Mar 1
by Don


Well it wasn’t quite like that, but getting back to Vegas always does feel like a homecoming of sorts.  I was watching Poker after Dark on NBC the other day and Gabe Kaplan was on and he reminds me how much I loved that show as a kid and how the overarching theme of struggle and survival is so apropos for any Vegas trip.  This one was no different in that there were some highs and some lows, but at the end everyone learned a lesson of some sort and we all had a great time.

So the particulars for this trip were that Lori and Mr. Cub were having birthdays that needed to be celebrated.  Pittsburgh Gil and War Eagle both were down and we had a crew.  5 is always a good number in that it’s small enough for one cab at all times and there are plenty of different things for everyone to enjoy.

Lori and I got out there a couple of days before everyone so we had planned on playing some tournament poker to start the festivities.  We love playing in the Deep Stack Extravaganza that the Venetian puts on 4 times a year.  It’s a well-run tournament that always attracts good players, but at the same time is something that could yield a nice payday if you run well.  The goals are always the same; cash first and then play for the final table.  Seems simple, right?

We play in event 24 which was a $350 buy-in that has a top prize of $18k, nice.  These events are always long and if you are playing at the final table it goes on the following day.  So basically if you can play for about 10 hours you will be in the money and if you can play a bit longer then you could end up at the final table.

Lori plays well and lasts about 7 hours which includes a lot various bad beats along with some great play, but in the end she just ran out of steam.   Personally I am very proud of her as she is always a tough out and as we have seen in previous posts she is no stranger to the top spot.

My run is much more bizarre in that I never really get anything going.  I am consistently under the chip average at about every break and when we get down to about 29 players I am constantly battling to not be the bubble boy in this thing.  So of course I find myself all in with A10 on my big blind for which I didn’t have to call and I could hope to survive, but honestly I don’t like doing that.  I would rather play it straight and if I bubble out then I bubble out.  The button pushes me with A9 and somehow I didn’t get sucked out on and survive in the money.  Step one accomplished.

Now on to the final table, right?  Well something happen when we were playing 6 handed that I like to call the fallacy of JJ.  Basically I tried to squeeze a raiser who had two min callers behind him.  I have JJ on big blind and I shove all in over the top for about $140k worth of chips.  Well he calls with a little less and flips over KK.  Awesome…  I don’t suck out and get bounced @ 19.  I was the bubble after all in that my ouster insures the remaining player that its now only down to two tables and then ultimately the final table.  12.5 hours equals 19th place and regret of what could have been if I didn’t get impatient.  What can you do?

Never fear though, we have only just begun and there are so many other stories to tell…

Jul 13
by Lori D.

Finally, I won a poker tourney.

That seems like such a small thing (and it is in the big scheme of things), but it’s something that I needed to do to know that this all has some meaning.  What I mean to say is I love poker.  I love the mental aspect of the game, the nuance, the possibilities.  I love the fact that guys always think that girls can’t play or that I am going to do this or that because of what they think that girls are capable of doing.  I could go on about this, but I think that I can best sum it up by saying yes; I finally won a poker tourney.

The tourney itself was a small one (about 80 people) with $60 buy-in with an additional add-on of $40 for a total of 4500 chips. The beginning started out like most tourneys for me, fairly slow, no real opportunities to do much and basically just trying to steal blinds when the opportunity arose. For the most part of the tourney I was fairly short handed. After the first hour I had the same amount of chips that I had started with, uggh. So not much excitement in the beginning. 

After the second hour Don and I ended up at the same table.  Now this would normally not be a good situation, however there are some advantages.   It would have been nice to of had a hand against each other, that way one of us doubles up, but no such luck. Both of us needed to make something happen at this point since we were both short stacked and struggling.  After some time Don decided to make a move all in with AQ, but ended up getting busted out when someone looked him up with Kings in the hole.  Not so good for him, but what can you do?  He looked across the table at me and headed of to the BJ tables.

In all honestly I was thinking I would be meeting him at those tables in short order.  Fortunately for me, things started to turn around the minute he left (coincidence? Haha).  I was able to go all-in a few times, survived and kept doubling up. It was great because I actually had a little breathing room for once. Plus this was a bounty tourney meaning for every person you knocked out you received $10 in casino chips. So now having some chips to play with I was able to take out a few small stacks. When the final table started I was doing ok; not great but ok. The payout started at 6th place, so I still had to survive a little longer for the money. Thankfully I was able to win some hands and before you knew it I was the chip leader!  It was a weird feeling in that I can’t ever remember a time before in a tourney when I had so many more chips then the next guy. Once the table got to about 8 players, people started talking about chopping. They wanted to just split the prize money amongst all of us. Seeing how I was the chip leader by a considerable amount I was not really liking this idea too much. Thankfully there were other players that didn’t like that either. Once we got to the money, conversation about chopping came up again. A few people really wanted to chop and not play it out. At one point someone even suggested that they just declare me the winner because I had so many more chips and the remaining prize pool be split among the remaining players. Craziness. Of course I am not going to say no to that, but that didn’t happen so we played it out. Only about 3 of them were willing to chop so basically no deal.  Since everyone needed to agree, we played on.  Finally we get down to heads up between me and this other guy (I was not a big fan as he thought he was the shit and caused so many problems during the tourney). He did ask if I wanted to chop, but at this point I wanted to play it out and just kick his butt. I don’t have very much experience at playing heads up, but I have seen Don do it and we have talked about it at great length. I am sure that it was obvious that neither of us knew what we were doing because it took a lot longer to finish then it should have. Chips were moving back and forth between us and I got lucky a few times where I had laid down my hand and he showed me some monsters.  While heads up he had AA and QQ along with some other killer hands.  As Phil Helmuth said, “I can dodge bullets baby!”

You can't tell, but I am actually pretty pumped.  This is immediately after the final hand.

We finally get to the last hand where he goes all in with Q6 off suit and I call with 87 off suit.  The flop comes out with a bunch of blanks and then a 7 hits on the turn.  That pairs me and the river gives him nothing.  Winner Winner!  I am definitely glad to have finally won one, but I have a few more to win to catch up to the Donald.  I think that I made him proud, actually I know I did. 

Jan 23
by Don

One of the better Poker Rooms in Vegas is most certainly the one at the Venetian.  We try and play at least one tournament on most trips out.  This go around was no different, so we get up on Sunday and head over to the Venetian for the tournament @ noon that essentially costs $150 ($135+$15 and then a $5 staff bonus).


This is a well run tournament that had 136 people playing, which made for a nice payout structure of the top 18 paying out.   Throw in the fact that it was Championship Sunday and the sports book is right next to the Poker Room, there was a lot of activity for a Sunday afternoon.


Lori and I both are playing so it potentially could be a long day, but you never know. The first couple of hours go by without any incident.  Lori cannot get anything going and gets bumped out after the break on a terrible suck out.  Basically she was dominating this guy and he can only be saved by a 3 on the river.  Of course he gets it for his straight, and yes it was an inside draw, and it turns out the case 3 as well.  What a kick in the head.


I am having a little better luck as I have been slowly building my bank roll knocking off players at my table one by one.  I actually was doing really well at the 5 hour mark as I take out this guy with a 10-7 of diamonds.  I am two + the gun and I limp in, mainly because I just had won a big pot and people generally play loose after a big win, and I was hoping that people would assume that of me, because I have been showing monsters all tournament.  Everyone folds to the cutoff, he limps in, and the blinds both call.  The flop is 10-7-5.  It’s checked to me and I check it through and the cut off bets.  Fold, Fold, and I just call.  The next card is 7 of hearts and I just check and he checks right behind me.  The river comes and it’s a 6 clubs.  I make a mild bet at this pot that has some action in it, but not a whole lot and he raises me.  I am thinking for a second that he could have 10-10 in the hole.  I mean am I that unlucky?  Have I made a bad read or something?  I just don’t buy it and I put him all in.  He calls with a quickness and flips over 66 for a smaller boat than mine.  Just a punch in the gut.  I haven’t done someone that dirty in a long while.


I wasn't technically the Bubble Boy, but I sure felt like it!The tourney grinds on and in the sixth hour I go card dead.  This is unfortunate because the blinds are outrageous 1500/3000 with a 500 ante.  I get dwindled down to 10k in the Big Blind and I have to go all in to the raise on my left.  I have Q6 off and he flips over QQ.  Awesome.  You just want to have one over in this situation and he has me just dominated in every way.  So the flop comes out with 3 hearts and I look down to see the Q of hearts in my hand.  Man, wouldn’t be something to get that fourth heart and survive this?  Make this 6+ hours of play worth something and hang around for just one more rush.  Well no heart came and I got busted out at 20.  Did I mention that the payouts started at 18?

Aug 18
by Don

I am not sure how much more Olympic coverage (read Michael Phelps) I can handle this week.  I have to admit that it has been great to witness history and all but where is the coverage of Usain Bolt? I mean seriously, that guy is just sickening!


So now my thoughts drift but to poker and I love to talk game theory.  Not the high level math that NASA uses to compute implied odds; but playing certain hands in certain spots against certain types of players.


I don’t normally play too many marginal hands; but rather I look at the position I am in first, the action in front of me, and then my cards.  One such situation came up in a tournament that I was in that could have really been something had I just gone with my first instinct.


I have J8 off on the button at about the end of the first hour of play.  The table has been loosening up since the start and there is a min raise from under the gun and 3 other callers when the action is on me.  My first thought is that I should call just because the blinds have decent stacks and haven’t been looking to make moves preflop as of yet.  Plus with all of the callers there would be a lot of coverage so I could just see what happens.  If I don’t flop two pair or better, I can always dump my hand with only putting in 2 bets to this point.


Then I start thinking that I should just fold and save those two bets since I will need all the chips I have if I don’t get a hand before the break because of the blinds going up.  I just fold and sit on my stack.


The flop produces a nice rainbow of J-8-7.  I have that feeling of getting punched in the stomach.  This is not the first time I have gone against one of the pillars of my game, which is the skill of good risk/reward assessment, and have been punished for it. But I take heart in that I would probably not get much from this pot since there wasn’t a huge over card or and draws other than the 10-9.


There is some action on the turn when a J hits, but nothing to write home about.  The pot is fattening up quite nicely at this point, much to my dismay. 


The river brings another 7 and now it’s happy go lucky time.  The board turned and rivered a flush and of course anyone with the case J has a nice boat. 


There are fireworks and a couple of all-ins and sure enough, one guy has a J and the other flush to the A.  Of course the real crime is that I had the ultimate nuts with my Jacks full with the 8 over the 7’s. 


So the lesson is that you should go with your gut if you have sound principles and start prospecting.  Who knows, you may hit some gold!


Aug 11
by Don

The one thing I know about playing poker in a Vegas card room is that it is not as easy as your home game, but not as hard either.  The key is to choosing the right game for you.

More often than not Lori and I primarily play tournaments while in Vegas.  We do this for a number of reasons:

1.   Protects your bank role- Your cash outlay at any one point is the cost of the tournament.  This is great for money management.

2.   Tournament play extends your play- What I mean by that is by the size of the tournament you can probably play 5-6 hours pretty regularly (assuming you are average to above average player).

3.   Tremendous upside- Your potentially winnings far out pace the actual cost to enter the tournament.  For example, a small $50.00 NL Tournament with 60-70 players can net you $1600 to $1800 if you win it all.  Not to mention simply cashing can be rewarding.

4.   Everyone starts at the same place- Someone can’t just sit down and buy in for 5x the amount in tournament play.  This levels the playing field a bit.

5.   Prevents you from spending even more money- If you are having a bad blackjack run.  A nice tournament can save you money because you are not playing the house, you are playing other people.  There is no house edge in tournament play.

Cash games have some advantages too:

1.   No long term time commitments- You can come and go as you please fitting in a 2 hour session is not a big deal.

2.   Table Selection- You can size up your competition before ever posting a blind.  This could be very profitable if done right.

3.   One or two hands makes the session- Get tricky with a set or flop a flush and you just doubled up in real money, and that’s nice.

4.   Choose your limits- There are all sorts of games running at all times at all levels.  You are not forced to play only at a $5/$10 table if that is not your game.  Again, great money management.

Of course there are differences in how you play a tournament game vs. a cash game (which we will talk about later) but generally speaking tournament play provides a great value for your bankroll over all.  And with just about every casino in Vegas having a card room, there is a tournament starting at all times so finding one is never hard.

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