Monday, December 12, 2005

WPBT ’05 Trip Report

12 DEC 05


Like most bloggers preparing their trip report, I have no idea where to begin. How do you describe the best Vegas week ever? Are there enough adjectives? Will I get the point across? Does anyone care?

Faithful readers of my blog (basically my Dad, and sometimes my dear and patient wife) were both there. They know what happened. New bloggers I met may also stop by this humble blog (hey guys!), but they were also there. We all saw this incredible event unfold. It was legendary even before it ended.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Wednesday: My mother-in-law has everything under control. She knows where to find the daycare, the school and the scotch (okay, maybe not the scotch). She kisses the dear and patient wife/daughter and the dutiful son-in-law (your hero) and sends us off to the Seatac airport. An uneventful direct flight into McCarran Airport has us both saying, “Vegas, baby!”

My wonderful wife has already set up the shuttle to take us to the Wynn. That’s right. You heard me. We were staying uptown! And let me tell you, everything they say about this place is true. You gotta love a guy (Steve Wynn) who says, “hmmm… I think we need something in front of the hotel. I know! A mountain. Yeah. Put it right there. No, a little to the left. Good. Now cover it with trees and a huge friggin’ waterfall. Hmmm… Better make it four waterfalls. And fountains!! How come you didn’t remind me about the fountains???” Rooms? Go ahead and put plasma TV’s in the bathrooms. You heard me!! Put in a computer operated mini bar while you’re at it. If they lift up the chocolate and don’t put it back within 60 seconds, charge ‘em! We gotta pay for these friggin’ waterfalls, dammit.

Still, I couldn’t help but think that the Bellagio was a bit more grand. I think it was intentional. In an article I read, Steve Wynn said he already did “grand.” With the Wynn, he wanted to pay more attention to detail. He did, but I think he lost something in the effort. Most of my party agreed (that the Bellagio was better), but that shouldn’t detract from how incredible the Wynn really was.

I’m not there for 10 minutes, and I already have a $100 bar bill. Can you say $25 for 18 year-old Macallan? The bartender actually had a 52 year old Macallan that he let me sniff. It smelled sweet, but get this - it’s $650 for one shot. No shit. This is going to be a great trip. Dinner at Wing Lei is $800 for our party of 10. I better hit the poker room. Fast.

Well, first I have to stop off at the craps table. I help Dad with his chips (he’s blind) and the pit crew is awesome and patient as we start playing the highest stakes craps game of our lives. $15 minimum bets, and suddenly I’ve got $200 on the table. Point. Point again. Holy crap! No wait.


No phrase is more painful than “7 out” said in that droll monotone. I friggin’ hate that. Still, I was about even. Back up to $300 on the table and… “7 out.” Donked off $300.

It’s time to play a little game we call poker.

It’s the $1 - $3 NL table right by the rail at the Wynn. A huge crowed of railbirds watch as I sit down next to Duke. Duke is a local Vegas legend. I pull out my $300 stake and call for chips. That’s when I notice that Duke has about $20,000 in cash and chips in front of him. Can you say, “seat change!!” I moved from his right to his left (he was now seated on my right). He was very boisterous and gregarious, introducing himself to everyone at the table and flirting with a really cute girl on the rail. He said he just had his 50th birthday and he was here to celebrate. Needless to say, I was nervous. I fully expected him to live straddle and run over the table. What I found, though, was the tightest player I’ve ever met. He never bet more than $9, he saw about one in 10 hands, and never saw a river card. I’m sure he never varied more than $20 up or down for the hour he sat there (and half of that $20 was spent buying a drink for the model/hooker on the rail). At least he got a kiss on the cheek from her before she left.

After he left, I heard from some of the locals that this is a regular thing for him. He hops from casino to casino as sort of a pseudolife - buying in for far more than necessary, but never playing the games where he might actually put any of that money at risk. Sometimes he shows up in a tux. One of the locals started going on and on about “Duke’s little weiner,” until the dealer had enough and threatened to kick him out. For my take, I thought the guy was a little desperate for attention, but he certainly found a way to get it and was one of the highlights of my trip.

End of the night: Up $100, including the $300 loss at craps.

Thursday: More family time. Our posse consists of my dad, his wonderful girlfriend Judy (is it okay to call her a girlfriend when their combined age is over 120? Talk amongst yourselves), my aunts and uncles from Florida and Alabama, my dad’s cousins from Toronto and us. We all head out on the town, culminating with Rita Rudner doing her stand-up shtick. We all laughed really hard in places and at least smiled the whole time. Sitting in the front row sucked, and we all complained of a sore neck by the end.

Back to the Wynn. Donk off $200 more at the craps table before I learn my lesson. It was the last time I played craps in Vegas. A long wait for the $1 - $3 NL table has me sitting in with the dear and patient wife at the $4 - $8 limit table. Holy crap! She plays 4 hands, 4 hands, and she’s up $200. Can you say, OPM*? I knew you could.

Move to the $1 - $3 NL table. Win $300. Thankyouverymuch.

Okay. It’s two am (Golden Earring, anyone?). We are back in the room and the pillows look awfully inviting, but I’m restless. There are bloggers in Vegas, and it’s my duty to find them. Shaking her head, the dear and patient wife finally says, “go already!” A 10 minute taxi to the Excalibur and, holy crap, I’m in blogger heaven. Immediately I see all my internet heroes. There’s Joe Speaker, Bad Blood, CJ, Otis, Drizz and The Mark. Where the hell is Pauly? Shit, he’s right there. I shook his friggin’ hand!! What? There’s a seat for me?

Pauly isn’t at our table but all the others are. I buy in for $100 and proceed to stomp all over the bloggers. That’s right. You heard me. I ran that $100 up to $450 in about an hour (sorry Bad Blood) when Drizz says, “let’s switch to Omaha 8 high/low.” The dealer says no way, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. My total experience at this game is .01/.02 PLO on Pokerstars, and I’ve lost nearly every time. The Mark chimes in. “If the manager tells you to do it, will you deal it?” “Of course,” says the dealer, “but he will never agree to it.” Turns out The Mark knows the guy and sure enough, I’m playing PLO. Crap.

I fold every hand until I’m dealt AAQ2. The flop is AA10. Holy crap. I bet $25 and everyone folds. I turn over my quads and ask, “Is that any good? I really have no idea how to play this game.”

Only one other hand of note. The details are a little fuzzy, but here is the gist. I pick up A23Q on the button and call $3 into a five way pot. The flop is K53 giving me the nut low draw. I call a $15 bet and three of us see the turn. It’s a 10 and it checks to me. I check and the river brings an 8. I have the nut low. The Mark bets $50. Drizz folds, and without knowing what I’m doing, I say, “pot.” The dealer (very sharp, BTW) says, “that’s $262.” Did anyone see my balls jump up into my throat? Geez, I hope not.

The Mark goes into the tank. I’m praying he has the high when he says, “I’ve got the nut low, I think I need to call.” Shit. All I have at this point is A-high. Even a pair of 2’s and I get ¼ of the pot. I just keep smiling. Finally, he calls and turns over…


That’s right. Chop it up!! Everyone at my end of the table says no one else makes that call. Too bad for me, but I walked around and gave him a high five. It was the hand of the night. Even Otis said it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. With the blinds and extra small bets that were in that pot, I’m up! I’m a winning O8 H/L player, dammit! Look out Pokerstars!!

I shake hands all around and I’m off to bed, crashing at around 5:30 am. Gotta love Vegas.

Friday: The Wynn buffet for breakfast and dinner. Can you say, “hedonism?” I knew you could. All I remember is John Elway was sitting two tables over, I had king crab legs that were (no shit) 3 feet long and my wife had 4 rambutons. I wouldn’t eat these things on a bet. They look like small pink porcupines, but apparently the fruit inside is quite good. I’ll take their word for it.

No one’s at the Excalibur at midnight (I forgot they were all the MGM playing HORPSE), but the wife and I both won at $2 - $4 limit with a table full of donkeys. We should have won a lot more but for a few unlucky rivers. Still, OPM is awfully nice.

Saturday: Show up at the Imperial Palace at 10 am with our luggage and see a whole lot of familiar faces, including Whiskeytown, who I played with the night before at the most incredible $1 - $3 table I’ve ever sat at. It was at Paris, and I hope he blogs about it. If not, look here for a future post about the maniac of all maniacs.

I’m first on the alternate list, and as people are paying the $65 entry fee, I get to pose with some of the invited speakers, including Barry Greenstein (the Robin Hood of poker) and Charlie Shoten. Holy crap, it’s Wil Wheaton! I shake his hand and I’m a big dumb fan again. I tell him the story about how bonding with my son while watching TNG in Germany was similar to his story about bonding with his step kids while watching Firefly. I hope he doesn’t think I’m too big of a geek. Wait… doesn’t that make me a kindred spirit?

Okay. Here comes the negative part. I’m a real upbeat person, and I hate to say bad things, but here goes. Next time we do this, will someone please tell the speakers to limit their talks to 5 minutes max? Thanks. If I had to hear Michael Craig say, “the next thing that happened was…” one more time, I was going to punch someone.

11:45 am and the cards are in the air. I’m seat 4, table 4 and Bill Friggin’ Rini is on my right. He’s aggressive, so I get to coast a bit. Before the first hand he tosses a $25 tourney chip at the dealer and says, “Aces please.” Sure enough, the next hand he bets $150, gets no callers and flips up aces. I try the same shtick.

No kidding. I get Aces the very next hand.

But wait, there’s more. I proceed to get AA again 4 hands later. I raise to 4x BB and get one caller. It turns out she’s Pokergeek’s girlfriend, and she just calls. The flop is low cards. I bet, she raises and I reraise all in. She thinks for about 20 seconds and calls with QQ. No help on the turn and river and she’s out. I love busting people, but I felt truly bad for her. She clearly has a lot riding on this emotionally, but she recovered quickly and came back just in time to watch me go up against her boyfriend.

Pokergeek is to my immediate left. I’m SB and he’s BB. Everyone folds to me and I go right into the Scotty Nguyen bit from one of the Poker Superstars events.

Dr. Chako: Dealer, what’s the minimum raise?

Dealer: $600.

Dr. Chako: So I have to put in how much?

Dealer: An extra $450.

At this point I deliberately count out $450 chips.

Dr. Chako: Okay. Minimum raise. Is that right?

Dealer: Yes, that’s right.

Pokergeek (looking right at me): All in.

Dr. Chako: Call!!

I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. He flips over KQ, and I flip over AA.

That’s right. I busted out both Geek and girlfriend-of-Geek with AA. He was very gracious and shook my hand before giving me his bounty prize – a very cool Full Tilt hat. Truly a gentleman.

Afterwards, everyone at the table said they knew what I was doing. I made it easy for them because I had AA 5 friggin’ times within the first ½ hour!! It seems they had all seen that Scotty Nguyen episode, too. Too bad Geek doesn’t watch poker on TV. To be honest, I really expected him to fold just so I could show everyone that I AA once again.

I’m up and down, including folding AQ off suit to Jason (Justin?) who then showed his Q4 (bastard!) and reraising Bill Rini with QQ. He folded after a short time in the tank. I put him on something like J10 based on the way he folded and his aggressive style. We’ll see.

I run up to about $8000 (we started with $2500) and it’s the break. I stay to watch the dealer race off the green chips. I’ve got three greenies and she flips me a 2, a 3 and a 4. Oh well. But wait. My four plays!!

I’m moved to table 1, seat four, and guess who is in seat 7? Wil Friggin’ Wheaton. I’m in heaven. Thank goodness for the wife and the digital camera, because I wasn’t there long. The table is pretty tight and I pick up pocket 4s on the button. It checks around to me, and I briefly think about folding (I had folded 44 twice so far) or maybe put in a minimum raise, but no. I go, “all-in.”

The small blind goes into the tank. Shit. We are even in chips and I think he’s thinking about calling. He does calls and the big blind quickly calls behind.

SB has 10s and BB has Qs. A straight for the 10’s on the turn means I’m done. The river brings the BB a full house for a very exciting hand that I got to watch as I was walking away.

Still, the early exit meant we could catch an earlier flight back home to Federal Way, and I got to hug my kids before bedtime.

Here’s the bottom line. I got a hug from Pauly. I got to shake hands with Wil Wheaton and John Elway. I got to pose with Barry Greenstein, and I got to play in the WPBT.

I’d say I’m the luckiest man alive, but there are about 100 bloggers that probably feel the same way.

When are we doing it again guys, ‘cause it can’t be soon enough.

*OPM – other people’s money


Matt Silverthorn said...

Not all of the bloggers were there! I wish I had been because it sounds like an awesome time. I'm totally going to try and make it next year.

iamhoff said...

I'm with Matt. I started this blogging thing too late to get up to speed on the WPBT. Too bad, because everybody is making it sound like a total blast. I'm going to do everything in my power to make it to the next one.

Also, as I said I'm new to this blogging thing. Hope you don't mind if I add your link to my blog. Get some sleep. You probably still need it!

Unknown said...

I hear the $1/$2 PLO8 game is really soft on Stars. *cough*

Let me know if you ever want to try it out and I'll point out who to avoid.

It was a pleasure playing with you :)

Pauly said...

Awesome write up. Great job, Dr!