Nick’s Trip to Vegas

9 Jul

Vegas1When I received a bit of a windfall a few weeks ago, one of the first things I thought of doing was playing in a poker tournament. I’ve been playing lower stakes for around fifteen years, so I saw this as an opportunity to try playing at higher stakes.

With the knowledge that the fiftieth anniversary of the World Series of Poker was coming up, I looked up the WSOP website. To my surprise, I found out that the fiftieth anniversary was actually this year! I looked at the schedule and saw that they had a special $500 buy-in tournament commemorating the anniversary called the Big 50, but this began in just a few days giving me little time to plan. I looked through the rest of the schedule, and decided that the one I’d like to go for would be the $1000 buy-in Mini Main Event which had no re-entries (which I generally prefer), and a healthy starting stack of 60k. I did also look up the EPT schedule, and considered playing the EPT Madrid, where I could potentially play the main event itself which was €1000, but I decided against this in the end as it was unlimited rebuys and a much smaller starting stack. Also, Vegas and the WSOP would be a once-in-a-lifetime and like I say, the fiftieth anniversary, so surely, not to be missed!

So I booked my flight, etc. and was ready to go. The only other consideration was whether my ex-girlfriend, Christina, would come with me. When we were together, I had got her into poker, and she became not only very keen, but also, a very good player, cashing in a couple of larger buy-in tournaments. When I told her I had booked, she did text to say maybe I could consider taking her with me. There were a few factors to consider with regard to her coming along though. The first was, I would pretty much have to entirely finance her. The second was she had hardly played in the last couple of years so was completely out of practice (I wasn’t convinced by her theory that playing poker was like knowing how to ride a bike). The final consideration was that Cris does now have a new boyfriend who she’s been with for about three years. Even though she said she had his permission to come with me, it would have been complicated.

Taking everything into consideration, I finally decided I would be going alone and with the flight booked from Manchester, I headed off on a National Express coach the evening before my flight. I had to change at Birmingham. Popped out for a smoke and was asked by a young lad for a cigarette. He looked no older than perhaps fourteen or so as he was very short, but he said he was twenty one and in Uni! He did have quite a deep voice so I did give him a fag. Moments later his mum came to pick him up. Purely out of curiosity, I did think I should have asked his mum. I will never know if it was a young boy telling me a fib, or genuinely a student who looked peculiarly young.

At Manchester, I was staying in an airbnb the night before my early flight. Right as advertised, it was spectacularly convenient for the airport, being just one short tram ride away. I didn’t stay up long before settling down to go to sleep. Unfortunately there was a very annoying persistent noise meaning that I just could not get off to sleep. It sounded like somebody drilling somewhere and I could hear it about every thirty seconds. At about 1am I got up to investigate, but could not figure out where it was coming from. Finally at about 1.30am, the woman who ran the airbnb got up to enquire what the problem was. I told her about the noise and she said it was probably the neighbours and there wasn’t much they could do at this time. I told her I could not sleep and her husband did go to speak to them. The noise stopped immediately and I must have got to sleep soon after.

A light breakfast before back to the airport for my flight. I was sat next to a lad from somewhere in Yorkshire (I forget where exactly) who was part of a 16-strong stag group. He was like a cross between Johnny Vegas and Peter Kaye, and easily the rowdiest of the entire group. I suspected this was going to be a long flight (obviously, it was going to be long anyway, but you know what I mean). However, actually, I enjoyed his company. I suppose it was better than being next to somebody who is completely silent, or rude, or something.

I told him I was from Cardiff, and he told me he’d been there recently for the Spice Girls. I told him that I’d heard the sound for the gig hadn’t been very good (this was according to press reports and from audience members). For some reason, this comment was the cue for several of his mates around him to laugh. I didn’t think much of it, as they were all laughing and joking for the entire journey. It was only around midway through the flight, ie. about four hours in that I gleaned that the reason for this guy being at the gig was not as a punter as I’d assumed, but as a roadie for the band! Now I understood why his mates had laughed, and I myself had to contain my mirth. Fortunately, the guy did not seem to have taken offence and it was just a really funny situation. He’d actually been on the entire tour with the band and he showed me some photos he had from Cardiff and other gigs. He had a signed card from the Spice Girls and one of them had signed it “with love from the bottom of my vagina!”

So anyway, as you can imagine, this guy must have been pretty rich. They were staying in the MGM Grand. Inevitably, they all had quite a bit to drink, and in fact long before we landed, they had completely drunk the bar dry. My travelling companion was no oil painting, but he did make me laugh when he gave his phone number to one of the more attractive air stewardesses inviting her out for a drink with them. It had been a long flight, but with the in-flight entertainment (I watched a couple of films including Kurt and Courtney), and my chatty companion, it was not too torturous.

Probably worse was the queue (or line) for the passport control. Just like the queue at New York where I’d been a few months before, it was excruciatingly long. Paul, my former companion was a bit further ahead of me, and as we passed in the snaking queue, at one point we played scissor-paper-stone to relieve the boredom. It must have taken around two hours before eventually getting through. Just fortunate I was in no particular hurry. And then I still had to wait for my bag. Finally, I was out, and into the roasting hot Vegas sunshine. I got a taxi and was finally at my hotel.

I had booked a pretty cheap place, and it was pretty basic, but it suited my needs I suppose. After I’d unpacked, I tried to charge my phone. I had packed an adapter, but it was a European adapter which didn’t fit American sockets. I managed to buy a phone charger from the hotel, but this didn’t work very well so it was lucky I had a power bank with me which worked much better. However, unless I got a cab over to Walmart in the hope of them having the adapter I needed to use my friend’s laptop I’d brought with me, I was not going to be able to play on the WSOP website (available only in Nevada, bizarrely), as I’d planned to. I never did this in the end, so didn’t play any online poker throughout my trip.

I headed down to the “small” casino and bar area and got my first beer of the trip, and played a little bit of blackjack. In just a few minutes, I made the cost of a beer, so I was happy enough with this and returned to my room.

The Rio, where the WSOP was taking place was visible from the hotel and after I’d freshened up, I decided I should go and check it out. It was only around a mile and a half away, so I set out on foot. Only now did I discover that walking anywhere from my hotel was going to be problematic. It’s quite difficult to describe why, but it seems that walking anywhere in Vegas is not really the done thing. It wasn’t just because of the sweltering heat. It was more to do with the road systems. They were just not designed for pedestrians. Even as I neared the Rio, I couldn’t really work out exactly how to get into the hotel, and had to ask in a shop. He gave me some kind of instructions and finally, I got in, but I suspected that for the rest of the trip, I would probably be better off getting Ubers.

Vegas2Inside the Rio and I now had my first taste of what one of these enormous hotel and casino complexes was like. The first thing you see is an impossibly vast array of slot machines. Negotiating my way through these, I saw directions for the WSOP. I walked down long corridors before I finally found the main hall. I had a look in there, and again, the sheer size of the room was quite staggering, and all around you, you could hear the clickety click of chips being placed and moved around. I had a bit more of a look around, before deciding I’d seen enough for the time being and might as well head back to the hotel for the evening. Now, I got a taxi. The Rio is off the main strip, so I asked the taxi driver if he could take me back to my hotel via the strip so I could get an impression of this. In terms of the fare, this was a mistake because there was a bit of traffic on the strip, but I did get to see a few of the sights. As I had still not slept, I decided I would have an early one and settled down to bed.

Vegas3The next day, after an excellent breakfast (in fairness, the diner attached to my hotel served excellent food and was inexpensive), I decided I should have my first taste of playing poker in Vegas and headed off in the direction of the strip, again on foot. And again, this proved very tricky. I did eventually make it to the Aria hotel. Every hotel on the strip was just huge and phenomenally lavish. And of course, with vast arrays of opportunities to gamble. I had a phone call from my friend Richard. He and my other mate Archie (his brother) had given me £10 each to play slots, so I picked a machine at random and put $25 into it. The only thing was, after a few small wins, I lost count of the number of spins. Technically, I probably owe them £3-4 back each. Anyway, slots are really not my thing, so I was not really interested in continuing to play these.

I headed out onto the strip. As I remember someone saying, it has the appearance of an adventure playground for adults. Everywhere is an extraordinary, colourful feast for the eyes. Most of the casinos are relatively close together (they appear close, at least, but still involve a fair bit of walking), but I headed towards Caesar’s Palace. It was around midday. They had a $150 tournament starting at 1pm, so I decided I should play this. Back home in the UK, $150 (or equivalent) would be a large-ish buy-in for me, but this was Vegas where such an amount is considered on the low side. With an hour to kill, I headed over to a bar, and my timing was quite good as the USA were playing France in the Women’s World Cup. I settled down with a beer and watched the first half. USA scored a fairly early goal, so the eventual result was going to be a bit of a formality with the USA very much dominating in women’s football.

It got to half time and I headed back to where the tournament was being played and paid the buy-in. In America, once you’re seated at a table, all drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are free. All you have to do is tip the waitress $1, and even this is not compulsory. I’m not quite sure how they work that one out. I could understand it at a cash game. But I wasn’t complaining anyway, as I ordered myself a Bud.

There were huge screens around the area where I was playing, and the women’s game was being shown on the largest of these screens. The USA scored again and those who were sat watching went wild with celebration. Fair play, yanks do know how to celebrate, it appears. I wondered how much more enthusiastic they’d be if it was a major men’s game, or some other big sporting event.

I was enjoying the poker, and doing quite well. I was quite surprised at how loose people were playing generally. There were around sixty five entries and we were nearing the final table. A guy hit top pair and a straight draw and called my all in with a set of nines. My set held up and I took down a pretty big pot and I think I became the chip leader at the table.

But just before we reached the final table, I was in a hand with k/6. I shouldn’t really have been playing it at all, but I flopped a gutshot straight flush draw, with one over (the king). The guy before me moved all in. It was for about half my stack, and you know what it’s like, it’s always difficult to fold straight flush draws. I made the call, he had paired up with his jack, I didn’t improve, and my stack was quite badly diminished as we went into the final table.

Here at the final table, I again had a weakish hand, k/8, although this time it was suited. It was folded round to me in, I think the seat before the cut-off, so I thought I might as well play and put in a raise. A couple of places in front of me sat a woman who must have been in the dealer position. She’d been on a different table to me prior to the final and was by far the chip leader. She announced raise, and put in some chips, but had not realised I had already raised. This meant that she could now only min raise. This was a funny spot for me. I had to at least call, but now, I could not really be sure about the strength of her hand.

The flop came 10/8/something, so I’d flopped middle pair. I now did not have that much left behind (I told you I shouldn’t have played k/8), so I shoved my remaining stack in. The woman instant called and showed q/q. I did not improve and so I was now out! The point about this particular hand was, given the obvious strength of the woman’s hand, if she had known that I had already put in a raise, she would most likely have re-raised enough to put me all in and it would have been a straightforward fold for me. Either way, I did feel a bit of a fool. There were at least two or three small stacks than mine at the beginning of the final and the top seven or eight were getting paid. The first prize in this tournament was over $2000. That would have pretty much funded my entire trip! But any cash would have been useful and since I’d got so far I really should have hung on for the money. Oh well, you live and learn.

A little demoralised, I headed back to the hotel. I went to the garage across the road for beers. The woman in the garage actually asked me for ID. “Are you being serious?!” I asked her. Apparently she was, and it was just policy. I don’t think she thought I was under age, but in that case, I’m not quite sure why I needed to show ID. Anyway, I paid with a $10 note, one that I still had from the UK and she remarked how fresh it was. Probably hadn’t been used for taking drugs yet, I said to her, which at least made her laugh.

In my hotel room, I discovered an American quiz show called Jeopardy which I got quite into. Had a couple of beers and drifted off to sleep.

The next day would be another poker day. I decided I’d try playing a bit of cash, and a friend from back home, Frosty, who’d been to Vegas and had made a bit of money when he’d been, suggested trying the Mirage so I headed off there. Once again, it’s a huge place, with lots to look at, although the poker room itself was not so big. I had withdrawn a couple of hundred dollars, and sat down at a $1/$1 table. I don’t actually like playing cash especially. I get a bit nervous when there’s money involved with every hand, and the big bets start coming in, although saying that, I’ve actually probably made more money playing cash than I have in tournaments. I don’t really recall the hands in this first session I played in, but somehow the first hundred dollars I was playing with quite quickly dwindled down to nothing, and I got up, not quite sure what to do next. This trip was not going especially well! I think I wandered about the place for a bit before deciding I might as well try again, and put down another $100 on a different table. I was up a little bit to begin with. To my immediate right was a guy who appeared to be spectacularly inexperienced. You do occasionally get players who like to give off a table image of not knowing what they are doing. But I’m almost certain that this guy was genuinely clueless. He was putting in blinds when it wasn’t his turn and making some very peculiar bad plays. However, as they say, even bad players can get good cards. I won quite a big pot against him, but then almost straightaway afterwards, he made a straight against my set or something like that, and he won quite a bit back. Then I made a flush with a jack. With the king and queen on the board, only an ace high flush was beating me. There were three players in the hand. The first player checked. The clueless guy bet out a reasonably large sized bet, and I reluctantly made the call. Now the first player min raised. It was very frustrating. It was pretty obvious the guy had the ace. I think the clueless guy made a call. It was a pretty straightforward fold for me, but I was going to be pretty short if I did make the call. I donked the last of my chips in, the first guy showed the ace and I walked away, again not happy. So much for making my money back playing cash!

The Mirage had a $65 tournament starting fairly soon, so I thought I might as well play that. I made a reasonable start, then flopped a flush with A/J suited. I checked, the guy bet and I called. On the turn, I checked again, the guy went all in and of course I called again. The guy showed a set, and inevitably the river gave him a full house. Why does that never happen to me in the reverse situation?!

I felt so down on my luck by this time that I didn’t really know what to do. I contemplated playing in a tournament at Caesar’s Palace again. The difficulty was, I think I’d reached my withdrawal limit on my debit card. Getting cash out in America was difficult enough as it was. Or not so much difficult as expensive. All the cashpoints charge huge withdrawal fees and whereas at home, it’s free to withdraw from the cashier, in the US, it’s more expensive to withdraw from the cashier than from the cashpoint. Also, to withdraw from the cashier, you need to have your passport, which I didn’t have on me. Really, I should have brought a lot more cash with me from the UK. Or better still, I should have made sure I’d cashed in the tournament the day before. So anyway, I headed back to the hotel. It was probably saving me money.

I got back just in time to see Jeopardy again, which was quite handy as it was a two part series and I got to see the second part. As it was a Saturday, I thought I really ought to sample the nightlife of Vegas. On the other hand, I was also still itching to play a bit more poker. And at some point, I was going to have to register for the Mini Main Event, the main thing I’d come to play, which was on the Monday. So I decided I might as well head back to the Rio, which had a rooftop bar which sounded quite cool. I must have somehow got some more money out. I may have been able to just get enough out for the evening from the hotel’s ATM which fortunately did not charge quite so much as at other places.

The rooftop bar was quite a trendy place, although I’d got there a little early, before it got very busy. The music was quite good. Drinks were on the pricey side, as you’d expect. I saw a guy standing on his own at the bar and wondered if he was a poker player, so I thought I’d ask him. It turned out that indeed he was. Turned out this was Adam Weinraub. Quite an unassuming, likeable character. I’m not sure if he classifies himself as professional. He told me his biggest win was a charity event. Only around $150,000 (only!). The most interesting thing he spoke about however was a film he was involved in. I don’t recall exactly what his involvement was. But it was a poker film called 7 Days To Vegas. Somebody had bet someone $1,000,000 that he couldn’t walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. With there being £1,000,000 available as an incentive, the guy achieved the feat in seven days, and of course, the film follows the story. I watched the trailer and it looks like quite a good fun film.

Well anyway, I had just one drink at the bar before heading down for a bit more poker. I decided I’d play in a $125 one-table satellite tournament. Bit mad that I was paying the price I’d normally expect to play in a largeish tournament back home for a satellite, but there we go. There were even $1000 satellite tournaments, so in the space of about twenty minutes, you could either lose $1000, or win $10,000, enough for a main event buy-in.

Here, my luck was in finally. It just so happened that also in the queue were a couple of guys from a website called Poker News. We got chatting and one of them told me that Chris Moneymaker was coming and he was going to play one of these “low stakes” satellites with them! If I hung around, I’d get to play on the same table as Chris Moneymaker! For anyone who doesn’t know, Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event back in 2003. At that time, he was a complete amateur and won his entry via a $80 online satellite. This triggered what is known as the Moneymaker effect, as an online boom in online poker, and poker in general, took hold. And just in case you’re wondering, yes it is his real name!

Well this was quite exciting. I had actually met Chris once before on a poker trip with Christina on the Isle of Mann. When I’d met him before, I mentioned quite a funny hand he’d been involved in when he played the Sharkcage TV show which he didn’t seem especially keen to talk about. I spoke about this with Chad, one of the guys from Poker News who was in the queue and he straightaway brought it up when Chris joined us, which I was a bit embarrassed about. But anyway, Chris seemed in quite good spirits. He popped to the loo, and we all took our places at the table.

Vegas4Moneymaker was in about seat 6. I was in seat 10. I honestly think that people in seats 1 or 10 should get some kind of discount as it’s a massive disadvantage, I think, not being able to see everyone and their chipstacks around the table with the dealer obscuring your view. But anyway, back to the game. After everyone had taken photos, and Chris had made various sidebets with most people, the game got underway. As I had not been able to withdraw much money, I had literally only about $15 left on me, so I was not able to get in on the sidebet action, which was a bit embarrassing for me, but I just kept quiet.

It was quite a lively, good natured game. You got just 1000 starting stack, so if you were going to play any hand, you pretty much had to be committed. Even Chris Moneymaker remarked on the small stacks. Some people were clearly taking it more seriously than others. I was definitely one of the ones taking it more seriously! A couple of people did go out before Chris Moneymaker and they had to pay up. I picked up K/J, made a raise and got one caller. It was a king high flop, so I led out for 200 and got called. On the turn, I made a bet of 450, like I say, to imply that I was basically committed and my opponent made what looked to be a slightly reluctant fold. Not sure what he had, but at least I had won the hand.

At some stage, it was folded round to Moneymaker in the small blind who had been fairly quiet in terms of playing hands. He went all in and was called. He had a mere J/3 off. Can’t remember what his opponent had, but it was sufficiently good to eliminate Chris. Cue lots of noise and people jumping up to take more photos, claim bets won, etc. Chris exited and now there were six or seven of us left.

I was then fortunate enough to pick up kings. The guy to my immediate right went all-in, so I followed suit. There were two more all ins after me! How lucky to have kings in a four way all-in in this kind of tournament! But of course, I had to still hope the hand held up. The guy who had initially gone all-in had A/J. One of the other players in the hand also had a pair. Don’t recall what the other hand was. But basically, my hand did indeed hold up! I remember there being two queens on the board, and I think it was a double paired board which helped nobody but myself. So I scooped a huge pot with now just three or four players left.

I think very next hand, or the hand after, I had queens, and the remaining female player, who also worked for Poker News was all-in with something like A/6. This time I got unlucky as she made a straight on the river, but a couple of hands later, she had a raggy ace v my A/J and this time she was out, we were down to heads-up and I had a massive chip lead.

The remaining guy also worked for Poker News. All the Poker News people were pleading with me to do a deal. This seemed absurd given my huge lead. I raised with, I think, A/6, and he went all-in. I thought about it and made the call, only to see that it was him with kings this time, which held up, just as when I had them.

Now of course, it was a different situation. I still had a big lead, but I suppose reason to be slightly nervous that he might make a comeback. For me, there was quite a lot of money on the line. It would have been nice to take down the $1000 as I could straightaway get my buy-in for the Mini Main Event which I wanted to play.

But anyway, as it panned out, as Jesse, my opponent, along with the others kept pleading with me, and as I possibly was starting to have small doubts, I did eventually relent and do a deal. I suppose part of my thinking was that if he did get back level with me, maybe then he wouldn’t do a deal at all and I’d lose the lot (even though, with my chip advantage, it was surely far more likely I would go on to win). So we agreed that I would get $600, plus the $20 he’d been given by Chris Moneymaker in a side bet, and he would get $500 and pay the dealer’s tip. I shook his hand and we stood up to wait for an adjudicator. As I stood up and looked at the huge difference in our chipstacks, it did occur to me what a terrible mistake I’d made. It was like I was just gifting this guy a couple of hundred dollars! But I stayed cool about it all. At least it meant I was keeping things friendly with the Poker News people.

Vegas5The adjudicator came over and awarded each of us with a chip worth $500, and Jesse gave me the other $120. We had a couple of photos taken and that was that.

I was now more-or-less even for my poker playing over the last couple of days, but I still had to get my Mini Main Event buy-in. If I’d held out for the win, I could have been up a bit, and would be paying a reduced amount for the Mini. Well anyway, I decided I might as well go and get my buy-in for the Mini Main Event (my main event) which was coming up in two days’ time, with a buy-in of $1000. I was told that I could either pay in full by card or cash. I could use my $500 chip, but only if I topped up with cash. So I was going to have to get cash out from the cashier which was going to be a bit expensive. Of course, all these problems could have been avoided if I’d just held on for the win in the sit n go and taken two $500 chips! Anyway, I did finally get my buy-in and headed back to the hotel.

Sunday was a lazy day spent mostly around the hotel. I got a pizza delivered to my room, and had a couple of beers. As Jeopardy wasn’t on, I watched a film, Bohemian Rhapsody, which was quite entertaining.

So Monday came around and finally it was the big day for me, the start of the Mini Main Event. I had breakfast at my hotel and got an Uber to the Rio. I found my seat (I’d actually been moved) and hung around before we were allowed to sit down.

I made a pretty good start. There were no especially aggressive players or anyone who I had any particular concerns about. I made a few reasonably good hands and by the first break, I think I was actually the chip leader at the table. The thing I couldn’t quite believe was just how many entries there were for this event. It was scheduled to be completed in two days, so my estimate was that there would be perhaps 200 entries. In fact there were well over 5000!! Typical of the sheer scale of everything in Vegas. There was no way they were going to complete the event in two days, but it meant the prizepool was going to be pretty big and I was definitely justified in playing this event rather than the EPT in Madrid.

Midway through the next four levels, as Jesse from Poker News had promised, a photographer came and took a photo of me, and then shortly after, one of their journalists came to ask if she could interview me in the next break. People at the table joked that I must be famous, and I explained that it was purely because I happened to have played the sit n go with Chris Moneymaker!

So the next break came around, and I was given a short interview. I told the interviewer a little about myself and my poker playing, and told her about my book. Another cigarette, then a quick toilet break and I was back at the table.

At some stage, I can’t remember exactly when, but a guy I thought I might have recognised joined the table. This turned out to be seven time bracelet winner, Men Nguyen, so of course, I was going to have to watch him. Unfortunately, I got involved in quite a big hand with him. I had A/Q in one of the blinds and 3 or 4 people had just flat called, so of course I put in a raise. I think the blinds were 1000/2000 so I made it 12,000. I got one caller from Nguyen. I probably would really have preferred everyone to fold, in which case, it might have been better to put an even bigger raise in.

The flop came king/7/something. Not an especially good flop for A/Q, and I wasn’t too sure how to play it. I probably should have put in a C bet. Anyway, I elected to check, expecting my opponent to bet instead, but fortunately for me, he also checked behind. I wasn’t too sure what to make of this. I’m not sure what the turn was, but now I put in a bet, but not an especially  big one. Nguyen called, and really I had no idea what he had at this stage. The river was another seven. I was a bit stuck as to what to do again. I took the safe option and checked. Now my opponent put in a big bet of 25,000. This did look a bit bluffy, and it was exactly the sort of bet you’d expect a professional to make to force an amateur to lay down his hand. I really wasn’t sure what he could have. I thought perhaps he might have a pair, like eights or something (in which case I’d be behind), but I also thought he might possibly have something like A/10. I spent a bit of time deciding what to do, thinking my A/Q might still be good. I looked at my chip stack. If I made the call and was wrong, I would be crippled, but if I was right, I would up to about 100,000 or so and would be in quite a good position. In a way, if it had been a re-entry event and I was contemplating re-entering, it wouldn’t be such a bad call. Ironic of course that it wasn’t, and I was preferring to play in it partly because it wasn’t. I was about to say “Will you show if I fold?” but I was fairly sure he probably wouldn’t show. Instead, the words that came out of my mouth were “I call!”

It was a huge hero call in the early stages of a $1000 entry tournament. Generally, hero calls I’d made in other tournaments I’d played in over the course of my stay had worked out well. I made a hero call in one tournament with ace high, putting my opponent on a missed straight draw and was correct. I made another call with king high on a double paired board, and again, my opponent had nothing. But in both those cases, the bet size had not been anywhere near as much and making the call would not badly affect my stack size.

Well, in this case, regretfully I was wrong! Nguyen showed 7/10 hearts for trips. Not sure why I had not even really considered that he had a seven. I think if I had put in a bigger bet pre-flop, there’s no way he’d have come along with 7/10. Obviously a bit of a gamble on his part playing it at all, but of course, those sorts of cards can reap big rewards as they did in this case. I was pretty devastated. What on earth had I done?! I was now down to just over 15k and was going to have to pray that I picked up some good cards pretty soon.

Well, sadly, I didn’t last too much longer. I had J/10 of clubs, and went all-in against a player who I think had flat called or min raised with A/5. The flop came 10/2/4, so at least I began ahead. I cried for no three. The turn was another 10 and it was looking quite good for me, but tragically, the three did indeed come on the river, and as Norman Chad would say, I was whamboozled!

I rang Christina, who I’d been in touch with, to let her know the bad news. When I finally confessed to the call I’d made with A/Q she was pretty angry with me. I know, I had been a fool. Wasn’t quite sure what to do now. I think I contacted Jesse. Jesse got back to me quite quickly to invite me to a charity karaoke night in a bar not too far from the Rio. What the hell, I thought, might be fun.

The time was about 6pm or so, and for some reason, I had thought the flyer he sent me said it started at seven, so I thought I might as well head straight over. It was quite a funky little bar in the Chinatown area. Somehow, I had mis-read the flyer as it turned out the karaoke didn’t start till 10pm, but at least there was a band playing before then, and it was happy hour when I arrived, so that was something. Inevitably, there were games machines at the bar. The guy next to me was betting quite big on blackjack, and we got chatting. I played a bit of blackjack as well for lower stakes. He owned a t-shirt business, it turned out. At one point, he showed me a ticket of his winnings which were over $300 and he said he’d buy the drinks all night, but I said he didn’t need to do that! I ordered some chips and was given a bowl of crisps. Clearly my order had not translated well, and I should have ordered fries!

Vegas6Eventually, 10pm came around, and Jesse was there, and people started asking for songs to sing. People were picking some quite obscure songs. There were a few people from Poker News, as well as some people they’d invited, some quite well known in poker circles. I got to meet Norman Chad, one of my favourite poker commentators who is quite a lively and funny commentator, but in person came across as quite reserved. Also there was Jake Cody, who I’d also met on my trip to the Isle of Mann. When I’d met him before, he seemed to be a nice, friendly person. This time, he came across as a bit more aloof. It may have been because he had a posse of people with him. Or it might have been because as time went on I was becoming increasingly drunk! I tried to chat to Jake about football and a couple of the women he was with shooed my away.

Vegas7Also there was a professional player I hadn’t heard of before called Vanessa Kade. She turned out to be pretty friendly. She was quite attractive and was definitely getting the attention of quite a few of the men at the event.

I sang a couple of songs. Singing really is not my strong point however. I am ok when it comes to joining in chants at football matches, but singing solo, I am really, really bad. I tried to pick songs that would not be too difficult, or at least I hoped. I tried “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses and I think murdered it. I also sang “Step On” by The Mondays and “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. I sang these just as badly, if not worse, but I tried to redeem myself by dancing a bit on the stage. Actually, this probably made things even worse.

So in general, I don’t think I was coming across very well to everyone. At least Jesse and the Poker News people were still being nice enough to me. It came around to 2pm and closing time. I had now been drinking for around seven hours so I must have been quite drunk. People were talking about going elsewhere. The two women who had been with Jake Cody left to go somewhere. Jake, Vanessa and a couple of others went to leave. I followed them out, thinking I could go along with them, but when I got to their waiting vehicle, Cody told me there was no room. I did feel like this was a bit of a snub. Maybe there genuinely wasn’t enough room, I don’t know. Anyway, I honestly didn’t care too much. I was probably too drunk to be going on to another nightclub. Maybe I should just let the youngsters enjoy themselves without a drunken old timer like me spoiling there fun. I said goodbye to Jesse and got an Uber back to my hotel.

I awoke the following morning with a bit of a hangover, but I was still keen to play a bit more poker. I headed back to the Rio and entered into the 4pm deep stack tournament. You got a 15k starting stack so it wasn’t especially deep. I did ok for a while. Then I picked up jacks, and again there were a few callers, so I put in a raise, but two or three people came along. It was a queen high flop which wasn’t too good for me. Someone before me went all in for about 8k. It was obvious he had the queen, but given the pot size, it made sense for me to also come along as I still had a fair bit behind. Sadly his Q/10 held up. I kept going for a bit longer. Can’t quite remember my exit hand now. At least there’d been a fairly amusing Canadian guy who looked a bit like Dustin Hoffman. He kept us entertained with his jokes. Also at the table was a guy who was known as Mr Possibility. He had it written on his cap. He kept saying that he had “possibilities” with regard to his hands. I think he said he was planning to play the main event.

I think I had now had just about enough of playing poker. I got a couple of WSOP t-shirts as souvenirs for myself and Christina. Got another couple of things from another souvenir shop at the Rio and headed back to my hotel.

The following day would be my final day in Vegas and I decided I would do a couple of things other than play poker. I headed over to the rollercoaster that I could see from my hotel and went on that. It was quite a good one. Had a couple of games of pinball. I walked around the MGM Grand and a couple of other places that I hadn’t yet visited on the strip. As I came out of Planet Hollywood, I stopped to talk to a guy who was a Vietnam War Veteran (it said so on his t-shirt and cap). He was a lovely old guy and we chatted about politics (he hated Trump, as did most Americans I’d spoken to), chatted about good places to travel to etc. He said he loved Prague. We must have just stood chatting in the street for around twenty minutes before finally saying our farewells.

Vegas8I did plan to go back to the Rio later to possibly catch some of the action from the first day of the Main Event, and as I was going back there, I bought a ticket for the show they have there, Wow. This was quite good, mostly acrobats and juggling artists, with dancers, etc. Then I met up with Jesse again who was covering the Main Event. He showed me the room where the feature tables were, so that was quite good to see. Eventually I said goobye to Jesse and headed back to my hotel once more, where I packed, had one more beer or two and settled down to bed.

It was the day of my departure, July 4th. In some ways this was another bit of bad planning as it might have been good to see the Independence Day fireworks. My planning in general had not been brilliant as if I’d arrived a couple of days earlier, I could have played in the Colossus, another side event in the WSOP, and then, as mentioned, it might have been better to stay one or two more days longer. But on the other hand, I had done most of what I wanted to do, with the Mini Main Event being my primary focus. I possibly could have made more of my time in Vegas. Maybe I will have to come back some time. I hadn’t had a very successful time with the poker, but I’d had some good experiences. Along with the pro players mentioned, I also ran into Will Kassouf and saw Elky from a distance.

I had breakfast and got an Uber to the airport. Was not surprised to see yet more slot machines in the airport! I was sat next to a quiet guy on the journey back, so I mostly just watched films, played games etc. I still had the four hour train ride from Manchester back to Cardiff, but this wasn’t so bad as it was a nice day and the scenery was beautiful on this route. I was finally back home and caught up with friends who were keen to hear about my adventures. Fortunately, I didn’t really suffer from jetlag either way. I do wonder if the concept of jetlag is just a bit of a cliché, invented by people who are not used to being all night on the sesh! The following day I was at a free party in a forest in mid Wales, but that’s a whole other story.