Monday, July 28, 2008

Las Vegas Poker

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I actually played poker before I fled Las Vegas for the silicon-lush hills of Hollyweird. During the seven weeks of the WSOP, I did not play one hand of live poker. Zip. I limited myself to a couple of sessions of online poker and that was mostly Saturdays with Dr. Pauly appearances on PokerStars.

The only gambling fix over the previous two months included outrageous prop bets like lime tossing with Otis or sports bets on the NBA finals and the European soccer championships. Both ventures proved profitable. I avoided the pits. No Pai Gow. Zero craps. Blackjack? I have not played in years. Maybe that's why I left Las Vegas a winner?

* * * * *

Red Rock.

The day after the WSOP ended, Change100 and I were on an odd sleeping schedule. It was 8pm and she was sleeping. I was wide awake and headed to Red Rock to watch the baseball all star game. There was a wait for any NL games so I sat down at a 4/8 with a half kill limit table and kept an eye on the game as it went into extra innings. A couple of old timers at my table had bet on the all star game. Who bets on baseball all star games? Degenerates and action junkies. If I knew you could bet on it, I would have. Oversight on my part.

The game was exciting and it captured my attention as I folded and folded. There's a bad beat jackpot at all Stations Casinos sprinkled throughout Las Vegas. When I lived in Henderson (before Red Rock ever existed and before Green Valley Ranch added their poker room) with Grubby, we used to play at Sunset Station in their peculiar 3-6-9 limit game. Sunset was a part of the Station Casino junta which meant that all of the poker rooms in those casinos were linked up in a collective bad beat jackpot. Not only does the table win a massive share... if you are playing in any Station Casino when the jackpot hits, then you also get a piece of the pie.

Every day that the jackpot is not won, the qualifying hand drops which means that the poker rooms get jam packed as the jackpots soar. It was hard to get a seat on those days and guys nearly pissed themselves because they didn't want to miss out just in case the hand hit when they were taking a leak.

It took me a while to adjust playing in the bad bead jackpot games at the Station Casinos. I opened up my hand selection and played any pair and any suited connectors. Never know when you'll get lucky and have quads versus a straight flush situation.

On that night, with the all star game on in the background, I did my best to tilt the locals. I got one guy all hot under the collar when I played 5h-3h on the button to a raise and re-raise in front of me. In all fairness, I capped it. I flopped a flush draw and gutshot. I made a straight on the turn. There was an Ace on the board as well and I won the pot. My opponent mucked and he muttered something about getting his Jacks cracked by ace-rag. That's when I tabled my 5h-3h.

"You called two raises with that?" he said with a quiver in his voice and launched into a rant about how awful of a player I was.

Usually I just shrug my shoulders or give them the stink eye. Since I had been chatty with my end of the table and talking a bit, I was in a chipper mood.

"I don't care what kind of cards you play or don't play," I said. "I'm here to win myself and our table that juicy bad beat jackpot."

That's when a few locals stood up for me.

"Don't knock the kid for trying to make us some money," one guy barked in my defense.

Later that night, I actually made a straight flush, but with 9c-6s. I flopped the OESFD and got there on the turn.

* * * * *


I like being the unknown guy at the table. On the Strip, I dress like a tourist. I drink beer instead of water. I never do chip tricks. I act like a mark.

I like to watch. I observe. That's what I do as a writer. I watch people. After seeing the world's best poker players compete for seven straight weeks, all of that soaks up into my brain while I'm on the job as a tournament reporter. All of that information comes to fruition when I'm at the poker tables.

I can't explain it, but my Spidey senses are at full peak in the weeks after the WSOP. In the previous three summers, I cleaned up at the tables. I always extended my time in Vegas to take advantage of my heightened senses.

It's almost impossible to study Allen Cunningham or that random Scandi with the perfectly messy hair and trying to figure out what they're holding as a monster pot develops in front of you. I always try to guess what they have. I'm right a small percentage of the time. It's not an easy task. After all, those are world class pros.

But when you sit down at a 1/2 NL table at the Venetian, reads and tells are oozing out of people's eyes, ears, mouth, and noses. You know when people hit hands. You can sniff out their weak bluffs and pick off continuation bets.

I was a little rusty and had not played live poker since the WSOP began. But my instincts were hyper-sensitive. I made a couple of Kenny Tran-esque calls including one with bottom pair because I knew the guy missed a flush draw.

I also picked the right folks to bully around. After only one orbit I had a general sense of how each player played and more importantly... the differences in how they perceived themselves, how they projected themselves at the table, and the reality of who they actually were.

Seat 1 was a dealer. He was from out of town and just finished dealing at the Venetian deep stacks events. Most dealers are skilled players but they are action junkies which is their downfall. They play too many pots and make too many bad calls. Seat 1 was a calling station and not going to get pushed off a pot.

Seat 2 was a greasy local in a sweat suit. He looked like he should be sitting in the cheap seats at Aqueduct race track clutching a fistful of losing tickets and chomping down a stale cigar awaiting for the fourth race to go off. He was weak-tight. But cagey too. He limped with big hands like pocket Queens and Big Slick. If you pushed him around, he would only fight back if he had something. I stole a couple of pots from him and got the hell out of the way when he came over the top.

Seat 3 was the foreign guy. Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan. Lickatwatistan. He would play a hand and get up and wander around the room leering at the hot massage girls. I did not blame him. They were sultry and sexy and I wanted a lap dance. I wanted a sensual below the belt rub and not just a neck rub. I actually got jealous when a guy at an adjacent table hired one of the girls for a twenty minute massage. I almost went on Otis tilt and spewed all of my chips.

Seat 4 was a local with a golf tan. Also weak-tight and he did not say on word to me the entire time I sat there. He also didn't chop. A local who didn't chop? I got pissed and raised him when he limped for $1 in the small blind. He could have saved $1.

Seat 5 was your hero. I was killing time before I met some friends for dinner at David Burke.

Seat 6 was a tourist with a short stack and a knack for drinking Coronas very fast.

Seat 7 was the birthday boy. The well groomed kid turned 21 and had a thick Southern accent. North Georgia? G-Vegas? He decimated jack and cokes like John Daly on the back nine at Winged Foot. And he talked loudly even though he thought he was whispering. A guy who can't see straight can be an extremely profitable opponent he can be a boil on your ass.

Seat 8 was the table captain. Twenty-something girl who had recently moved to Las Vegas from her Pacific Northwest enclave. She wore oversized sunglasses more suited for a Hollywood starlet and must have said she played poker for a living a dozen times in the first ten minutes that I sat down. She thought she was hot shit and I drowned out her running commentary of the game since her overconfidence was an obvious beard for her lack of self-esteem. She did plenty of chip tricks and tried to run over the table with raises and snide remarks. Bullies don't like to be bullied. I three-bet her a couple of times and she quickly retreated, but not without a verbal barb. She always had to get the last word in. Don't ya hate that? I had a great comeback that I didn't want to say. It would have been too cruel. "You're a 'pro' today, but within a month you'll be broke and dealing $20 tourneys at Circus Circus."

Seat 9 was the retired Vietnam vet who was in town with his wife and kids. He knew how to play but he lacked casino poker experience. He constantly string bet. He was the perfect guy to overbet on the river because he'd call... "just to keep you honest." Thanks for donating.

Benjo played at a 1/2 NL table nearby. We were both waiting to meet up with our friends for dinner. I looked up and Paul "X-22" Maigrel walked past my table and sat down at Benjo's table. About twenty minutes later, I had cashed out of my game and went over to drag Benjo out of his game.

As I walked up to the table, Benjo and X-22 were involved in a pot. Benjo check-raised him on a King flop with two clubs. X-22 muttered something and folded Jacks. Benjo showed him the semi-bluff with Qc-9c. X-22 was not happy. Benjo racked up his chips and that pissed him off even more.

"Where you going with my money?" said X-22.

"I'm going to dinner," said Benjo.

"I'll remember you!" shouted X-22.

I can't confirm this because my French is awful, but I swore I heard Benjo call X-22 a monkeyface cumstain.

* * * * *

Treasure Island.

We were shitfaced drunk and arrived at 10:30 for their 10pm tournament. It was full but we were alternates including two chicks with fake boobs. Michalski was the first one seated. He busted out before any of us could sit down. I built up a stack early before both Benjo and Change100 were out. I was eliminated shortly after the first break. I made a move with Jd-10d and lost to 9-rag. MeanGene went deep but was the bubble boy.

After the tournament I headed to the Pai Gow tables with Change100. I went on a heater and won during my only Pai Gow session all summer. I wanted to play three hands at once but they wouldn't let me. I originally played my hands plus the dragon every time. I got permission to play the empty seat next to mine. However, I wanted the option to play the dragon. Three hands. Triple the Pai Gow action. The floor would not approve of my request. Alas, I had to only play two.

* * * * * *

Mandalay Bay.

I went to Burger Bar inside Mandalay Bay to meet Flipchip and Poker Prof for dinner. I also hung out with Schaubs who was in town for a wedding.

I killed some time playing 1-2 NL in a game that was a mixture of locals and tourists. I built up a stack early but almost got felted when my Aces lost to Kings. As soon as the dealer spiked the King of spades on the river, my opponent's eyes nearly out of his head. Talk about the biggest tell of the summer. I knew he made his set. He had been check-calling me on every street. He tried to check-raise me on the river. I didn't fall for that trap and checked behind. That saved me the rest of my stack.

* * * * *


And then there's the scorpion. Schecky killed a tiny scorpion when I was in Colorado. The scorpion gained entry from the sliding glass door that separated the backyard and pool area from the house. But Schecky got him before he could go deep in the house.

Schecky displayed the conquered carcass underneath a glass in the kitchen. The dead scorpion body looked shriveled up with the menacing stinger still in tact. That might have been the biggest break we caught at Scheckytown.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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