I have, what I believe to be, a similar bucket list of most avid gamblers, and one of those items is to play in the main event of the World Series of Poker. Yes, I’m a blackjack player, but I like to dabble in other casino games and no-limit hold-em tournaments are always a fun distraction. At some point when the kids are out of the house I’ll cash in some of my 401k money and pony-up $10K to play in the main event. Until that happens the best option I could find was a $365 1-day event at the WSOP Circuit event at Harrah’s Cherokee.
I headed up for a Saturday night with 3 buddies and since we arrived a couple of hours early I had to play a few hands of blackjack to kill time. I played at a $50 table in their high-limit room which had 8 tables open all night as well as 8 $100 limit tables. I had a nice opening run which earned enough to pay for my tournament entry plus a couple bucks for drinks.
This casino is apparently the most profitable in the Caesars chain which I can believe based on the number of players. In addition to 16 full high-limit blackjack tables they also had 6 craps tables at $15 or above without a spot open, and nearly every other table and slot section was close to capacity. The volume and high-dollar play was impressive.
After the quick win at blackjack I was feeling good going into my WSOP debut so I headed to table 2 seat 8 to start my run. Once I entered the room it was a bit overwhelming. The tourney was held in their events center where once-famous rockers and country singers play every other weekend. Picture a hockey rink sized floor with a small stage above the floor, and now imagine that scene completely filled with poker tables…plus more tables in the hallways and waiting areas outside the main hall. It was stunning.
I headed on to the stage to find table 2 and grabbed my seat a few minutes early. One of the players was clearly a regular in these events as he had ‘bagged’ for the main event on an earlier day. Everyone else seemed to be more like me and we started playing pretty much by the book. It took about 30 minutes for me to pick up anything worth playing (KK from big blind) and of course the entire table folds except the small blind who only called then folded to a min bet after the flop. After that it was fairly routine up and down and I made it to the first break a few chips ahead of the original stack.
Shortly after the break I had several playable hands in a row and made a slight positive run. Then the wheels started to come off. I picked up A10 suited and my 3BB bet was called by one other player. Ace plus 2 nothing cards on the flop so I bet again, getting a call, 4 on the turn, I bet again and get a call, another nothing card on the river and I’m feeling strong so I check to induce a bet and sure enough he bets so I call and he flips over an A4 off-suit…OUCH. I’m now crippled and hang around for a few more hands, fight off an all-in for almost nothing then go all-in w/Q10 suited vs. 6s and the 6s hold-up.
My dreams of making it big in poker were quickly dashed, but it was a lot of fun. I’m going to delay any hopes of the main event until $10k isn’t as big a deal, but when the circuit comes back through I could be talked into playing again. Until then I’m going to stick to blackjack as my gambling fix.
I’m a gambler by nature. I play the stock market, my Caliper score is near 100 for risk-taking at work, and I’m up for trying about any type of game at a casino. This last trip to Vegas I wanted to give myself a few breaks from the blackjack tables so I scheduled in a couple of diversions. I’m not a sports book guy and I can play golf at home so I was looking for additional gambling options. The 2 ways I found to move off the blackjack tables this trip were a bingo tourney and a NLH poker tourney.
I tweeted a little about the Bingo event @blackjackroi during my trip. It was a free event from Total Rewards and I went in with extremely low expectations. I was 20+ years below the average age in the huge room of 500 people. There were people with strategies, extra cards, their own stamps, it was quite the spectacle. Once the event started I will say it was actually a fun 90 minutes. There were 9 separate events, each with a different way to get a bingo. Some of the games lasted 5 minutes with one winner and some lasted a long time with multiple bingos. I was only close one time when I missed a $1200 bingo by one number. I was surprised that at times I found myself getting into it and hanging on the next number called. I won’t go out of my way to participate in another event, but if I’m already headed to Vegas and there is a free event during my stay I’d do it again.
My second alternate event was a $75 poker tournament at Planet Hollywood. There were 21 total entries with a guaranteed total prize of $1000 so the odds were pretty solid. I’m not a regular poker player, but I always enjoy watching WSOP and back during the poker boom I was a decent home game player. You know where this is going so I’ll get straight to my bad beat story…played solid, made it past the break with 20X the big blind and post break went on a small run. Then I remembered why I play blackjack. A2 diamonds, I raise 2X BB, 2 callers, flop A2Q – I raise 6X BB, one loose call from reckless player, turn 6 rag, I go all in and player goes into tank…I’m begging for a call, basically taunting to get the call, and sure enough calls – I turn over cards and they don’t even want to show their AJ off-suit…River…Jack and I’m out and off to nearest blackjack table.
Even with the bad beat at poker these distractions were worth the time and small investment to give myself a break from my blackjack play. If I’m looking to make money I will stick with blackjack, but as a gambler I will continue looking for ways to diversify my play.
I got an email announcement for the Movada poker series at Harrahs Cherokee in early December 2013. They had several events during the week and I had a few extra vacation days remaining so I figured why not try something new. I’m not much of a poker player anymore – back in the Moneymaker days I played a couple of times a month with the neighborhood guys and would sit in a tournament or two every time I was in Vegas. I haven’t ever cashed in a live tournament, but I can hold my own and made it fairly deep in some small events.
This tournament was a $250 buy in and had a fairly large field – I’d ballpark it at 300 people strong. It was mostly middle-aged white guys who seemed to play events on a regular basis from the table talk I heard. It was the usual cast of characters with the super-agro table leader, couple of quiet young guys with headphones, a loose cannon older guy who bet on almost everything, and the super friendly retiree who made a comment on every single hand. My day didn’t last long, won a couple of small pots early and then got AK hearts – 3bet – was raised by loose cannon, re-raised, he went all in and I called down his AQ spades – I’m a 70% favorite to win so you can guess what came next – 2 spades on the flop, spade on the turn and the river just to add insult to injury and I’m gone. This is why I’ve stopped playing poker – lots of skill, but in a tournament there is a lot of waiting for cards and then 2 ill-timed spades can tank your whole day.
Outside of poker of course I made time for blackjack before and after my quick exit. It seems like a trend that my first few rounds at Cherokee always take a bite out of my bankroll and this visit was no different. I lost $400 before the poker game which put me in a solid hole for the early hours of the day. After poker I took a break to grab a bite of lunch, rehash my poker bad luck over and over in my head, convince myself that I did everything right, and get ready to play solid blackjack so the day wasn’t a total loss.
The afternoon black jack was solid, nothing exciting, but solid. I clawed my way back slowly towards break even for the day and then the last shoe put me back to a $100 total loss for the day – not great, but not bad considering my early losses. Overall a fun day, I doubt I’ll play any large tourny poker in the near future, this reminded me that I probably don’t have the patience to make it through a big field so I’ll stick with blackjack from here on out.