Vegas blackjack trip: Lessons learned from a WSOP star and a retired hippie

I’ve been on a cold streak in my recent blackjack efforts.  It has been 4 months since I’ve had a significant winning trip to the casino and my frustration level has been rising.  When I go through these rough patches I do my best to evaluate my strategy and find opportunities to improve.  I found new ideas to employ from two unlikely sources during my most recent 4-night Vegas trip.

Night 1: Get your money in good! 

My first change was something I worked on prior to this trip after playing next to a WSOP star in a high-limit room on my last Vegas trip.  I was playing alone in the PH HLR and a guy who looked familiar came in and sat in seat 1.  He sat down, started winning and never stopped winning – turning $2K into $15K in less than 3 shoes while I stayed basically flat.  We chatted for a bit and he confirmed that he was a WSOP pro who I had seen on at least one final table and made his living playing poker with many big cashes.

What I learned from watching him wasn’t something he said, but rather how he played.  He was aggressive in bet sizing, taking advantage of favorable runs, and making the most of his opportunities.  I don’t think he was card-counting, but it is possible.  My takeaway was to press my bets more aggressively than my current strategy, which I was eager to try throughout this trip.  There are some obvious downsides to this including

  1. Math – since I don’t count cards the house still has a slight edge
  2. Risk/Reward – the more you press the more you bet which can quickly add up to some high-priced hands and
  3. The luck of the draw – sometimes when you get it in good, the cards still find a way to crush dreams.

Night 1 was my first opportunity to test this betting strategy out and it was relatively successful.  It was a fairly routine night with a couple of hours in the Bally’s high-limit room and I came away up 10 yards and avoided any major potholes before calling it an early night.

Day 2: Don’t play like a tourist!

I arrived a day early for my conference so I could spend the day playing cards.  Since I don’t live within 2 hours of a casino I try to maximize every visit which can lead to some extended table time.

Before we get to the blackjack I had some World Cup games to watch.  I went down to the Caesars sports book to watch the last games of the opening round including 7am games – Mexico vs Sweden & Germany vs Korea. The book was full at 7am with 90% Mexican fans, 5% Germans, 5% Sweden and 1 Korean guy.  If you recall Mexico got crushed, then amazingly Korea beat Germany and the Mexican fans turned the Korean guy into a hero.  He was there 30 minutes after the game with all the Mexican fans chanting KO-RE-A and taking selfies with him.  If it were a 7pm game they likely would have carried him around to all the bars with them for the night.

After that soccer fun, I headed out to start my blackjack day.  As usual, I began at Bally’s high-limit room where I had to ask them to raise the table minimum from $25 to $50.  I don’t mind playing $25, but really I did it to keep away other players and get as much solo time at the table as possible.  That turned into a bad decision as I quickly gave back my winnings from the night before.  Back to even I took a walk to the Paris HLR and almost as quickly dropped 15 yards into the hole, grr.  I didn’t blame either of these on the new strategy, in both cases, I caught terrible cards with no chance of making money.

After the quick beatdowns, I wanted to slow the pace and headed to Planet Hollywood for the 1pm $80 poker tourney.  Somehow. that went worse than the blackjack.  I made one bad bluff, then had an all-in 9s vs. 10s and poof out in the 3rd level.

After a quick lunch, it was back to Bally’s to try and make something out of a day that seemed to be slipping away.  This session at Bally’s was much better than the earlier trip and I floated between even and up 5-10 yards over the course of several hours.  As it got close to dinner time a very personable guy came to sit at my table.  The dealer knew him and he offered to wait until the next shoe so he started off on the right foot.  Sometimes I’ll leave the table when a new player joins, but this guy seemed like fun so I told him to jump in and away we went.

This guy is the retired hippie mentioned in the title of this post.  He was fun, friendly and made some really good points.  I felt a little like the Dude in Big Lebowski when the old cowboy showed up – I didn’t quite know what to take from the guy, but he seemed like he sat with me for a reason.  He mentioned that he was retired and now comes to the casino every couple of weeks.  About 3 shoes in he had doubled his money and abruptly said good luck, grabbed his drink and headed out.  I stuck around, now up 10-15 yards for the session.  About 45 minutes later he came back with a new beer and bought-in again.  He said he went to the Diamond lounge to get a beer and some food.  Another 15 minutes and he doubled again, cashed out and said goodnight.

I finished the same shoe up 12 yards (3x my buy-in) cashed out and went to grab dinner.  During dinner, I realized that I was playing like a tourist and the hippie was playing smart.  We walked away with roughly the same amount of winnings, however, he did it with smart quick wins, while I rode waves up and down which could have easily left me in the hole if I didn’t get away from the table at the right time.  This gave me the theme for the rest of my week:


It was getting late (for an East Coast guy with meetings at 8am the next morning) so I headed back to Caesars.  That walk takes me through The Cromwell, which is my favorite location on the strip right now.  For once their HLR was open on a Weds night so I had to make a stop.  I was the only one there, as usual, and they were happy to let me play at a table that may or may not have been reserved for someone else.  I played a couple of uneventful shoes and then ran into a rough shoe which had me up 5 yards until a huge 9-yard split-double loss crushed the momentum and sent me home down 10 yards for the trip.

Day 3: Quickie

My 3rd day started with my wallet hurting and meetings all day.  After all day meetings and a team building dinner I was exhausted, but I made the short walk to Cromwell to start my blackjack night.  It turned out that was a good call.  I sat down at the $100 HLR table, ordered a bud light, and within 3 minutes had tripled my buy-in.  I looked at the dealer, pushed my chips across the table to chip-up, then hung out and waited for my beer before walking home.  I had just used both of my new mottos – I pressed my bets quickly, including a $300 hand that went up to $1200 after 2 splits and a double (I won 3 of the 4 hands)  which had me sweating big bets, and also walked away up 24 yards instead of riding my stack down to less of a win.  Now we’re ahead for the trip and I feel good going into the last day.

Day 4: Make or Break

As an introvert, I’m not a fan of Vegas on the weekends since the casinos tend to get very busy and my favorite tables are often crowded.  This Friday wasn’t much different so when my meetings ended around 4pm I waded through the tourists looking for an empty table at one of my favorite high-limit rooms.  As usual, I started my tour at PH and planned to play my way back to my room at Caesars.  Unfortunately, the HLR at PH was busy so I headed to Paris where they had an open $100 table.  I played for an hour or so with small swings up and down until I was down about 5 yards and it was time for some dinner.  When I came back from a quick dinner break, the same table was still open in Paris so I sat down in the same seat and proceeded to win 12 yards (doubled my buy-in).  I applied lesson #2 above, cashed my chips and headed to Bally’s.  At Bally’s, I played at my favorite $50 table in the HLR for about an hour until a couple of drunk guys came to join me – as soon as one of them pulled out their cigarettes I chipped-up and walked away up another 8 yards.  Now, I’m up 15 yards for the trip and have one last stop on my way home.

I walk into my favorite HLR on the strip – Cromwell – and sure enough, it’s empty – game on.  This was the make or break moment for the trip.  I was going to go home a winner, it was just a matter of whether it would be a small margin or something to be excited about.  The first shoe started slow, but then a run got me back to even at the end.  The next few shoes were similar with slight moves up each step along the way.  It was getting late (for a guy with a 7am flight) and I told my dealer that I needed the next shoe to be a winner so I could get some sleep.  The last shoe didn’t disappoint.  The shoe started off good, then got very good, and then I hit the moment of truth..

$250 bet, I get a pair of 2s and the dealer shows a 5 – split and the next card is a 2, next card 8 – pit boss looks over and says ‘You’re in the shit now’ – now I’m in $1,000 for the hand and take the double-down card face down.  Hand #2 gets a 6 then a 10 for 18 and hand #3 gets Queen for a 12.  Dealer turns over a 7 so she’s got 12 – deep breath – next card a 5 for 17.  So now we’re even on the 2 hands I can see and the moment of truth with the $500 hand, dealer flips my down card and YES it’s a King – whew, we’re going home a winner.

The rest of the shoe was uneventful and when the last hand was a blackjack in my favor I pushed my chips to color-up, tipped my dealer and walked away with 3x my buy-in.

Of course, when you win you don’t want the night to end so I played roulette at Caesars on the way to bed and went from $100 to $400 then called it a night at $200.

Overall a good trip – learned a couple of valuable lessons which will hopefully help my blackjack game and bankroll in the long-run and in the short-run came home +43 yards for the trip!

Next Vegas trip is planned for Sept and hopefully, I’ll find my way to my ‘local’ NC casino before then to keep my blackjack run going!


Playing Blackjack in London

This week I was in London for a family vacation and as luck would have it we stayed a couple of blocks from the Hippodrome casino near Leicester Square. I have played blackjack in 11 U.S. states and really wanted to add a new country to my list.


Since it was a family vacation I didn’t exactly have casino time built into the schedule. I managed to carve off 30 minutes while the family was shopping for my 2nd day and drop by for a quick session.

The casino was very nice, not huge by Vegas standards, but 5 stories full of cozy table games, bars, and a poker room. The staff was friendly, the crowd was decent but not hectic, and overall it had a nice vibe.

I found a $25 blackjack table on the main floor and took a seat. Immediately 2 other people joined and we played a couple of shoes. I played my standard style and stayed near even for most of the time and when I had to go meet the family I ended the session up $45.

There were a few similarities and differences I noticed from U.S. games. The game was 6 deck shoe, hand-shuffle, 3:2 blackjack, dealer stays on soft 17 so generally a good game. Some interesting things of note were the amount of side action including 3 different side bets for pairs, high-hands, and 21s. You are also able to play behind other players with designated slots on each position. Also, when the cards are dealt each player gets 2 cards, plays out their hand and the dealer only has one card face-up. Once all the players act the dealer gets her 2nd card. Otherwise, most of the play was what I expected. One other minor item of note was a $10 chip which I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

I enjoyed my session and was able to get back for another hour my last night where I won another $70. So my first European gambling effort was a success with a minor win. Hopefully, I can keep these winning ways going for my U.S. trips which continue again this week in Vegas and one day I hope to get to play in more countries.

24 Hours in Vegas, 2nd Vegas Trip of 2018

Last week I was in L.A. for business so I figured why not stop by for a quick Vegas blackjack day on my way home since I was already on the west coast.  I had a comp room at The Cromwell, which is one of my favorite casinos, and a credit for airfare from a canceled trip last year so my only non-gaming expense would be Uber and food.

I flew LA to Vegas at 7am and it looked nothing like the TV show.  I did get an upgrade to first class for the <1-hour flight, but otherwise, it was fairly uneventful.  When I landed in Vegas both the Uber pick-up and the taxi line were empty in Terminal 3 – btw if you don’t have checked bags I’d always recommend using Terminal 3 for quicker taxi/Uber access – which is the first time I’ve ever seen this.  This was also my worst Vegas Uber ride ever, the guy didn’t speak any English, took the highway at rush hour and then pulled a U-turn on Flamingo to get into the driveway – luckily Uber didn’t charge me a higher rate for the long-haul.

With the travel over I settled into my room for some work calls prior to hitting the casinos.  The Cromwell has cool funky decor in the rooms and is one of my favorite places to play due to its intimate vibe, but I will say that in the future I’ll probably stick with Planet Hollywood or Paris for no other reason than the view.  I usually get a great view of Bellagio fountains and the strip and at Cromwell with the corner lot, I only had a partial view.

On to the casino.  I stopped by and said hi to my favorite host at Cromwell, but they still haven’t listened to me so there was no high-limit table open on a weekday so I headed over to Bally’s.  At Bally’s I sat at my usual $50 table in the high-limit room with one of my regular dealers.  Our first interaction was pretty funny…we shook hands said pleasantries and then the cocktail waitress came over with a Bud Light and said ‘welcome back, here you go!’  My dealer smiles and says ‘you come here too much.’ I say ‘Nah, it’s just about right.’  The first round at Bally’s I doubled my buy-in for 7 yards and then went to get a slice of cheap pizza for lunch.  After lunch, I went and played $25 blackjack with one of the dealers I know in the main pit – there are 3 women who have been dealing there for 20 years and I see them most trips just to say hi even though their games are getting progressively worse with multiple side bets and 8-deck shoes.  Another double-up for 3 yards and I figured I should try to make this trip a big winner so I headed to the Planet Hollywood high-limit room.  I wasn’t really paying attention to my dealer until mid-way through the 2nd show when she started sniffling – ugh – I’m not catching a cold or flu here.  I ride through a fairly bad shoe, which brought me back to just above even for the trip and bail out without trying to rally.

I took a quick trip to the Diamond lounge to get some free dinner before a nighttime blackjack session.  For my last session, I went to one of my regular dealers.  The conversation for this session was more interesting than the blackjack.  It turns out my guy is keeping his eyes open for a new job and started giving me stories about crazy things he’s seen at the casino as well as how much dealers make at the various properties.  I’m not going to share too many details here since a) I don’t have another source to confirm they are accurate and b) I don’t want to get him in trouble, but there were dealers caught trying to steal chips in their shoes and he shared what the average dealer makes at most properties on the strip.  The range is $50-120K for the mid-to-upper mid properties and he said getting a job at the high-end places is almost impossible since people rarely leave those jobs.  Another interesting tidbit was that dealers at one of the high-end strip properties reportedly made $1600 in tips on Super Bowl Sunday.

After that very intriguing conversation, I closed the day up 6 yards and headed off to bed.  As usual, I played my 25 cent Wheel of Fortune machine at the airport and this time took home an extra $20.  Overall the cost of the trip was 5000 SkyMiles, $30 in Uber, and $13 in food.  Overall, it was a fun 24-hours and I’m already looking forward to my next Vegas trip in April as well as a quick local trip on March 2nd for National Blackjack Day 3:2.

Starting the Year Off With a Win

Nearly every year I attend CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas and nearly every year I start off with a big gambling loss.  I’ve written about this before, too many drinks, too many days, too many sessions with co-workers at bad tables, and too many dumb losses.

This year I went into the show with a different mindset.  I decided to spend more time working and not fall into the typical gambling traps that come with playing with cheap co-workers after open bar parties.  Unfortunately, my willpower was tested immediately.  My hometown Georgia Bulldogs were playing for the National Championship and after drinking all game then watching a crushing defeat in OT I stumbled down to the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood.  This was exactly what I wanted to avoid, and sure enough, I ‘hate gambled’ away 16 yards in about an hour.

After this poor start, I regrouped and didn’t drink for the next 48 hours.  The lack of alcohol and focused play at my favorite tables in Bally’s high-limit room over day 2 & 3 got me back slightly ahead going into the final day.

I was feeling much better about my week heading into the final day and had only one meeting before making a last run at profitability.  I started my day at The Cromwell where I played at an 8-deck table (never a good choice) while waiting to say hello to my favorite host.  This cost me several yards, but it is always good to see a friendly face and that fun interaction started my day off on the right path.

After leaving The Cromwell I was drawn back to the Bally’s HLR and their $50 table.  I made a nice run, nothing spectacular, but it did put me solidly in the black for the week.  At this point, I had a choice to make so I grabbed a slice of pizza, walked past the $100 tables at Paris and then u-turned back to Ballys.  I decided to make my last stand at my favorite table.  This turned out to be a good choice.  After a few solid shoes I hit a major hot run and started putting black chips in my pocket while growing my working stack.  Once I hit 4X my buy-in I chipped up and headed to the Diamond lounge for a snack before bed.

As a nice little post-script, I put $100 in the Wheel of Fortune slot at the airport and won $50 before catching my flight.

This was by far my most profitable CES and now that I’m off to a winning start to the year I’m going to focus my efforts on making 2018 my most successful gambling year ever.

4th Annual Blackjack Year In Review (2017)

I feel like the sales guy in your company who didn’t hit their quota, but has to do an annual review and try to spin all the positives of their year that obscure the fact that they didn’t do the one thing that they are paid to do – produce revenue.  To get the big question out of the way first, no it was not a winning year on the blackjack tables.  This is my 3rd losing year in a row – ouch.  I’ve made some peace with the fact that my use of a progressive betting system will produce winning sessions and even streaks, but likely won’t make me a consistent winner in the long-run.  That being said, I still have some work to do on my play that would keep me closer to even or ahead simply by being more disciplined in my play and game management.  Anyway, let’s look at the year in numbers:

  • 17 casino visits – new record
    • 4 trips to Vegas
    • 1 new state – Maryland, 11th state in which I’ve visited a casino
    • 22 straight months with a casino visit and counting
  • Largest loss in one trip -52 yards – brutal Jan trip to start year in huge hole
  • Largest win in one trip +20 yards – summer Vegas trip got me back to nearly even
  • Largest loss on one hand – 8 yards
  • Largest win on one hand + 7.5 yards (1.5 split/double X5)
  • Largest single bet on one hand – 7.5 yards – push
  • Total loss for the year – 56 yards

Some of the other highlights from the year included:

  • National Blackjack Day on 3:2 gained momentum, including a mention on the billboard in front of The D Las Vegas
  • I had some positive impact on The Cromwell and their gaming strategy based on conversations with their host
  • I won a NLH poker tourney over 50 people at Planet Hollywood with an $80 buy-in that paid $1200
  • I kept my Diamond status with Total Rewards which is great mainly for the fact that it avoids the damn resort fees on comp rooms

It was another fun and productive, if not profitable, year for my gambling hobby.  I’m looking forward to much more in 2018 with 3 planned Q1 Vegas trips and promising plans for #BlackjackDay 2018 it should be another great year.  Look forward to playing more, have new experiences, and meeting more great people as part of this adventure.

That Time I Played Arm Chair Casino Marketing Consultant for The Cromwell

My current ‘dream job’ would be working as a casino marketing consultant.  Living the @_Lucky45 life traveling from casino to casino providing insights and recommendations on how they could improve their operations.  I’m not sure it truly is a dream job, but from the outside looking in, it seems like a fun gig.

After a Vegas trip this spring I met a friendly host at The Cromwell and had a great conversation about their gaming strategy.  She encouraged me to provide some feedback so I sent the attached email with my POV.

The premise of the note was summed up here:

Gaming options on the Strip have become mass market and game rules continue sliding to the favor of the house while regional casinos are raking in major hold revenue from higher limit gamers.  This shift creates a gap that an intimate, upscale, player-friendly casino on the Strip would have the ability to exploit.

It was fun to see that this summer The Cromwell implemented some similar concepts to those that I had recommended.  Now, I’m not taking credit for these changes. the host told me that they were considering some changes already, however it was good to see that my ideas had merit.

Maybe I have potential in a casino marketing role – only time and a little luck will tell.

Full-copy of the attached email exchange with the host from the PDF is below…any feedback is appreciated.

 From:   XXXX XXXX <>
 Date:  Sunday, April 30, 2017 10:59 pm
 Subject:  RE: Feedback on The Cromwell
Good evening,

It was a pleasure meeting you as well! Thank you so much for the very thoughtful email, it’s clear that you are passionate about marketing and care about the success of The Cromwell. I went ahead and forwarded your email over so that the right person can hear your feedback and get in touch with you.  Hopefully, you can stay with us during your next trip and see some of our changes implemented and more clearly why Cromwell is truly such a unique and luxurious property unlike anything else on the Las Vegas Strip.

Again, thank you so much for the feedback and I look forwarded to seeing you here on property in the future. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any other questions regarding Cromwell.

Kindest Regards,

XXXX XXXX  |  Vip Hospitality Host

3595 Las Vegas Blvd S. | Las Vegas, NV 89109
| Download our app Play by TR

From: []
Sent: Sunday, April 30, 2017 7:12 PM
Subject: Feedback on The Cromwell


It was a pleasure to meet you last week and I appreciate you indulging my questions and comments about the gaming potential at The Cromwell.  I started to write a short follow-up email and my marketing consulting side kicked in so apologies in advance for the long email.  I truly believe that The Cromwell is uniquely positioned to double or triple gaming revenue with a concentrated effort.

My expertise is in strategic digital and brand marketing as I’ve lead both for The XXX Channel, XXX, XXX and now I’m leading marketing for a digital media start-up.  Combine that background with a passion for live casino gaming and particularly blackjack, and the Cromwell gaming business has captured my interest.  I make 5-6 trips to Vegas each year, with about the same number of trips to regional casinos and typically play $50-100 limit blackjack.

As I mentioned, I stopped by to chat since you didn’t have any tables open in the high-limit room when I passed through on 3 different occasions mid-week last week and I enjoyed playing in your HLR on previous trips.  I ended up in the Bally’s HLR for most of the week.  This email is based on your suggestion to provide some tangible feedback to share with casino leadership.

Unique Insight:

Gaming options on the Strip have become mass market and game rules continue sliding to the favor of the house while regional casinos are raking in major hold revenue from higher limit gamers.  This shift creates a gap that an intimate, upscale, player-friendly casino on the Strip would have the ability to exploit.


Players First – not a tagline, a mindset.  I was in Cherokee NC last week and they had 20+ $50-100 limit blackjack tables, 6+ craps tables all above $15 and nearly every spot was full.  This obviously isn’t a direct relation to Vegas, but these players will almost all head to Vegas at some point each year and when they arrive they would appreciate a casino to welcome them like the high-level player they are.

The Brand:

Currently, The Cromwell has what I’d call in consulting terms Brand Dissonance, but in everyday terms the carpet doesn’t match the drapes.  I can stay for free at any Vegas Total Rewards property except The Cromwell and you send me surveys asking what name makes me think of an ultra-lux destination, which makes me believe that The Cromwell is the top of the line Vegas property for Caesars competing with the Cosmo and Aria.  When I arrive and the first thing I see are signs for $5 tables always open and $2 drinks with no high-limit room tables open that makes me think the target market is the drunk dude stumbling between Ballys and Flamingo.  The only way to build a brand is to embrace it at all levels.  I was at the Wynn this trip and a guy came up to the bar at 3pm Tuesday and asked what the specials were – bartender says ‘Sir this is the Wynn, every drink is special.’    A bit douchy, but point made and the guy bought a $12 drink.

Target Customer:

So who is a ‘Player’?  Someone who appreciates great customer service, quality gaming odds and options, loves great food from a high-profile chef and enjoys a world-class day/night club experience.  They don’t all have to be the same person, but they can appreciate people who like each of them.  In terms of gaming, the experience is key.  At Bally’s, Paris and PH I know several of the dealers and pit bosses in each high-limit room and the experience is friendly and fine.  If I venture to other properties I’m lucky to get a ‘good luck’ when the pit boss flings my players card back to me.  I’d be very impressed if I could play somewhere that went an extra step to show me they respect me and my business.


How would we measure success and know that these observations are more than just long-winded musing and if changes were implemented that they are successful?  Since The Cromwell is intimate it won’t compete on gross revenue hold numbers, but there are a few metrics that would show progress including revenue per player, revenue per table, repeat visitors, players who stay at other properties, and other indicators that super-serving players is indeed growing the bottom line.

Tactical Implications:

So what does all this mean?  Honestly, all of this may not match the data and I’m heavily data-driven so would be fun to dig into the numbers to validate.  Anyway, here are a few top-level options that could bring the strategy to life:

–          -Service: Address all players by last name/sir/ma’am, welcome all players at the door and direct them to their destination, personal welcome from casino host to all players staying at hotel (I did receive this last year during my stay), personal email to players staying at hotel prior to their stay, hand-written thank you to each high-limit player after their visit, etc

–          -Gaming: Favorable odds (all blackjack 3:2, strong odds on craps, etc), no tables with limit below $15 on BJ or $10 on craps ever, high-limit room open every day at least after noon (ideally 24/7)

–          -Messaging: No significant mass-marketing efforts, mainly targeted personal messaging to players via email, text, etc, No marketing of the odds or amenities, focus on the vibe and atmosphere that players will expect.  Not looking for the drunks stumbling the strip, or locals trying to get good odds, looking to super-serve players.

–          -Extras: The Abbey as invite only/membership space (this may not be possible, but would be amazing), would like to see a ‘speakeasy’ in the casino which has secret entrance for players who know, maybe a ‘player of the day’ voted by staff, custom ‘Cromwell’ card for select players that gives small extra benefits.

I’ll stop now since I’ve clearly gone way beyond my depth.  I appreciate you humoring me as I dabble in casino marketing consulting for one email.  If any of this is of any interest I’d be happy to have additional conversations and I look forward to playing in The Cromwell in the near future.

Thank you,


Vegas 48-Hour Guys Trip Recap Nov. 2017

Last week was my annual 48-hour guys trip to Vegas.  Usually it happens in the summer, but this year it was postponed due to some scheduling conflicts.  There were two of us staying in a comped room at Paris with another buddy down the street at MGM Grand.  As always, there was little in the way of actual plans, leaving the schedule open to gamble and drink as much as possible.

Day 1: One long losing blackjack session

I landed at 11am on Wednesday, took Uber to Paris.  As a sidebar Uber is absolutely the way to go from the airport to the Strip, $14, easy access from the parking deck and no worries about long-hauls.  I’ve found that cab rides from the airport to the Strip are about $20 and the ride back to the airport is less than $15.  I had a noon call for work which took about 15 minutes then headed straight to my favorite table on the strip.

I walked through the indoor street connecting Paris to Bally’s and found ‘my’ table open.  The table I always look for is the $50 6-deck shoe in the high-limit area at Bally’s.  I know most of the dealers and pit bosses, I can almost always play by myself, and it is a pretty good atmosphere.  I sat down around 12:30, bought in, and promptly got a blackjack.  Unfortunately, that was the only good part of the first shoe, the rest was a downward slog.  2nd shoe, first hand blackjack again and another losing shoe, ugh.  3rd shoe, dealer starts with blackjack and you guessed it, I won a bit.  So I was now settled in, the drink girl knew to bring me a Bud Light when mine was almost gone and it was time to grind away.  I played shoe after shoe and then yada, yada, yada it was after 9pm and I realized hadn’t eaten anything since pretzels on the plane.

I walked to Burger Brasserie next door for a solid burger (way overpriced, but it’s Vegas and I had a $30 food credit) and got a text that my buddy had just landed.  At this point it is 10:30 PT, I’d been up since 6am ET, drinking beer since noon, and it was time to lurch back to my room to pass out.  Overall a fun day, but playing for so long at the same table is never a great strategy and not surprisingly I ended the day down over 25 yards – that makes for some expensive ‘free’ Bud Lights.

Day Two – Don’t call it a comeback

After the losses on day 1 I woke up early and decided to walk the strip before my buddies got out of bed and get off to a positive start to the day.  Coming from the east coast I never sleep past 7am in Vegas so I was up and out the door at 6:30.  Walking the strip early morning is always an interesting experience with a combination of degenerate gamblers continuing their streaks of good or bad luck, club kids coming home in full party gear, golfer guys grabbing coffee, hookers looking for a last trick, convention attendees hurrying to breakfast, exercise buffs crushing a few miles, and the homeless randomly strewn across the sidewalks.  It makes you feel awesome and awful for yourself and for people in general at the exact same time.

After my slow walk down to Venetian and back I got my buddy and headed to Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood for a quick breakfast and to get the comeback started.  After a quick bite I jumped into the $100 table at Planet Hollywood which continued my losing ways with another 10 yard loss, oof.  I also played $100 worth of team slots with Chris from Faces N Aces who was not in Vegas but playing virtually – that was a total bust – playing $1 WOF machine at $5 per spin and it was gone within 5 minutes and only one positive win in the whole play.  My buddy went back to the room to rest for a bit so I walked with him back Paris and stopped by the $100 table at the high-limit room.  This session was bumpy as well with a slight win streak followed by some uneven results that finally trended down until my buddy came to grab me for lunch down another 5 yards, grr.

Poker Tournament

Lunch was another good, but over-priced, burger at Gordon Ramsey’s BRGR at Planet Hollywood which I paid for with points so I couldn’t complain too much.  At lunch our third friend joined us and we discussed the $80 daily poker tournament at PH.  We decided to all play and split any winnings equally between us.  The three of us bought in and were assigned to separate tables as part of the 50 person field.  These small tournaments typically start slow and this was no exception, I played conservative and hovered near even for the first few rounds until we got to break.  Both of my friends were doing better, one was up about 50% and the other was the chip leader after a double knock out.  After the break my table started to loosen up and I made a small run while my buddies were treading water.  A few minutes later one of my guys busted so now we’re down to 2 chances to earn our money back.  Right before the 2nd break I was hurt by a tough river card leaving me towards the bottom while buddy #2 busted out on a semi-bad beat.  Now the team hopes are down to me and I’m about 16th out of the 20 players left at the final 2 tables.  My strategy was to wait until I had a huge hand, go all-in, hope for the best and repeat until I got back into better shape.  Fortunately people were now playing very loose and 3 of our 10 players were gone in just a few rotations.  I picked off a couple of blinds going all in with no callers and then shoved with Queen-9 of diamonds and was called by a guy with similar stack size and a pair of 3’s – terrible call on his part I thought.  Flop was Queen, 9, blank, then river was another Queen to give me a boat.  Now I’m back in the game.  With a decent stack and players donking off chips as we got close to the final table I made a nice move to get back to a respectable position of 6th out of the final 10.  So you’re saying there’s a chance.  Once the final table started the dude in 8th immediately started pushing for a chop.  A couple of people were going to go along, but me and the guy with huge chip lead said no.  2 more busted and guy pushes for chop again, but the two of us say no again.  Next hand I bust out guy right behind me and now I’m 4th out of 7 and choppy keeps going so I said ‘NO, we’re here to play poker…worry about your cards not the chop.’  Chip leader and dealer agree with me and shortly after I bust out #7 to get to 3rd of final 6.  We all put in $20 to pay off whoever lost next which was the bubble.  Now we’re down to 5 and I’m basically in a tie for 2nd, way behind the chip leader who had the rest of us all covered by far.  We get down to final 3 with chip leader at 4x me and other guy who were tied.  I offer chop to other guy for 2nd and he declines then immediately goes all in with Queen Jack and I call with King Queen and now I’m heads-up at about 1/3 of chip leader.  I get cards and play well heads up to get us nearly even.  I then pick up a flush vs his straight and cripple him.  Couple hands later and he’s all in with King 10 spades and I call with King Queen.  Queen comes on the flop and only one spade, fade the next streets and I just won $1400.  Split 3 ways after the $80 buy-in and I’m up ~$400 in poker after getting crushed in blackjack, go figure.

Back to my games

I was hoping to parlay my poker luck into blackjack winning so I went back to the PH HLR and proceeded to play for several hours while my buddies wasted their winnings playing the big wheel.  After an hour my buddy comes in to tell me he is going to get the big wheel girl to hang out with us tonight – riiight.  The only hand of note in this session was pretty fun – a $150 bet saw me get 77 vs dealer 5 – split, then a 7 so now I’m working 3 hands.  4 lands, double (face down), next 7 gets a 10. 3rd 7 gets a 3, double (face down) – Total hand is now 5x$150.  Dealer turns over a 2 for a 7 – crap – next card is an 8 and….10 for the bust!   That was a solid win, but overall session wasn’t great so after another hour I’m ready to roll and he proclaims he got the digits, but she can’t hang out tonight because she has to take her dog to the vet after her shift (which ends at 9pm) – okay, whatever makes you feel good.  I lost a few bucks, but nothing terrible at blackjack and now we’re headed to play some team roulette.

We each pitched in $100 for roulette, got $5 chips, picked a few numbers and played a few of the outside bets.  Team roulette can end in 5 spins or be a lot of fun.  In this case we were drunk enough and we hit a number (that I picked) the 2nd spin.  Now we’re up and 2 spins later we hit another number (friends pick, #34) so we’re rolling and sure enough #34 hit twice in a row.  Now we’re way up, take our 100% profit off the table and keep playing the rest of the money with no further hits until it runs out.

It’s 9pm and dinner time at BLT Steak at Bally’s.  Great steak dinner, used a $100 comp towards the bill so free for me and my buddies were happy to get a discount.  After dinner the guys headed back out to PH to watch girls spin wheels and I decided to call it a night.

Of course, when I say call it a night that means stopping by the Paris HLR before bed – my bankroll was hurting and this was a high-risk move before I got on the plane early in the morning.  I bought in and started off with a decent shoe and then had a great shoe to more than double my buy-in.  At that time another guy came into the room so I decided to cash out.  Now that I was on a roll I wanted to keep playing and headed to Bally’s HLR.  Bally’s was another good run and generated more than a triple-up on my buy-in, but at 1:30am I had to quit and cash in so I couldn’t push my winnings even higher.  With these last-ditch efforts I was back to nearly even for the 48 hours and called it a night at 2am to get up at 6am for my flight home.

At the airport I played Wheel of Fortune slots and ended up doubling my $40 before takeoff.

Another fun, although not ultimately profitable, 48 hour guys trip to Vegas in the books.  Maybe I’ll follow this week’s results up by becoming a poker player first and a blackjack player second – yeah right – blackjack is where my heart is even if it is hurting my bankroll in recent trips.  As Arnold would say…I’ll be back!