Jazbo in Wonderland

June 1995

Arrival in Las Vegas

I arrived bright and early on Saturday morning, with a full day of exploration ahead of me before my workshop on Sunday. First stop: Hard Rock Hotel, mainly to pick up some $1 tokens for souvenirs. As expected, the rock memorabelia was outstanding, but it was a lot quieter than I had been led to believe by other posters. However, 11 AM is probably not typically when the place really rocks ;-).

Anyway, after checking into the Tropicana, I made it to Desert Inn in plenty of time for the 2PM No Limit Hold'em Tourney. When I paid my $15+$1 entry (for T500 with the extra $1 for the dealers giving another T100), I noticed a couple of young Asian guys that could be Keith Miyake and Garrette Choi playing $1-4 stud (they told me they might be there). I didn't hang around to find out since I hadn't eaten since 6AM EST and it was now past 4PM by my internal clock. I zipped into the coffee shop (what's the name? I've never been disappointed there) in the DI for a nice, large lunch/dinner.

The tourney was late starting, so I sat in the $1-4 game and before long my suspicions were confirmed & I made my first r.g contacts of the trip. My notes from the tourney are sparse (i.e., nil), but I rebought once, took another rebuy and one add-on, but still busted out before the final table. Keith lasted the longest of the 3 of us, but finished out of the money. Garrett stayed to play some more stud, while Keith and I decided to head down to the Gambler's Book Club and then to the 4 Queens to check out the Summer Tournament. Unfortunately, the GBC closes at 5PM on Sat., and we just missed getting there in time.

Fremont St. is a mess, but we didn't have any trouble getting into Binion's free (for 4 hours with validation) parking 1 block to the north. We mosied down to the 4 Queens, where I got the info on the $200 NL Hold'em Tourney. The buy-in and $200 rebuys (for 2 hours) each get you T200. There is also a $200 add-on option. With the short starting stack, the action would be fast from the get-go. I wouldn't be comfortable sitting down with less than $1000. I resolved to skip it unless I won a satellite or hit it big earlier in ring games.

We stopped by Binion's, found out Jim Albrecht wasn't in, signed up for poker, but didn't get seats. I piddled around at low-limit single-deck BJ for about an hour before we decided to head back to DI for the 7:30 tourney.

This time, I decided to play Bonetti-style. I played very aggressively (I'm usually very tight at NL, with an occasional cheap blind steal). Result: 4 buy-ins + add-on :-(. I went out on a particularly bad play when I raised preflop with KJs and tried to buy the pot when the flop came T9x. I got *two* callers -- a lady who I should have read as never folding in her position (big stack) with AQ, and another all-in with J9. She knocked us both out when an A came on the river. I can't excuse my poor judgment, but I had been up for 19 hours with little sleep the night before. Garrett did well in this event -- in the money, I think.

Well, I was 0 for 2 in tournaments the first day. I was dead tired, but decided to check out the Tropicana poker room before turning in. They only have 4 or 5 tables and don't open until 11AM (if then), but there was a nice little $1-4 stud game going on. This was the softest game I saw for the whole trip. Typically 5 of the 6 other players would call the $1 bring-in (no ante) with hardly a raise. What do you think your expectation is when you don't have to ante until you see your cards? ;-) Given my tiredness, I know I didn't play well, but I had fun and easily won about $100. I capped off the evening with a Schnapps )no RumpleMintz :-( and a Heineken. [Note: I should probably have kept farming the local plot for my entire stay, but I wanted to sample as many poker rooms as possible on this trip.]

The Rio

The next day was an 8AM-6PM workshop, but I had a chance to get in a little poker when we went to the Rio to try the buffet which has been so highly recommended here. It was worth way over the $7.44 price, especially when you skip the long wait with a line pass from the poker room. I didn't win a single hand during the hour I was "paying" for the line pass, despite taking a few shots at the large pots with lots of early action in $1-4-8-8 hold'em. I finally hit one hand: KQs, which made top pair on the flop (K) and held up. I got so much action that I vaulted from down $50 to +$67 in that one hand. A nice way to cap the evening.

The Luxor

After the second long day of the workshop, I headed down to the Luxor. The building itself is really fascinating --- did they build an internal pyramid form and construct on top of that? Well worth the trip just to see it, but the poker was not as soft as I would like & I soon abandoned it in favor of the MGM (my first visit there too).


The place is huge -- I don't think I saw half of it. The poker room is second in size (in LV) only the Mirage. (Actually, I think Binion's has about the same number of tables, but the MGM has a more spacious layout.)

Have you ever had one of those nights where one player could seemingly do no wrong (& why isn't it ever me?)? We had one at the $1-4-8-8 hold'em game. He was playing fast & loose, often adding another rack to his growing tower. Of course, sometimes he would dip down into his pile, but I could never seem to catch him on the ebb. He made quad 8's soon followed by quad A's. I had broken my 3rd C-note when they decided to merge two short-handed games. Unfortunately, Mr. MoneyBags decided this was a good time to cash in. I fought on the rest of the night, finally getting almost back to evening. The first day of the main conference would be a long (sleepy) one for me.


Desert Inn has a No-Limit Pineapple Tournament on Tuesdays. Now, I have never played pineapple, but I do think I know a bit about no-limit. Anyway, I got them to spread a little $1-4 pineapple before the tourney (how rare is this?) so I could get a feel for the game. This must have done the trick (or was it just great cards ;-), because at the break I was in good chip position without making a single rebuy (but I took the $1000 add-on along with everyone else for another $15). One hand of note before the break: I picked up AcAdAs! Trips is probably a lousy pineapple hand, but trip Aces is something else. I bet it aggressively and managed to get *three* all-in callers. Unfortunately, the flop came up with 3 hearts, with another heart on the turn --- at least the one red Ace I had tossed wasn't the Ah. Luckily the smallest stack was the only one with a heart and I had a nice profit on the hand while increasing the equity of the prize pool by two buy-ins.

After the rebuy period we were down to one table. A young fellow to my right looked as if he could be an r.g'er, but neither of us were using a BARGE chip cover, so I couldn't tell for sure. I did notice he perked up with I used "gumbo" to describe an 85 flop. I eventually got AA (no 3rd Ace this time). I can't recall the details, but I think I just called the blind & the young fellow raised. I raised back a big stack and he called. There was some confusion about how the dealer announced my bet and the amount he put in. Anyway, he had TT and was crippled or knocked out by the hand. After he got up he asked my name. Turns out he was Greg (AKA gfw), and a frequent r.g'er. Sorry to knock you out, Greg -- gotta drop those TT's!

When we got down to three handed (2 places paid), I picked up KQsx and played KQs. The flop was Qxx and my lone opponent went all-in. Being the big stack, I felt I had to call, regretting it when he showed down AA. However, the force was with me & a K came on the turn, knocking him out. The other player was in his first tournament & I knocked him out on the next hand when the river gave me a straight holding J9 with a T7x flop. A nice, clean win (no deals) for a net of $220 after toke & buy-in.

4 Queens

That night, I dropped by the 4 Queens to try a satellite. I met up with Lou, a very good AC player who knocked me out heads up in a Foxwoods satellite. He pointed out his dad--looks just like him, minus the ponytail.

The $100 limit hold'em event was down to one table, but they were on dinner break. The most interesting thing in the room was the $75&150 Omaha-8 game with a half-kill. Puggy Pearson and Russ Hamilton were in the game, and Russ seemed to be doing rather well. I only watched half-a-dozen hands, but every one of them resulted in a kill (when there is a scoop, the winner posts $100 for the next hand and the limits go to $100&200).

Eventually, I got into a $40 buy-in limit hold'em satellite for $30 cash + 3 $100 tournament chips. I think I played pretty well and also caught some good cards, but I was short stack when we got down to 3. Lou's dad (biggest stack) suggested a deal -- first player out gets his buy-in ($40) back, the winner gets two tournament chips & pays $10 to 1st out, and the runner up gets one chip. Sounded good to me --- I was out within a few hands, getting a net $0 result but some good experience. Lou's dad, a real gentleman, went on to win the satellite.

After the satellite, I watched Russ Hamilton playing in a Chinese Poker satellite. The four players each put of $200, with the winner getting $230 cash plus 5 tournament chips. They were down to three handed as I watched over the shoulder of one of the players while he fouled his hand -- he went out shortly thereafter. This brings up a point -- Puggy Pearson was watching while Russ set his hands, freely making comments. This seems to violate the one-player-to-a-hand rule. I'm sure Russ would not have appreciated it if I had told the other player of his error. Comments?

Russ and the other player took $100 each from the cash and played on for the chips, Eventually, Russ got short stacked. At one point, he did not have enough $$ left to match the payoff he was to get from the other player. There was a long discussion over whether he could win more on a hand than he had left. Finally, the floor ruled he could no more than double up on the hand. Not long thereafter, Russ was knocked out. They immeditely started another CP satellite, needing a fourth. I was tempted to play -- I think the skill in this game is small enough that I would have a decent change to win & that would give me the stake I needed to play in the NL tourney on Thursday. However, it was getting late & my conference started at 8:30 the next day, so I passed. It would have nice to be able to say I played against a World Champion, especially if I won!

Treasure Island

I really enjoyed staying and playing at Treasure Island last trip, so I looked forward to visiting the poker room again. They rarely spread $6&12 hold'em any more, but the $1-4-8-8 game I got into was pretty good. Then, "Amazing Juan" joined us. He said he didn't know the game, but bought in for $100 to "have some fun." He had obviously already taken advantage of several free drinks, and the sharks were drooling with anticipation. Juan wasn't sure what he had, so of course he had to go to the river every hand. Those of us on the sidelines were pleased to see him win the first three rather large pots he played. On the third one, another player showed down top two pair, and Juan threw his cards down face up saying "I guess you got me." The dealer pointed out that the 2 in Juan's 62 off matched the two deuces on the board and pushed the pot to Juan. If this was an act, it was the best one I've ever seen!

Of course, I'm sitting there praying for good cards to try to get a piece of this action. I didn't find too many hands, but did manage to win $100 by the time Juan finally bled away the last of his chips. We were all disappointed when he decided not to buy-in again. I left soon after Juan.


I didn't really come to play blackjack, but I did check the action as I walked up and down the strip, picking up a chip at each casino to add to my collection. The double-deck rules were good at the Alladin and Barbary Coast (S17, DOA, DAS) and lousy at Bally's and Harrah's (S17, D10, no DAS). The Tropicana and Boardwalk only have shoes. MGM might have a hand-held game somewhere, but I couldn't find it.


The conference banquet was held at King Arthur's Court in the Excalibur. Eating a whole pullet, brocolli and a potato without utensils was fun, if messy. The jousting, etc., was OK -- I think kids would get a kick out of it. One thing: don't sit in a section with a bunch of stick-in-the-mud computer scientists who won't get into the spirit of things and cheer their knight --- it was a bit embarrassing to be in the weakest cheering section.

Anyway, after the show I tried out the Excalibur poker room. The $2-6 spread limit hold'em game wasn't tough, but I couldn't find enough good hands. It was kinda funny being hit on by the older redhead to my right who had had a few too many free drinks. When the game broke, I tried $1-2 (yikes!) for a while, but the cards couldn't find me there either. On the way out, I dropped a few $$ at BJ, ending up losing for the night just about what I had won the night before at Treasure Island.

Another Tournament

Once again, I tried a No-limit Hold'em Tournament at Desert Inn. This time, both Greg and I got to the final table. At Greg's suggestion, we agreed to take 10% of each other's profits, which was a great deal for me with a shorter stack. When we were down to 5, I took a shot with 88 & got called by A9s. When an Ace came, I was out. 3 places were being paid, and the remaining four agreed to take $100 each, so Greg finished in the money, getting me $7 of my buy-in back. [Thanks, Greg!]


A group of people from the conference were going to Mystere at T.I. that night, but I had neglected to order tickets. I tried to win the price of a seat at BJ, but ended up losing about $80. Back to the poker room to recover half of that by 7PM. I was surprised there was no line at the cancellations desk at the theater --- I go a fourth row seat with no sweat! I didn't get to sit with my friends, but I had a great seat at a fantastic show --- if you get the chance to go don't miss it! $60 is a good price.


After the show, I went over to the Mirage for a late dinner, hoping to try the famous strawberry soup at the buffet. Unfortunately, it closes at 9:30, and I had to settle for the Caribe Cafe. I had to wait an annoying 10-15 minutes while seeing plenty of empty tables, but the food and service were OK once I got a seat. After dinner, I tried to spot Mason Malmuth or other luminaries in the poker room, but I guess they were at the 4 Queens. Anyway, I eventually got a seat at $6&12 hold'em.

It was immediately apparent there was a huge fish at this table. He had a rack of about $400 and was leaking at an astonishing rate. He was in every hand and frequently raising on dreams. Of course, I couldn't catch a hand. After watching the Aussie sitting next to me drag in a $300+ pot, I took the chance to move two seats to the left of the bleeder. Unfortunately, by this time he down to about $150. A few hands later I caught QQ. I raised preflop, several callers, bleeder raises, I raise and no one folds!. The flop comes with 3 small cards, and I'm very happy. I'm not sure exactly how the betting went, but the Aussie got in a raise. I have to read him for AA, KK or AK. When the turn is a K, I have to sadly let the hand go. The Aussie shows down AA, raking another huge pot. Even worse, this busted the bleeder, who had the good sense to leave. I hung around, licking my wounds, for another hour or so, managing to turn a small profit but dreaming of what might-have-been. Sigh.

The Last Day

After rolling in with the sun, I slept late on my last in LV, but I managed to check out & get to Desert Inn in time for the 2PM no-limit hold'em tourney. I was happy to see that JP Massar was already there & ready to play. JP and I were seated with one other player, Earl Sexton (no relation to Mike), between us. We soon found that Paul Vinci, who came in 4th in the 4 Queens $200 No-Limit Tournament the previous day, was seated a few chairs to our right. There were at least three other good players between the 2 tables. There was also one hyper-aggressive kid (he called my all-in raise with 75s in an earlier tourney & sucked out a straight to beat my set) just a couple of seats to my left. This wasn't going to be easy. Soon after rebuys stopped, Earl was busted & JP and I were adjacent. Unfortunately, JP had his JJ hand cracked by the player to his right who had been stealing JP's blinds over and over with all-in bets. This time, the opponent held A9s & knocked out JP when an Ace hit. JP left, not happily, but invited me to join him for a comp dinner that night at the Gold Nugget. I wasn't sure if I could make it -- I also had an invite from Greg to meet up with a group of r.g'ers at the Mirage. We agreed tenatively to meet at Binion's poker room at 7PM.

I got lucky on an all-in with A6 against AJ after an Axx flop when I managed to catch a 6 on the turn. I made it to the final table, but got hurt trying to steal with 77, and eventually blinded out holding AT against A5 (guess that balanced my earlier suckout). Anyway, I left DI in time to (barely) make it to the Gambler's Book Club before it closed.

I didn't have nearly enough time to explore the GBC, but I did pick up a copy of _Cappelletti on Omaha_, S.W. Erdnase's book _Expert at the Card Table_ and another classic book on card sharping, _Sharps and Flats_. Howard Schwartz promised to alert me when the new edition of Tony Holden's _Big Deal_ is available. At BARGE, I plan to arrange for at least two hours to go over the GBC offerings.


I finally got to play at Binion's, sitting down in a $4&8 hold'em game (not a 1-4-8-8, as I mistakenly reported earlier). Well, I managed to bleed away $95 while waiting for JP. If the cards don't wanna come, you can't make em. Anyway, I met JP's two friends, Greg and Tony, I think, and we all went to a comped dinner (based on their BJ play) at the Golden Nugget. The buffet was quite good, tasting even better because it was comped. Afterward, we said our until-BARGE goodbyes, and I headed back to Binion's. I hate to leave right after a loss, so I decided to give Binion's one more shot before I headed for McCarran.

The Last Hurrah

I quickly get a seat in 1-4-4-8 Hold'em, and the game looks beatable, but I don't get any hands in the first round. Then I'm called for a 4&8 game and decide to take the change. I have to wait a hand because people want to move -- it's musical chairs as a guy moves to "my" seat, a lady takes his, and I sit down in the big blind. Since they only moved over two players each, neither has to post. I wasn't too thrilled about taking the blind right away (new players typically don't have to post in LV), especially since I missed seeing a free hand at the other table when I thought a seat was truly open.

I'm also surprised when the dealer gives me an extra card after my first two --- Aha! this is Omaha not Hold'em. When I look down to find 2234, I'm not too disappointed and call the single bet raise easily. The flop comes Q54 --- not great, but still a decent draw for both high and low. I see another bet (along with 4 or 5 others) and catch a nice little 6. I open the $8 round of betting, jokingly commenting, "This is hi-lo, right?" I suddenly find that it is high only! Yikes, here I am with the ignorant end of a small straight with a hand I would probably have dumped pre-flop if I had known what I was doing. The river card is a scary Q, so I check. No one else bets, and my small straight "scoops" a nice pot. I guess dumb luck is better than no luck!

At least now I know what the game is. I have very little omaha-high experience, so I play conservatively. On one hand, I toss JJ(52s) and see a flop of J66. Sigh. The turn card is a K (suited with the J) and there is a bet and a raise. The river makes the 3rd club on the board. At showdown, KK takes it with a full house. I mention to my neighbor that I was glad I dumped JJ preflop. She is incredulous that I wouldn't play a hand with JJ.

The next hand I get involved with is AQ(43s) in late position. The flop comes J82, and I am prepared to let the hand go, but it's checked around. The turn card is a K, which gives me two ways to make the nut straight, so I call a single bet. A T comes on the river and all fold to my bet. Why can't things always go this nicely? By this time, I've recovered my previous loss and am watching the clock. One more hand would be nice before I have to hop on I-15.

On the button I pick up A(A9s)Q. I raise the blind and get about five callers. The flop comes down with 9(63s), two of which are my suit. With Aces, a pair with the board, and a nut flush draw, I bet this all the way. My suit hits on the river (no pairs on board) to give me the nuts. I get one caller. This allows me to cash out +$170 for the 3/4 hour session, and I leave Las Vegas with a smile on my face.

The new route to the airport through the tunnel may be longer, but it is FAST. I made to to Avis in under 20 minutes, despite the construction I had to negotiate downtwon. The cab fare might be a bit more going this way, but if you're in a hurry, I recommend it.

Looking back, it was a super week. I hit one out of five tournaments, broke even on my single satellite, met a bunch of rec.gamblers, and even managed to come out ahead. Now I'm really charged up for BARGE! Hope I see you there.