April 2008
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Hotel 4 of 4: Four Queens

If Les Dawson was still alive, completing the following might have won you a fabulous reading lamp or a candelabra.

"Welcome to the Four Queens.  We hope that you enjoy your… (blank)".

In case you’re stuck, there’s a visual clue.

The biggest problem with moving around several hotels in one trip is the difference between check-out time at one (usually 11am) and check-in time at the next (usually 3pm or 4pm).  At Harrah’s and Terrible’s they’d let us check in and then leave the bags with the bell desk until the room was cleaned.  At Four Queens they just stamped "early check-in" on our registration forms and said that the room might not be ready yet (which it wasn’t, and that was a bit weird) but at least we could dump our stuff there.

Although it was clear we were in an older part of the hotel than last time, the "recently remodelled" room was identical.  I could care less about the flat screen TV, but the coffee maker made mornings much easier.

I didn’t end up spending a lot of time downtown.  I quickly realised that the morning poker tournaments at Binions, which I expected – along with Krispy Kreme from The Fitz – to be a great start to the day, had been murdered.  The price has come down from $70 to $52 in the morning for a 3000 chip game with 15 minute levels.  Compared to how it used to be, it’s a slightly faster clock (4 levels for the price of 3) and they removed the single $40 rebuy.  I usually take the rebuy option as soon as another player at the table doubles up in those structures.

The evening game has a pretty good format now – 6,000 chips and 30 minute levels.  However, playing it after a late one the night before was a mistake and I could barely hold my head up off the table after a couple of hours.  The "no jitters – no crash – as seen on TV" energy spray I’d come prepared with just wasn’t working like it should.  Looking for any opportunity to double up (and hopefully energise myself) or go to bed I check-raised all in with a flush draw and gutshot straight draw and got caled by king-queen for top pair.  My ace was live too, but I missed everything and went to get some zeds.

A couple of dealers had said that the revamped tournament schedule was been bringing in more players to Binions, but it’s nowhere close to the three-figure fields they were getting a couple of years ago.  The 10am game I played in had 34 runners, and the 8pm game had 44.

There’s some other changes afoot now that Four Queens management have taken over Binions and hopefully they’ll get this casino back on track soon.  Most noticable was the removal of the Binion Dollar Babes stage, which they had already started to replace with more table games.  Kudos for not just wheeling in another bank of Wheel of Fortune machines, at least.

The Four Queens got enough video poker action from us (mostly from Claire, although her hot streak had come to an end) to ensure we would get invited us back.  Their best machines are 99.5% payback, but with 0.3% cash back it’s almost a break-even game.  Looks like we cycled through about $15k over four days for a theoretical loss of $75, but with $45 cash back and a bonus $40 free slot play from a mailer, they still ended up paying us to stay there!

The very best part though was the totally free "jeweled rat" gift for a belated Chinese New Year.  It’s almost impossible to say no to free shit, especially when you can’t see it beforehand.  So what the hell are we going to do with this?

Why do things like this bother me so?

A cafe menu at the Gold Coast.  They may as well have spelt it Duece’s.

Blowing it up

I was just getting ready to rack up and stop playing at the Flamingo. The table really didn’t seem that great and it wasn’t much fun.  I had one player two to my right who said he recognised me from Christmas (possible, I guess) and then as the game went on he said it must be me because how he remembered how tight I played.

Dude I appreciate you letting me know you’re paying attention, but I don’t think anybody else has really noticed so would you please STFU?

Then a new player sat down and everything changed.

"I’m just here to get drunk", he said, and he made sure we all knew it. I took this with a pinch of salt to start with, but my new best mate started bragging about how much he’d made from this guy the night before so I thought it might be worth hanging around a bit longer.

The clincher was when a dealer who was just passing, coming back off her break made a point of fetching him another cup holder.  One drink at a time wasn’t enough – he had a shot with every beer. "He split it all over my cards yesterday", she told us.

But our new friend was quick to set the record straight. "One card. It was one card!  It’s Vegas, dog. They always gotta blow it up. Like the World Trade Center, man."

While the bad taste jury was out, we carried on playing cards.

In a $300 max buy-in game, Snoop had bought in for $299.  He sent the chip runner off with $200 to start with but when the two stacks of red arrived he pulled out the rest of the notes from his gangsta wallet and counted them out.  "I’m gonna need all this" – it was everything he had.

"If I lose I’m going to the pawn shop.  I got about 5 ounces of gold on me".  He knew his bling.  "I’m from the hood – I pawn everything", he said and I had absolutely no reason to doubt this.

I thought now might be a good time to top up myself, which I did before waiting extremely patiently for my chance to get rich or die tryin’.  Others tried and failed as he bullied the table with $20 pre-flop raises and big aggressive plays with marginal hands.  Sometimes his king-rag hit and sometimes it didn’t.  Sometimes he got paid off by a very weak hand by other players who had spotted his wild tendencies but had got a little too greedy and a little impatient.

Me, I sat tight and waited for the nuts, and eventually there it was.  I limped with a jack-queen on the button in a 6-way pot and the flop fell perfectly: nine-ten-king.  With two hearts on board I wasn’t about to get tricky but the rest of the table took care of making life sweet for me.  The small blind led out for $10, the blingmeister made it $40 and I pushed forward one stack.

Apparently it wasn’t a complete stack as the dealer broke down the bet and announced $95.  Whatever.  "You know I’m calling it, right", he said – virtually jumping up and down at the thought of all that action coming back his way when he already had one pair.  I can see how the cards (sorry, card) got wet the night before.

The small blind, a local player who had been sitting pretty tight all night, eventualy folded.  I think he thought this was his payday too and hated to fold, but he could tell how powerful I was.  He later told me he laid down two pair (K9) but I expect he would have folded a set there too.  My hands had been doing that wobbly thing you do when you have a monster and I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding it.

If they let him bet the bling I’m sure that would have been in the pot too, but all he had was chips.  Plenty of chips, more than me and I had already topped up to the max again not long ago.  He moved all in and obviously I called straight away.  His king-six was top pair at least, but he needed to cach two perfect cards to win, and they didn’t come.

I don’t remember the turn and river cards, nor do I remember exactly how much I won from him.  While the dealer did the business I took the opportunity to exhale and try to think of an unpatronising way to say "man you’re unlucky".  I definitely need practice in that area.

When I stacked everything up, I was looking down at $625.  Hardly a world record and it might not even be the biggest pot I’ve ever won, but it was the most satisfying.  Definitely worth hanging around for.