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!

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CES and Blackjack Don’t Mix – When Will I Learn?

I’ve written at least 2 of these posts in the past 3 years.  Somehow I always start the year off with a big loss during CES.  I say somehow, but looking back at this last trip really I shouldn’t be too surprised.

As you probably know CES is the giant electronics trade show that happens the first week of every year.  I attend most years and as part of the week I find my way to the tables on a regular basis.  I don’t think I’ve ever come back from CES up on my gambling scorecard and this year was no different.

The week started off on a bad note when I played the $50 tables at Bally’s on Monday the 2nd, which for the record is the earliest I’ve started gambling in a new year.  This is usually one of my favorite places to play, but this session didn’t go well with a loss and a faux pas.  The loss was minor, but my misstep was embarrassing, guy comes in and I’m only one playing at 4 tables.  He talks to dealers and the pit boss, they all know him and as he is sitting down at other table he looks at me and says ‘should I come play with you?’  I say ‘no thanks I prefer to play alone.’  Everyone stops.  Well shit what did I do?  After a second I realized he was flirting with my dealer and wasn’t talking to me.  Crap.  I apologized, but he thought I was a douche and both of us ended up losing after that pretty quick.  I saw the guy later on the casino floor and apologized again, he was fairly cool about it, but I still feel like a dumbass – I know better – keep your mouth shut unless you have something good to say!

Day 2 and 3 had a lot of work related activities with only a quick $25 table session snuck in here and there which didn’t really move the needle either way.  Day 4 gave me a window to play in the afternoon and so I hit the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood which turned into a nice session with a comeback that got me back to even for the week.  Nothing eventful, but most of the splits and doubles went my way which makes for a winning combination.

Day 5 was depressing since I met a buddy and he wanted to play at $10 or $15 table, which on the strip at night during CES is nearly impossible so we ended up playing $15, 6:5, auto-shuffle machine at Bellagio – this was my personal version of hell.  The dealer and I were talking and he knew it was a joke so he started yelling 6:5!!’ every time someone got blackjack just to rub it in.  After that I went to play high-limit again at PH which was a mistake, I had been drinking all evening and was on tilt after Bellagio hell which contributed to a really bad loss.

On my final night again I started playing $100 tables after many drinks at happy hour and dinner which isn’t an excuse, but the game went poorly again and when I made a nice comeback I pressed my luck – losing 2 separate $500 hands on bad beats (double/split hit to 19 & 20 vs. dealer 5 where dealer hits to make 21) and ended up down again for my last night.

Unfortunately, it was another rough CES gambling trip, so what went wrong…

This trip was long – arrived at Paris Las Vegas on Monday the 2nd and didn’t head home until Sunday the 8th.  That is the first challenge – with so much time there are plenty of chances to hit the tables and so sticking to a game plan isn’t as easy as a 48-72 hour trip.

I was also very busy with work meetings and an event that our company participated in which I was leading.  Challenge #2 – I am usually distracted while at CES with work obligations and this time with a major event which means that blackjack becomes my relaxation activity from the stress of the week so I’m likely to play with less focus on my game and try to extend my table time as a way to wind down from long days.

Of course there is also plenty of alcohol flowing at every happy hour and business dinner which leads to challenge number 3, drinking and gambling.  I like to drink and gamble, but usually I don’t start until I’m at the tables and then I can pace myself, when I arrive at the table a few drinks in it typically leads to loose and aggressive play which works fine when cards are in my favor, but this time they went the other way.

The last of my personal blackjack challenges during CES (the struggle is real) is playing with co-workers and friends.  I can’t really say no when friends and co-workers want to play and I can’t say hey let’s go play at the $100 tables so we end up with the masses at $15 6:5 auto-shuffle hell holes pissing away a few hundred bucks with almost no chance of winning which chips away at the week’s bankroll.

These are all excuses,  I realize that, but I need something to keep me motivated to stick with my blackjack game plans early in the year.  It honestly sucks to start the year in a hole that I’ll be digging out of all year-long.

The good news is I have 4 planned Vegas trips through June to make my comeback so stay tuned to see where we go from here!

 

 

Review of Paris Casino Las Vegas

paris logoI’ve had some of my more memorable Vegas experiences at the Paris Las Vegas casino.  In my younger days I ended up having a dinner that cost more than my weekly salary in the Eiffel Tower with two total strangers I met at the craps table which included photos and conversation with Kathy Griffin and the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when they were at the height of their popularity.  My younger days are fading into the rearview mirror, but I still have a positive vibe for Paris.

I hadn’t played at Paris Las Vegas in a couple of years until late 2013 when I rediscovered it – I had taken a detour playing at higher end places and the previous times I had played Paris it had become fairly bland with a middle aged divorcee feel.  My most recent visit to Paris was April 2014.

Since I’ve rediscovered it, my more recent experiences with Paris have been mainly positive – the gaming floor is a good size, the main floor is a bit quiet with not much ambient noise, but they do have a ‘pleasure pit’ area at nights that turns up the volume a bit and adds some energy.  They do tend to jack up their table minimums at night which might be a deterrent to people who are looking for a $10-15 blackjack table or $5 craps game.

In addition to a solid mid-tier feel they have generally pleasant dealers and staff who are a little stiffer than Ballys or Planet Hollywood, but offer more personality than you might find at Bellagio or Caesars.  The wide array of food options in close proximity to the tables is another nice benefit as you can get a solid high-end dinner or grab a bite on the go at a moments notice.

Overall my ratings for Paris Las Vegas Casino is a B+

Gaming – B+

Atmosphere – B+

Food – A- lots of options at any end of the spectrum

People watching – C+, fairly conservative crowd, not very flashy, head through tunnel to Ballys for some fun people watching

Friendly dealers/staff – B

Nightlife – not really, more food and happy hours