Monday, March 12, 2012

Vegas Recap II


One lesson I take from our last trip: if you’re going to drink, the first night may not be the best night.  Another lesson: if you’re going to drink, play blackjack.   That’s how to win!

Or at least, that’s how we won.  I have long ago forgotten all the ‘correct’ plays to make in blackjack (“Basic Strategy” as it’s known).  There’s no need to remember them; any dealer will tell you the correct play whenever you ask.  This frees up the mind for more important tasks, like trying to find a cocktail waitress.  Or, making conversation.

For some reason when I drink I start to believe that there exists a unique understanding—a bond almost--between myself and Casino workers (especially those who run the games).  In an alternate life, I guess I somehow imagine that if things go badly, that’s what I’d end up doing.  Pit bosses and dealers are always slightly bored; conversing with the tourists, I assume, is the best part of the job.  (Friendly tourists, I should say.  Dealing with the jerks who abuse the dealers when they lose money is surely the worst part of the job.  But that is not my way.  It doesn't even make any sense.  How can you get mad for losing money?  Of course you’re going to lose money.  That’s the point of a casino.)

Anyway, by the time we found a few seats at a 15$ blackjack table, I had enough alcohol and hazelnut flavored chocolate in me to feel, renewed with me, my powerful fellowship with the folks who run casino games.   As soon as we sat down, I struck up a conversation with the pit boss.  I first tried to talk to the dealer but he didn’t have much of a personality.  (At least, I didn’t think so.  He and The Wife-al Unit got along quite well).  Eventually, though, I started to become sober.  Sensing the danger in that state, I politely asked the pit boss if he could find us a cocktail waitress.

He agreed it had been slow and flagged down a waitress.

There then emerged a situation.  The waitress, was, let us say, in a mood.  A mood which was not a mood of happiness.  A mood which she took out on the pit boss.  I think her complaint was that he hadn’t been polite enough in summoning her, but mostly she was just...not happy to be there at that moment.  She yelled at him.  Something about how to talk to a lady, I think.  (To which I considered responding: does a “lady” wear fishnet tights, a bustier, and bring men alcohol for money?  But I did not.  I may have been tipsy, but I’m not a moron.)

Anyway: the pit boss was polite, and the waitress was not.  She did take our drink orders, at that point, though.  And in fact, from then on, service was quite good.  Although, in all honestly, that may have been a mixed blessing.  Anyway, after the situation ended, and the waitress left, I complimented the pit boss on his equanimity.  We moved on to other subjects.  A few minutes later we learned that the waitress had lodged a complaint with the floor manager (!) about the way the pit boss had talked to her. 

Having heard the entire exchange, and feeling like it was definitely a good situation for me to involve myself in, I volunteered to testify to whoever I needed to that the pit boss had been a complete professional.  Then, a bit later, the floor manager arrived and did, in fact, ask me for my version of the events.  I told her I thought the pit boss had behaved with perfect decency and she said (the floor manager) that’s what she’d assumed (“she knew what a good guy he was”), and that had been that.  But, it was some fun drama.

I mean, I think that's how it happened.  During all this I drank many many vodka tonics.  So who really knows?  I do think my wife seemed embarrassed by my loud boisterous BS-ing with the various casino people.  I know: How could that be?  And yet, that is my memory of the evening.

When it was all over, I learned we’d somehow won 300$.  That was the most shocking event of all.  As I told my new friend Pit Boss I (Matt?) as I got up, “I didn’t know you were allowed to win money at a casino.”  I think most of it came from one hand in which I split nines against a dealer eight, got dealt another nine, split that, and then got dealt, on the first and third nine, a two, requiring that I double down.  So that by the end of the hand I had a least 100$ on the table.  And the dealer did then bust.  And there was much rejoicing.

On the other hand, we may have won solely because my wife, after an hour of playing 'correct' basic strategy, decided she was going to start making the plays SHE wanted to make.  (Or, as our grouchy dealer said of her, admiringly, "you are not playing by THE book: you are playing by YOUR book."  Which is more true than he knows.)  That was some good times.  The looks of horror on the faces of the other people at the table as the wife tried a hit a sixteen against a dealer's five.  (I think I talked her out of that?)  Her creative, some might say haphazard, plans for doubling down.  Her fearlessness when hitting to a seventeen.  It was something. 


After a long night of revels, I spent Saturday playing poker.  Usually, when I used to go to Vegas, I typically played 2/5 or even 5/10.   After Friday night, however, I had no capacity for any game that required actual thought.  That left 1/2.  I was dazed, hungover, and half asleep for most of the day; at 5/10 that would have hurt my game.  At 1 / 2 it helped. 

At those stakes the only ‘skill’ you need is patience.  You wait to get a hand, you bet it, and you rake the chips.  It’s hard to sit for hours at a time with donkeys folding medium strength hands; when the fountain of money is so nearby, the temptation is to reach for it, bucket or not.  But no one folds in 1/2 and fancy moves avail you naught.  You have to have hands.   You can’t force things (my usual problem at those stakes).

But force things I did not.  Force of any kind was not, at that time and place, my metier.  And in part I was so patient (i.e. 'tired') I managed to make a pretty sizable win (at least for those stakes).  It probably also helped that I haven’t watched poker on TV in the last several months.  Watching pros make fancy plays at each other always inspires me to do the same.  And fancy plays are losing propositions at 1/2 . (Last time I was in Vegas I check-shoved a river for an all-in bluff, representing a straight against top pair.  I got called in about two seconds.  Sigh.)

It helped that I got dealt some real hands.  Even more important, I got dealt them at the same time that the table donkeys decided to spew off chips.  I doubled up early on by making a full house against someone who had top pair (and who refused to fold).  Then, an hour later, I raised AJ in the CO and got the big blind to check raise me all-in on a flop of A/J/5. (He had queens!) A jack high flush an hour later saw my 300$ buy in rise to 800.

Feeling a little more mentally acute, I switched, that afternoon, to Pot Limit Omaha (a game the Venetian now spreads every day—how things have changed).  PLO is not a game of amateurs; the tables were filled with serious looking dudes wearing headphones and sunglasses.  Still, I think I have at least some edge in that game, and when I managed to get my top two pair on the flop to hold up against a big stacked calling station, I ran my day’s total win up to more than 1000$.

Sunday was more of the same.  Patient ABC poker while I waited for the donkeys to make mistakes.  Again, I chipped up steadily.  Did I make any interesting plays?  Two that I can remember.  The first involved a float against a massively aggressive player which I turned into a pot sized bluff on the river after a flush card hit.  That got him to fold.  I also made one good call-down based on a read.  UTG, I open limped 77, when an aggro guy behind me raised to 17$.  I called and dark-checked the flop.  It came nine-high; he bet 30$, and I called.  The turn was a blank: I checked and he checked.  The river was a queen.  He hesitated and then bet 50$.  I called quickly and he mucked what I’m sure was AK.  Not a hero call by any means (his turn check made it much easier), but it was helped by a hand he’d played earlier, in which he raised the same 17$ and ultimately tabled AK.  He’d varied his raise size all day, but the only time it had gone as high as 17$, he’d shown AK.  That made the call down easy.   

1 comment:

Cartooniste said...

Excellent account, with good drama. I would enjoy observing you in Vegas, like Marty Stauffer watching a mate-hunting spoonbill on the Anahuac Island coast.

Whatever happened with the play?