.  Big blind defends with J5, a little stubborn but in fact the best hand.  Soulscan successful.  When the flop comes J97, carnage ensues.  BB check-raises all-in with his monster top pair and the button decides it’s a great idea to not get pushed around, calling his last 4000 chips to win about 6000 with a gutshot and middle pair.  Seat open.

Lessons learned: Always defend your blind by calling out of position with garbage.  Folding a straight draw is weak.

That bustee had used up all his luck in an earlier hand when he had raised small preflop with pocket aces, followed by a massive all-in overbet on a 952 flop.  Just go ahead and tell everybody how strong you were before the flop and hope nobody caught up.  For sure you won’t get called now unless they got very lucky to outflop you.  But outflopped he was, by pocket 2s.  Then turn 5, river 5 put him back in front in the cruelest way possible.

Next, I limp after three others with 67s.  One more player calls and the short stack big blind moves all in.  I’m starting to get desparate and wonder if there’s any reason to call here after it’s folded back to me.  I decide it’s not even close – the pot odds aren’t good and the raiser has been quite tight.  In fact, in the land of the results-oriented, my 67 would have made a straight.  I know this because the player on the button called and also made the straight with 63o.  Pocket aces went home.

Lessons learned: Limp with any old shit if you have position.  Folding once you have put chips in the pot is weak.

I didn’t survive long into level 3.  In fact the levels were a complete trainwreck.  We were sent on a break at what I thought was the end of level 2, but when we got back it was still the same level.  "Another 2 minutes at this level", they announced.  About fifteen minutes later, the blinds actualy went up.

In level 3, blinds are 100/200.  The only reason there are still t25 chips in play is that antes kick in on level 4.  And to think I was worried that I might not be able to make an 8pm train home if I did well.

I was down to a thousand and change on my small blind and with 3 limpers already wanting to take a cheap look I completed with 78s.  The big blind pays no attention to the action so far and makes it 500 to go.  One of the limpers now decides to fold, but two do come along for the ride.  Having been unable to find any spots to gather chips so far and expecting to be called if I actually get chance to open-push in the next orbit, I decide I have to play this hand.  I could call and close the betting, then be the first to throw my chips at any flop that looks good, but I don’t fancy pulling a stop-and-go against three other players, and with less than 1/5th of the pot size left to bet.  By moving all-in here, I want to re-open the betting to allow the agreesor to isolate, and leave plenty of dead money in the pot to give a reasonable payoff if my second-best hand improves.  Not a superb situation to be in, but I’d run out of time and couldn’t expect to see much better.

In fact we take a flop four ways, and it doesn’t really surprise me – even though one of the callers has left himself with just 300 chips now.  Never mind.  I’m right back in the game if I get lucky here.  Flop: 89T with two spades – a pair and open ended straight draw.  Could be worse, until I see the other cards.  67 is loving his made straight and I can only split with him.  But we’re both actually drawing dead to QJ in spades – the current nuts with a flush draw to boot.

So there ends my EPT journey.  £660 for less than three hours of poker.  Next year, I think I’ll probably not bother.

Burn baby burn

A sign in my hotel room this weekend:

Surely they don’t mean these?

 I think they’d melt.

Time for another crapshoot

Worst £300 tournament ever?

3000 chips, 30 minute clock and skipping just about every other blind level.  They got me all excited to start with by giving out 5000 chips, then cruely taking them back.  When this happened one of the know-it-all regulars was saying how he’d prefer the larger stack but would want a faster clock, maybe 20 minutes.  Yeah, that would be swell.  Now fuck off and go play blackjack if you just want to take two cards and let somebody tell you if you won.

I didn’t really get going, then when I had to push – after just an hour and a half – my QT was called by another QT (fantastic) and then my pocket 3s ran into a bigger pair and I was done.  The board showed JJ99Q and the dealer tried to convince everyone that it was a split (I tip handsomely for this btw) but obviously the other guy’s tens played.  Hey, at least he was reading the hands and not just assuming that no 3 on board means I didn’t improve.

Even with just 40 people, this structure was too fast.  Yet, off I go again shortly to give it another go.  I had considered waiting until Monday evening after I discovered they had scheduled a 200-max satellite, but if it’s going to be a push fest the smaller field is less likely to be heartbreaking.

So, here’s the live update graph for today’s satellite (and I have set it up with the correct phone number for text updates now!).  Blink and you’ll miss it, probably.

Live updates: EPT London Satellite

I’ve had to set this all up in advance in case I can’t get online while I’m in London.  Haven’t even decided if I’m taking my laptop yet, because I can’t check into my hotel until after 1pm and the tournament starts at – obviously – 1pm.  So I think I’ll have to travel light.

So here is the live update graph for the benefit of the new and improved 11-man Team Donut: Darren, David, Geoff, Jill, Kevin, Larry, Matt, Paul, Rich, Vicky and Vij.  I should get some football shirts made up or something.  Who wants to be goalie?

Click the thumbnail graph to see the full size version on, which I really honestly will finish some time soon, then write the instructions for it and consider making a bit prettier.  Meantime, if anyone else wants to give it a try to create your own chip graphs with real time text-message updates, give it a spin and drop me a line if you hit any problems.  The main thing – the actual graph – does work!

As things stand, I didn’t quite raise enough stake to play both satellites although it’s close (24% sold, I would need at least 30%) so there’s a chance that I will get more and still be able to play them both anyway.  But unless I post here otherwise before kick off, or use one of the first text messages to my chip count graph to announce that I’ll be playing on both Saturday and Sunday, it’s just the one satellite this time.

I realised that it would be unfair to wait until after I’ve played the first tournament to see if I could convince myself to make up the shortfall, so I have to make this decision before things get going.  I have to draw a line somewhere, and I did originally say that it was 30%.  As promised, I’ll refund your stake if you only wanted to be involved with the two chances of qualification, rather than the larger share from one satellite.  Just make sure a message lands in my mailbox or post a comment here before 1pm Saturday.

I had no joy trying to book a free train this Saturday so I’ll end up travelling on an open ticket, which makes me pretty flexible and so I’ll take donations right up until the last minute.  It could still happen! 🙂

The chap I spoke to at Virgin Trains said he had no idea why every single West Coast train to and from London on Saturday was restricted (Friday and Sunday were just fine) but agreed with me that it was very strange.  Something must be going on, but I don’t know what.  Usually you can book a ticket right up to 6pm the night before; the seaside trains tend to have limited availability for comp tickets but I’ve not had to pay to get to London at the weekend in a long time!

EDIT @ 9am: I’ve made the 30% so it’s two satellites as planned.  Team list above updated 🙂

Call me Chris Three-trips

T minus 95, 186 and 305!

Yes really.  I have my next three Las Vegas trips booked up, and it feels great.

Christmas and New Year 2007/08 I’ve known about for quite a while.  It won’t be long now.  Being there for Christmas day like last year, although this time it won’t be a Station Casinos buffet for Christmas dinner.  Sure, they had a turkey carving station, but otherwise it was exactly the same.

We’ve booked the Gold Coast for the entire stay, based on them only charging an excessive premium for one night, on New Year’s Eve itself.  Every other hotel I checked bumped up their rate for at least two nights, some of them three.  Total: $827 for 11 nights.  I could care less about staying off-Strip, but as Gold Coast is right next to our likely new home Palms, it’s actually a great choice.

Then just last week I dropped on a flight from Las Vegas to Manchester using BMI Diamond Club miles.  Seemed too good to be true: a direct flight in business class falling perfectly in the last week of Claire’s school holiday.  Instabooked – seats in row 1 baby!  All I needed was an outbound flight to go with it…

Thanks to the guys on flyertalk I’ve learned how to check what flights are available on other Star Alliance airlines using, obscurely, All Nippon Airways mileage club.  I’ve never been to China, and don’t have any plans in the foreseeable future, but they let me join up anyway.

The best option was an economy flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles and with connecting flights at both ends.  According to the forum dudes, who have some amazing advice to give if you can cope with the acronym overkill, it’s absolutely possible to fly MANLAXLAS with DC using any *A airline.  Oh no, I’m doing it now…

But the thought of three planes and a 20 hour journey wasn’t appealing.  It would be free but you still have to pay the tax (remember it’s about ten times as expensive to leave the UK as is it to come back) so those miles are still saved up for next time.  Instead it’ll be my first experience of MaxJet, who had a direct flight for £349+tax.  That’s their lowest rate, but all their seats are business class.

Only one minor drawback.  We’re flying out from Stansted and back into Manchester.  That’ll be a logistical nightmare and I can’t even bear to think about it yet.  We’ll cross that bridge – and think about where to stay – next year sometime.  All in all though, it’s a business class return flight for two people for under £900.  Can’t be bad.

Once those luxury jet-set floodgates opened though, there was no stopping me.  MaxJet was showing the £349 rate for the same Sunday we’ve flown out the past three summers and it was just a case of waiting until the return could be booked before the inevitable happened.  We’ve paid more than that for BMI premium economy in the summer, and almost as much for basic economy so this is an absolute bargain.

Booking for the return leg opened sometime yesterday, but according to the seating plan, someone else had already beaten us to it by the time I had made the booking at 8pm.  I can understand that the outbound flight would have already started to fill up as it’s been available for a few weeks already.  But it just shows what a popular destination Las Vegas has become in recent years that people are lining up waiting to book seats on a flight ten months away at the very first opportunity.

That’s us in 9A/9C.  I booked an exit row just because I could, for the extra leg room.  I’m sure it’s really not necessary with these super luxury seats though.  Time will tell.

EDIT: When I looked again today (Thursday) – and I’m glad I did, as they’d already lost one of my seat reservations – there are now 11 other passengers who booked on this flight (which is still over 300 days away) within 48 hours of it going on sale.  Blimey.

Fingers crossed

This weekend, I had my best ever result on the National Lottery.  All six numbers!

And the jackpot for that piece of good fortune: a whopper £38.

OK, so the six numbers hit across a combination of two tickets, but they’re the only two tickets I’m involved with.  Using the numbers that Claire and I have played for as long as I can remember – it wasn’t quite since the lottery started in 1994, but it wasn’t long after – we had a four-number (£28) and a three-number (£10) hit from the same draw.

Seriously.  £28 for four numbers.  Isn’t that pathetic?

The odds of matching four is 1031-1.  I believe this is only the second time we’ve had a four number win in over ten years, which actually feels about right for playing two lines on a ticket, each for two draws a week and 52 draws a year.  In fact, officially it was draw #1224 on Saturday, so I’m ever-so-slightly owed…

So you wait years for a winning ticket, and then two come along at once – and it’s so totally not worth it.  Take away the £2 stake and we’re looking at £36 profit – the amount I paid in stakes for just 9 weeks of draws – for this freak occurance.

OK, I know that hitting all 6 numbers from 11 picks (our tickets overlap by one number: 12) is still much more likely than actually winning the big one, but I just don’t expect to ever see six matches again.  Sorry, I don’t know the exact odds and I don’t really care enough (read: know how) to work it out.  It’s small though.

What I do know is that to have permed those 11 numbers every possible way in order to ensure that I’d hit the jackpot this week would have taken 462 different tickets.  I know that when Claire reads this she’ll reach for her calculator to check (and hopefully work out the odds of hitting 6 from 11 too…) but I’m pretty sure that’s right.  So if I’d actually made that £462 bet in the past 1224 draws, my total stake would have been £565,488 before it hit.

This week’s jackpot prize fund: £3,583,830.  If only I’d known!  Split six ways (there were already five other winners) we’d have scored £597,305 each.  Over thirty grand profit from my half-million investment – that’s obviously how you’re meant to play the lottery.

But I’ve come up with a another way: don’t bother.

I cancelled my subscription this morning.  I feel like a winner already.

EDIT: D’oh.  After a sleep I realised I’d already done the hard work for the odds of 6 from 11.  If the chances of hitting the jackpot are 1 in 13,983,816, then the chances of striking rich with one of my 462 combinations is 462 in 13,983,816 or about 30,000-1.  Actually it’s about twice as likely as hitting five numbers all on one ticket (55,490-1).

Manboobs need not apply

I know I’m on some peculiar mailing lists from the amount of junk email I get, but I’m pretty sure one message I got today wasn’t just random spam, but a list I subscribed to.

Quite possibly it’s connected to The Dealer’s News, a newsletter intended for professional casino dealers in Nevada.  Though their obsessive comparisons of which casinos have the best tippers are clearly not intended for the casual reader, I still subscribed because I like to read it every month for the insider stories and bite-size factoids and opinions.  Here’s a taster.

Anyway, the email I got today may be nothing to do with them (I actually don’t care if they’re sending me spam as you know I’ll enjoy reading any Vegas-related mail I get) but it’s definitely too specific to be a mass broadcast.

Attention Ladies:

I am holding interviews again for the incredibly fun "Party Pit" being built in Planet Hollywood.

We are looking train more ladies TO DEAL BLACKJACK and PAY you for it.  You will work 3 nights a week or more.  Day and evening classes are available. 

I just know I could be a self-proclaimed fun dealer in a self-proclaimed incredibly fun party pit given half a chance, and it’s a tempting change of career.  But does it really matter that I’ll never look good in a tight t-shirt and hotpants?