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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Our Big Trip, Part II: Tuesday at the Mirage
In my last post I wrote up the first part of our week-long trip to San Francisco and Las Vegas. I've been way too busy since we got back from the trip, so I cut that last post short just as I was getting to the really good stuff--the almost 20 hours B and I spent in the Mirage poker room.

One thing B and I had previously been unsure about was whether it's awkward to be sitting at the same table as someone you know. B and I don't mind taking pots of each other, and we play in home games together all the time. It's other people's reactions to us being husband and wife that used to worry me. On the one hand, if B and I raise each other with a 3rd person in the pot, that could seem like collusion. On the other hand, if we both go easy on each other, that could seem like soft-play, which also bugs people. So beforehand we had decided 2 things: 1) We've read plenty of blog posts where people talk about playing with friends at the casino, and they never worry about. Sure, it's a little different with husband and wife (same household income), but we decided we weren't going to worry about it either; 2) You often don't get that much choice in where you sit at the casino--we decided we'd just put ourt names in and sit where the brush told us to, and if that was at the same table, so be it.

As it turned out, we sat at the same table several times, and it was never a problem.

The Mirage poker room is, of course, much smaller than Foxwoods, but bigger than any room I've seen in Las vegas except the Bellagio's ('ve never been to the Orleans, but I've read that it's bigger). I found it to be a pretty damn swanky place, but then I really love the Mirage tropical rain forest theme.

Tuesday the 17th, 5:30 pm. We arrived and gave our names at the front desk for $3/$6 Hold'em. This was the first time B had played $3/$6 and she was a little nervous. I'd had all of 5 or 6 hours experience at $3/$6 from Lucky Chances a few days before, and a few hours I sneaked in when we had been in Las Vegas last October for our wedding.

We waited almost 15 minutes to be seated. That's nothing compared to the 1-2 hours waits we've experienced at Foxwoods. And we must have hit a particularly bad time, because every time we came to the Mirage after that, our wait was 10 minutes or less. This was the middle of the week, though; I've read on RGP that waits on the weekend can get to the 1+ hour range.

B sat down at a table near the poker room entrance, and I was seated at the same table a few minutes later. This table was being dominated--in social, rather than poker terms--by a man we came to know simply as "Texas." Texas was from Texas, duh. He didn't have a cowboy hat on or anything, but he did have one heck of an accent and a Texas Tech polo shirt. He in turn came to identify me as "Rhode Island" and B as "Miss B."

Texas was a ton of fun, chatting up everyone at the table, bantering with the dealers, etc. He was also playing just about every hand. And the thing I loved about Texas--and I do not mean this in a sarcastic, disparaging way--was that when he would lose a hand, he would just smile and say things like "Hey, it's only money" and "I came to play." I honestly don't want to call Texas a fish because that implies things like ignorance of the game, lack of discipline, tendency to tilt, etc. I don't think Texas really had any of those things. I think he knew how to play play a lot better than he did play. I think he just loved Las Vegas, enjoyed poker, and didn't care one whit about the few hundred dollars he gave away at the tables. I totally respect that. But the poker player in me did recognize that this kind of "happy caller" is just about the best bets type of player you can have at your table, as he makes it both more fun and more profitable.

B was on Texas's left, and I was on his right. Upon finding out we were married he insisted on switching with B so that we could sit together. I actually don't like sitting next to B, for reasons I'll explain shortly, so I protested, but I think Texas was better off not being between us.

It's probably because Texas overshadowed everything, but I don't remember a whole lot about the rest of the table. During all our sessions at the Mirage, there was a decent mix of players at every table. Really a good mix of old and young, with an average of maybe 2 women per table. The crowd would generally start older and mostly male, then get younger (and looser), with more women, as the evening went on. It seemed to be me that people came and went at a table more frequently--as opposed to Foxwoods, where since there's no other poker room for hundreds of miles, people generally play for longer sessions at a time.

Texas was the clear loose player at our table. There were a couple other really loose players, a few more somewhat loose players, maybe 1 older rock, and a couple people who seemed to know what they were doing. (By the way, categorizing players like this is one of the skills I feel I really honed a bit on the trip.) A few people were clearly gunning for Texas, and would not fold a hand to him. One of these players was a younger Asian guy (actually originally from Asia and didn't speak great English) whose name I never caught. He was probably the most serious player at the table, so I disliked him at first. So did Texas, and the two of them got into a few raising wars.

For my part, I could tell I was at a great table, but to my frustration I got only mediocre cards. B, on the other hand, was on a rush. She took down a couple pots with the nuts, then exploited her image to steal (or at least get some people out of) others. If she won a hand uncontested, Texas would basically vow to call her down on the next one. In retrospect it was a wonderful thing to watch, although at the time I was mostly just jealous :)

We only played for 2 hours, then left for dinner. (We were determined not to be really out of control on the first day and not do things like forget to eat or stay up all night long.) She cashed out up $178, by far her biggest poker win, online or off. Needless to say she was pretty excited.

Unfortunately a good chunk of that came from me. There were a couple pots where we both got raise-before-the-flop type hands, ones I didn't lay I down when I should have for a variety of dumb reasons including 1) I had been getting lousy cards, so I got too attached to my good ones, 2) B was on my left, and I kept hoping I could push her out, 3) the table was getting a big kick out of seeing us raise each other, so I went to the river on at least one hand just for the fun of it. Despite the so-so cards and the dumb plays against B, I walked away up $6.

We tried to eat the Bellagio buffet but decided the line was too long. We ended up eating at Conrad's, the Flamingo's steakhouse. Rejuvenated by the power of steak, we headed back to the Mirage.

Tuesday the 17th, 10pm. Again we put our names in at the front deask, and again B was seated at the same table by the entryway. Texas was still there! And he'd been drinking the whole time--admittedly, so had I, but he was noticeably drunker and a little less happy. He welcomed B back and I said hello, but I'm seated at another table. I've got some drinks in me at this point and I don't remember much about that first table, except that I lost around $60 in a couple big hands and that the table soon broke up.

I'd never been at a casino poker table that broke up before. The floorwoman came over and had the dealer give us each a card. The person with the highest card got first pick as to which table they wanted to move to. Unfortunately this system didn't work as well as it could have. The cards were all dealt, but then everyone had to ask, well, which $3/$6 tables have seats? The floorwoman pointed to the ones near her, but then order broke down as everyone just wandered off to whatever seat they wanted, the "high card" system forgotten.

I ended up at a table with a distinctly high average age, too many dour faces, and a more rocky feel than I would have liked. But I flopped a boat on my first, forced-blind hand, so I was happy. I got back up to even at this table, before, wouldn'y you know it, my table broke up again. I guess that's Tuesday night for you.

We went through the high-card thing again, and this time I got a Queen, second highest. But again the system kinda broke down and everybody wandered. I had been eyeing B's table because, with Texas leading the festivities, they were laughing it up and clearly having a good time. So I wandered that way. There was an open seat, and an Old Dour Romanian Guy, who definitely had a lower pick than me, also went for it. The floorwoman, who had just overseen the high-card charade, asked him "Did you have a higher pick?" and he said yes! Why didn't she ask him "What card did you have?" and then ask me the same? I don't know, and I don't really hold it against her--she was incredibly nice and seemed more than competent in all other respects. I didn't bother to speak up, but I did silently change Old Dour Romanian Guy's moniker to Lying Romanian Bastard.

I was seated at a newly-formed table just a couple away from B's. I played maybe a couple orbits before a seat opened up at B's table and then I made the switch. Mr. Romania left soon after--just as well cause I wouldn't want my annoyance at him to affect my play. I was seated across from the younger Asian guy I mentioned earlier. He still wasn't particularly sociable, but I had a bunch of drinks in me, so I was and I chatted him up a bit. Turns out the kid was in town for some kind of trade show. In broken English he made it clear that he had just gotten off the plane and had to work the next day, so he planned to play poker all night. B later informed me that he confided to her that he planned to stay at the table for as long as Texas did, since Texas was still giving away money.

I did well at this table for the better part of 2 hours. Then sometime around 2am I got involved in a really crazy hand. Me, younger Asian guy, and Texas went to the river. It was capped preflop and capped on the turn. But the cap at the Mirage is 5 bets, not 4 as at Foxwoods and online, so preflop cost me $15 and the turn cost me $30. Wow. And I had a mediocre hand to boot, QJs. What was I thinking? Well, it just kind of snowballed. For one thing, I hadn't seen a hand capped preflop all damn day, and I thought I'd get in for 1 bet. Then it was 2 bets, then it was 3 bets . . . I knew Texas could have anything. Then I caught a piece of the flop. I don't remember specifics, I think it was something like 689 with 2 of my suits. I kow I had a flush draw and an inside straight draw, neither of them to the nuts. All I could think of was that at a loose table when the pot is large, you can't fold when you have a pieceof the flop. After the flop, I definitely had the pot odds to continue. But I failed to consider the implied odds, and didn't expect it being capped on the turn. Screw the mathematical terms, I failed to play the people at the table, because I failed to remeber the raising-war dynamic between Texas and the Asian kid. Not my finest moment. As it turned out I did made my flush on the river, and it was good enough to beat Texas's middling-high flush. But a second 8 had come on the turn, and the Asian fellow turned over 86o for a full house!

That hand cost me at least $60 bucks, and I don't think I played well for the next half hour or so, despite being consciously on-guard against tilt. I cashed out around 2:30am, down $66.

I wandered around for a bit, and settled at the bar nearest the poker room. I really like that casino.

Meanwhile, B stayed at the table, because she was, ahem, continuing to totally kick ass. She left 40 minutes or so later up $152, and that's on top of her $178 win during the afternoon. In one day she had just about doubled all the money she has made playing .50/$1 online over the past year.

When we compared notes later, she said that she had also been in a couple crazy hands with Texas and the Asian guy, but had come out a winner. She also said that one poor guy lost with AJ 4 times in about 2 orbits, and she benefited from one of them.

I was psyched for B, and not feeling too sorry for myself. At the bar I had done the math. At this point, between Lucky Chances at my earlier huge $6 win, I was down $138, or about one buy-in. (I try to make my buy-in about 23 times the big bet, rounded up to the nearest $20.) I wasn't happy about this but I can honestly say that I wasn't that upset. I knew that it had been a rough table at Lucky Chances and that I was better than most of the players at the $3/$6 tables at the Mirage. Plus we were having a fantastic time! I resolved to get a decent night's sleep and resume the fight on Wednesday.

Damn, I think I am going to have to end this post. It's just so long, and if I continue on to Wednesday it'll be twice as long. But I don't want to end on another loss! So before I go I'll dangle one happy detail: My losing session Tuesday night was the last time I lost at the Mirage :)

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