Apparently this is post #1,206. How the hell did that happen?
Anyway.... umm... Happy Western Gentile New Year!
Because it's not the New Year in China. Nor for anyone else who doesn't follow a Gregorian calendar. Okay, so EVERYBODY actually follows the Gregorian calendar, because that's what the money follows.
So... Happy New Year. No it doesn't come early in Canadia, but I don't plan on being online much tonight outside of drunken tweets perhaps (bottle of Ten lined up and ready to go), and tomorrow, if all goes well, will be spent either sleeping or grumbling and shuffling to my couch.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Apparently this is post #1,206. How the hell did that happen?
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Hey, you... yes even you. Merry Christmas.
Not Happy Hanukkah, because that's already over with. What? You think all us gentiles are ignorant? Hope you had a good one though. Mine wasn't any great shakes, what with not being Jewish and all.
So, Merry Christmas to the rest of you consumers. Here's hoping you can look back on it in a couple months and remember the good things and forget the stress.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I mean, the season ended up here weeks ago. You still slogging it down south?
Do they play during the Christmas weekend? If so, here are my picks:
Thursday: I'll be brining a turkey and hanging w/ the family. If any bird-based teams (Eagles, Cardinals, Falcons, Orioles, Hawks, Ostriches, Emus, Kiwis, or otherwise) are playing, they'll win, but it'll be salty.
Friday: They don't play football on Friday do they? I'll be eating the aforementioned turkey, some ham, sides, and then having dinner of roast venison, roasted root veggies, brussels sprouts, beans, and potatoes. So... umm... I'll be too full to care.
Saturday: Boxing day! That means big sales in Canada! I don't foresee myself doing a ton of shopping this year, but more likely sleeping in and taking it easy whilst avoiding the crowds.
Sunday: No idea what I'm doing Sunday, but I won't be giving a shit about football.
Monday: Day off because Boxing Day is on a Saturday! I plan to sleep in and then wake up happy that I'm not at work. I might not even put on pants. I suppose there's still MNF, and I'll be really busy not caring.
Leafs will go 1-1 over the weekend. They may win tonight.
An acquaintance of mine relayed a story that happened to him in Vegas a while back. I got a laugh out of it.
He was there for a bachelor party with some of his GF's buddies. They were at a club at the MGM (Studio 54? Tabu? Beats me). One of the guys he's with suddenly shows up at his side and says, "we have to go... NOW."
"We have to get out of here before the cops show up."
So they leave. Once they're out, his idiot compatriots reveal they stole 3 bottles of vodka from the club.
They head back to their room (apparently at Bally's), and they pull out 3 bottles of... Smirnoff from under their jackets.
"Are you nuts? We'll get caught! It's amazing we got out the door!"
"Don't worry dude, we do this shit all the time at the halls back home."
"This is VEGAS, not some fucking Portuguese hall in Toronto!"
"Calm down dude."
Not too much later, the phone rings.
"We know you took 3 bottles from us. We want $500/bottle or we call the cops and blacklist you from Vegas."
The morons who took the hooch shit themselves and paid up.
Now, my first reaction during this story is "Wow, you guys are retarded." But my immediate second reaction, which came as soon as the brand was revealed - "Smirnoff? How fucking dumb are these guys? If you're going to steal, steal THE GOOD STUFF! Not the paint thinner!"
Then when I was told the price tag, I laughed. These douchebags stole shitty vodka from a Vegas club, and then had to pay $1500 for it! The cost on that was probably $20. Nice payday for the MGM.
And they didn't even bother trying to negotiate. They could have at least attempted to get the price down to $200/bottle + $100 for the guy on the phone.
Well, Riggstad asked for a menu for a New Year's buffet. Since I live to plan Riggs' meals for him, here are some suggestions.
- Prosciutto-wrapped scallops. Use a 12-month aged prosciutto and fresh scallops. A nice combination of the old year and new. These shouldn't actually be hard to make, as scallops don't take long on the pan, and prosciutto fries up quickly. In fact, baking/roasting them might be a better method, as it would be a slower, gentler cooking. But I don't generally do scallops, so you'll have to check on that.
- Smoked salmon with capers
- Butter chicken - takes a while, and involves marinading overnight in yogurt and spices and such to really get it right, but can be awesome. Throw down a bunch of roti or pitas next to it.
- Carve-your-own roast. Minimal work to roast a chunk of meat, and you can get it started with some slices, letting people cut as they want from there.
- scalloped potatoes
- When you do the roast, toss in some beef stock and root vegetables, potatoes, onions, etc... big dish of roasted veggies.
- Dessert on the buffet as well? Either ambrosia or mousse would be my call, maybe fruit cocktail if you want a healthier option.
- And drinks - either a rum punch (I used to do a really sweet one with frozen fruit punch, canned fruit cocktail, ginger ale, and lots of white rum, no idea if I'd still like it today), or egg nog. Alton Brown's Nog recipe is a favourite of mine. I can't stand store-bought nog, but homemade is awesome.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Another shot from the room. This time as soon as we checked in the first night.
I did the initial culling of shots from the golf game last night. Down to 97 in the short list (had around 400 to start with). Will probably trim that down some more. Still figure I'll have 'em up by Sunday.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
This trip marked one of my longest stays in Vegas. It also marked the first one where I wasn't positively sick of Sin City on my way out. I love to visit, but constantly staring at the façade that's is The Strip wears on the soul after a few days, and I long for the reality of streets that have buildings in all directions as opposed to only one.
But on this trip, I wished for more time. I toyed with the idea of moving my flight 12 hours ahead just so I could hang at the Venetian, eat Emeril's food, and not bet on football. Why? Because I hadn't spent nearly enough time with my IFFs. Sure, I'd had a few conversations with Pauly, spent hours zipping between foursomes on the golf course, had a drink with Iggy, downed SoCo with Al, joked around with BamBam, talked photography with Alan and OhCaptain, met Lightning36, talked about AWOL friends with JJ, pissed off CK (not really) with my talk of the dinner she missed, and tons of other interactions with this mosaic of a group we have, but it wasn't nearly enough. I barely saw LJ, which always kills me because we were among the first bloggers either of us met IRL during the '07 summer gathering. I once again didn't roll dice with Bayne, making me 0-for-5 I think on times we've both been in Vegas. I didn't get to mock Recess at a craps table for making me lose all my money with his mere presence. I didn't teach OhCaptain craps (something Dawn Summers will no doubt call a blessing for him). While I got to joke around with Jordan at the tournament, not once could we get a Jews vs Gentiles game of anything going. Hell, I almost only see Kat, BamBam, and Pebbles at blogger gatherings, despite them living within an hour's drive, and I didn't even raise a scotch with Bammer (or OhCaptain for that matter, but there's no excuse for that one). There are people I wanted to meet that I didn't even see, and I people I saw who I didn't get over to at least shake hands with.
And I didn't sit down at a Pai Gow table even once.
So yah, I wanted more time. It's impossible to see everyone you want to see, and do everything you want to do on these trips, and looking back I didn't exactly come up short, but it still doesn't stop me from wanting more.
So next year, both before and after I successfully defend my Golden Hammer, I MUST find more time.
But until then, there'll be an Eh-Vegas, maybe a Summer Gathering, maybe I'll actually make an Okie Vegas, and who knows what other opportunities for meeting up with subsets of this group. See you there?
Monday, December 14, 2009
Day 4. Saturday. The last day of consequence for me. The biggest of 'em too. This will be a long one.
First though - the view from my room as I returned the first night/morning
Up for the Bellagio buffet breakfast, I roped Kat, Lightning36, JJOK, and OhCaptain into it with myself and E (N & M off golfing in the cold rain). It just doesn't feel right to do Vegas without at least one buffet.
We talked, we ate, we talked, and then went off to prepare for the tournament in our own way. For me, E, and JJ, that meant walking from the buffet to Caesars.
The tournament kicked off, and I was 100% zen. I had no expectations, and just wanted to have fun. In fact, I knew I wouldn't mind busting out early because it would mean more time hanging with the other bloggers who were done.
That didn't quite happen.
Here's a quick hand recap from the beginning of the tourney to the final table:
crap, crap, more crap, crap, not quite crap so I'll raise, oh re-raise? fold, crap, crap, KK - raise and win blinds, crap, crap, nada, nothing, zip, zilch, crap, crap, 1-gapper raise, called, get bet out on broadway flop, crap, crap, shit, crap, more crap, what the hell is this crap? AQ - raise, get blinds, crap, crap, where are my chips? AJ raise, get re-raised, fuck it, all-in over the top for less than the re-raise, you folded? Sweet. Crap, crap, crap, crap, table change, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, garbage, small pair all-in with the short stack, double up and survive, crap, crap.... etc...
You get the picture. It was a game of pushing with an M of 3 and whatever I had holding up to keep me alive a bit longer. Any strong hands tended to win the blinds alone, and I caught nothing on the board. The first hour was so useless to me that I tore up my Bellagio buffet receipt and folded some origami card cappers (a crane and frog). I commented that I needed 999 more cranes to win the damned thing.
N went out somewhere in the 60's (69th according to him, 60th according to CJ), which pretty much kiboshed hopes of winning the last longer. Nobody could beat Team Roach (congrats guys!). E went out 12th with KJ losing to Alceste's aces or something, just before Change100 bubbled the final table.
And just before E and Change went down to put us at a final 10, I managed to double through AlCantHang (his second double up for me in the game). Q6s or something similar against AJs or something similar from him. I caught a card and it held. It's one of the few hands I remember, along with presto catching a set on the flop earlier to save my ass, and pocket 3's making it through an all-in on the flop from me and scaring off people who should have called.
No aces so far, by the way.
The highlight to this point was my second table. Pauly, Iggy, Garth, Maigrey, Obie, Smokkee, Blinders, Bayne... and someone else I can't recall. Blinders went out and was replaced with AlCantHang. Talk about the TV table! I figured that table was as good as any to double up at. I did a couple times, but only to survive.
Leading to the final table, I was barely above water. 40k in chips was not nearly enough at 4000/8000/1000. But we made that final 10 and the blinds were rolled back to 1500/3000/400 for some serious breathing room added. From here I had one goal - build a big stack. I knew I could take this down if I could get enough chips to take some risks and push the table around at the right times.
The bubble was tight, but it was quickly decided that we'd all chip in $10 for the bubble. Chilly got $90 to nearly break even when he went out in 10th.
Once we were in the money, my game shifted a bit. I could now take those risks without necessarily having a monster stack. It wasn't that I thought the $200 for 9th was big money, but that I'd just beat my bubble-boy performance of the previous year. 10th sucks.
So I stole some blinds, took some shots at flops, and kept ahead of the blinds as much as anyone could with the insane "get the hell out" structure that we'd hit at this point.
What was most surprising was how long the final 9 held out. Nobody was going out. Nobody was risking a significant portion of their stack to call a short all-in, because you just couldn't afford it with those levels.
I can't remember how everyone went out, but we lost Elissa, by far the best looking one at the table, in 9th. That was a loss for everyone. I blame The Rooster for distracting her with his manly charms.
Anyway, eventually people started dropping out. It was just a matter of time. Somewhere in there I knocked out someone, took some bigger pots with the right moves at the right time, and found myself as chipleader with 8 to go, then again with 5 to go, and I generally stayed up there.
By far my best played hand was against Gnome. He'd been using some timely aggression preflop to take blinds and antes, and had c-bet with some success when he actually saw a flop. He'd chased me off at least one hand earlier, and ran some air into a decent Al hand to reveal his range.
He raised preflop from the button, around 2.5x the BB, and I looked down to T8d in the BB. I called. Flop came J87 with two spades. I was pretty sure I was ahead here, and was sure he'd bet into a check from me. So I checked. He thought for a second and checked behind.
Hrmm... turn brought Qs, and I thought briefly about him having hit. I opted to check with every ounce of body language that said *I* had hit it. He started debating. I started wondering how I'd deal with a bet here. He reached for some chips and counted out a few, running them through his fingers. I put him on air, and knew he wasn't sure about me either. He put down the chips and checked.
River was a T. I didn't like this one. It gave me two pair, but also put the straight out there if he had a 9, or AK, along with the three spades on the board. But I had played this whole way with the intent of checkraising his action into me, and still had a hard time accepting he had anything. If he had hit the Q on the turn, it wasn't enough to keep him in, and he knew it. He was short enough that he could risk a bet, but not a call of a re-raise if he wasn't positive he had this. No, he had air... I checked.
And he bet 40k.
I paused, counted out the 40 while debating on the size of my raise. I wanted enough to get him out, but also wanted to leave enough behind that I could fold if he came over the top himself. 50k on top seemed like a good number. It was too much for him to just call, enough for me to leave on the table, but also enough that it looked like I was committed if he did raise. It said "I've got this and want you to call this bet..." It wasn't quite a value bet, and it was a semi-bluff even though I was almost positive he didn't have anything.
And he folded. There were plenty of mumblings around the table of what I had, if I'd just pulled off a monster bluff, or if I had the stone cold nuts there. That might have been almost as good a feeling as winning the whole thing. Especially since I have a ton of respect for Gnome's game. It was easily my favourite hand of the tournament.
Eventually, we got to 3-handed between myself, JoeSpeaker, and AlCantHang. Two guys proclaiming their drunkenness, one making sure we knew he was colour blind, and me. Both these guys were dangerous though. Speaker had been hanging back and using his whole stack strategically. Strong preflop raises and re-raises, and pushes for c-bets that were working. Al was happily shoving and raising seemingly at random, but he had enough chips to make it work.
And I realized exactly what I had to do.
Play them against each other.
But first, we had a chop discussion. With $4800 in the pot for top 3, and 7 1/2 hours of play behind us, it wasn't a bad idea. Joe and I were good with a straight up split, as only 10k separated us, and we'd even toss Al a premium as he had about 1/3rd more chips than us. But Al wanted the trophy too, and that was non-negotiable. We were playing for the trophy, not just giving it up. Al refused to chop without the Golden Hammer in the deal, and I decided it was time to start talking.
"No worries, that sounds like the kind of thing someone who doesn't think they can win it on their own would say."
That got Al ready to rumble. There was laughter and "ooooos" from the rail. Someone asked if we're going to go Canada vs America, to which I had only one response - "Find five more Americans to sit at the table and we'll call it an even match."
The three of us passed around chips. There were walks, position raises, and some legitimate hands that got bet and shown. Al and I were pretty evenly matched stack-wise and I wasn't getting much I wanted to tangle with him with. But I also happened to be sitting directly across from him, and could tell when he was planning on pushing his stack in the middle. I avoided at least two bluffs and bet with a small pair from the button by reading his intentions. Twice Speaker bet into him only to have to fold to Al's push, and the third time Al grumbled about getting a walk and flipped over an ace.
The downside of this is that I wasn't winning more than I was losing, and my stack was shrinking. I needed something that could stand up to an Al all-in (a regular occurrence by now). This is the time when you learn who your real friends are.
And they came to my defense in a BIG way. I was in the BB, looked down, and saw my old buddies A and A looking right back at me. I'm pretty sure they winked too. They'd been holding out the whole game so they could show up when it counted the most. Al pushed from the SB and I instacalled, flipping over my rockets to a round of "oh BIG surprise! Astin has Aces." from the peanut gallery.
They held... they more than held, they brought along another of their ilk on the flop, killing all drama for the hand and announcing to the world that they had my back.
I was now the monster stack.
Al got pushy again, as Speaker picked his spots. Then Al says, "all-in in the dark" from the SB. I look down at K3o. Al starts with "instacall! You have a King? Insant!" I wait. Is he really in the dark? Is K3 worth it for 1/4 of my stack and a courtesy double-up for the biggest wildcard at the table? I'm leaning towards "no" when he peeks and says "Oh, I have an ace." I fold. He flips over AQ. In the dark my ass.
A few hands later, he tries again. "All-in in the dark." Sigh. I look down at A9o. Good enough, I call. "I have a pair." Pocket 4's from Al hold up and he's doubles while I drop 1/4. We're close again, and Speaker is letting us fight it out.
It goes between the 3 of us for a while, and Al and I are really close in chips, when I bet with A6o and he goes all-in. I think about it. I put him on nothing particularly good. In fact, I figure my ace is good. He isn't as strong as he was with his "in the dark" bets, and is hoping to get rid of me here.
Al flips over KJo, and we're away to the races. My ace hits the turn, and Al is livid. "CON-GRAT-ULATIONS! You just won the blogger tournament!" "Ace-six? Ace-six!" "What about me told you your ace-six was good?" Okay, livid isn't the right word. Tilted might be, and it wasn't even entirely from that hand. But my instincts told me I was good there, and I've lost more by ignoring those instincts than by following them.
Al is about to leave when I point out we're pretty close. Turns out Al had me beat by 4000 chips... or an ante.
Al's ante goes in, I call the BB, Speaker completes his SB. Al triples up.
Al ends up all-in with the SB, and I'm auto-in with my BB, Speaker folds. I had crap, and Al had better crap. Al doubles up.
Joe has the BB in, Al goes all-in, I look down at AKo. Speaker says he only has a few thousand behind, so I put him in, and he calls. Al has presto, Speaker has a dominated ace. Presto is gold and Al triples up, I get the remainder of Speaker's chips, and we're HU for the Golden Hammer. GG to JoeSpeaker.
We go back and forth a bit, but I have a huge chip lead, so I'm just waiting for the spot. It comes when Al goes all-in and I see AKs and insta-call. Al flips over AQh, and that's all she wrote.
Wait... what? I won? I WON? I WON! WOOOHOO!! Have I truly entered the illustrious guild of Golden Hammer winners? Is it sad that the $2600 prize is the biggest score I've taken down? Who cares! I have a hammer trophy that turns into a screwdriver (I think that may be ironic), and I went from sadly down on the trip to happily up! Up is good. Down is bad.
Now to find a place of honour for this trophy. Also, there's the parade planning. I wonder if I can catch up to the Olympic torch and help draw more crowds...
Anyway, I never thought it could happen to me, etc, etc.. Congrats to Al for taking 2nd and putting on a hell of a game. It could have gone either way a few times if not for my luckbox powers activating when needed. Thanks to April and F-Train for setting the whole thing up, CJ for the last-longer tourney, PokerStars for adding some gravy to that one, and everyone there for making the actual game a secondary concern to just having a good time and enjoying the company and competition amongst friends.
Post-game I chatted with Smokkee a bit before heading back to the room to drop off some of the winnings and meet up with E & N for dinner (having taken M back to the airport for the red-eye). Since it was after 10, most of the higher-end establishments were closing down. We opted for Burger Bar, where I had the Kobe burger on an onion bun with caramelized onions, aioli, dijon, peppered bacon, and something else I'm sure.
But that all took longer than I expected, and we didn't get back to the IP until 1am. There was a small group of bloggers at the Geisha Bar (Al, Iggy, OhCaptain, April, and a few others), Falstaff at the Pai Gow table, and a couple others scattered around, but no group... this saddened me, as I was hoping to see more people I hadn't had a chance to talk with at any length yet. I remember last year being crazy at the IP late into the night.
Regardless, I was there losing at Let it Ride and craps, and slots until 6am. The plan was to go until we needed to get to the airport, but once I started passing out at the the LiR table, I knew a power nap was needed. One hour later, we were up and out to catch the flight back home.
Seems I'm flying through these. It's not like I can write a ton about losing sessions, and if I write about dinner in-depth, it will probably piss off at least 2 or 3 people... and that warrants its own post :).
Day 3. Friday I think. It's tough to tell on 10 hours of sleep spread over 3 nights. Did I mention the amazing sunrise over the Strip when I went to bed after Day 1? No? There will be pictures.
Where was I? Oh yah, Vegas, day 3. Golf time.
Who golfs? Crazy people who like getting up early and standing around in the cold. Who's worse? The guy who only takes pictures of them.
That latter one would be me.
Now normally I'd throw some pics in the post, but those aren't sorted and processed yet. Soon though. I promise.
Golf was... cold. Now, it wasn't Canadian cold, and standing around was fine. But when zipping around in the carts, that wind chill was downright brisk. Some eggs benedict before tee off, hot chocolate at the turn, and California April's mittens (after she went inside at the turn) helped me stave off the cold. But from what I saw bouncing between the groups, everyone was having a great time. Congrats to DrChako, N, Colin, and Katkin for taking it down! And a cheer for the course's beer cart girl who was working with a broken foot (suffered in a dancing accident), a tear in her pants (right on the ass), and who still managed to provide drinks and chase down 3 dogs to be returned to their yard.
Some post-game drinks in the clubhouse and a trip back to the hotel with a sleepy Chako in tow. There was some time to kill before my next dinner... so N and I hit up a War table and promptly lost money. Bad us. Then it was on to video baccarat! That was terrible too. So instead of continually losing money, I opted to suit back up for our dinner at Delmonico.
I've said it before - this is tradition. This year however, I was disappointed. Seated at the front of the restaurant, near the door, after having made the reservation over a month ago, and this being our 3rd straight year there. The level of service was fine, but lower than previous years. To top it off, my steak was overcooked, a problem that was at least remedied without hesitation on the part of our server with a new filet. In the end, the food was still quality, and experience still a good one, but it seemed lessened from previous years. And no, that's not in comparison to Robuchon.
Food was digested, and then it was off to the IP again! We kept the suits on, but left the jackets behind. There's only so much class the IP can take.
And we were apparently too much. We managed to heat up our craps table BIG time. Taking what had been a quiet and subdued group to a frenzy rarely seen. Cheers for every roll, good or bad, high fives around the table. And everyone winning some cash.
So they upped the limit and we all left. Fuck you IP.
We went to Casino Royale. Where we had the best craps run of the trip. I was betting 6x-8x-10x odds, with 20x odds on 6 & 8 on the pass line. I doubled my money and then some before the table cooled a bit and I had just doubled up.
The key moment of that table though was a drunk guy named Ray. With a strategy of betting the field, and then placing bets on the non-field numbers, he'd amassed quite a rack of chips. Which he proceeded to count out on the felt when an 8 was rolled. $10 place bet. $1000 odds bet. 100x odds being used!
And he rolled an freakin' 8! $1200 won! So when he rolled another 8, he counted out $1000 again!
And sevened out to lose it.
Sadly, in all this I missed Steel Panther and the MGM games. Next year for sure.
It became a relatively early night as we headed back around 4am... plans for the Bellagio buffet and and the Winter Classic loomed large for Day 4.
Ziplining. We did this for the first time last year and had a blast. This time around we switched Asian friends and convinced E to come along. We also opted for an earlier start time, especially since we had dinner reservations for 6pm.
3 hours of terrible sleep had passed since we called it a night. I tossed and turned out of fear of missing the alarm and being late for our reserved time. When the alarm did go off, I shuffled around getting ready and we managed to get out with a reasonable window available (which is exactly why I aimed for 30 minutes earlier). Sadly, our only food option before flying over Bootleg Canyon was McD's in Boulder City. You yanks have WAY more options than we do up here. What gives?
Turns out we didn't need to fear being late, as we were the only 3 going that day. They course had changed a bit, and the training line was gone. We finished in about half the time of last year, but still had a blast. Next year will be round 3. I'll try to do it on the Friday though, so guys like Alan and Peaker can come along.
Back to Vegas we did go, with a few hours to kill. E had also never been to Mandalay Bay, so we pulled in there, walked the floor, and I turned $20 in the Burger Girl machine into $80, and turned that $80 into $200 at Blazing 7's. Slot wins! Sadly, this would be the high point of slot play for the weekend for me, and it didn't even cover my losses on them so far.
We wandered through Mandalay to the Luxor to Excalibur and out to The Strip. The goal was to find Joël (pronounced like Noël dammit) Robuchon so we could beeline it there later in the day when we came back to eat. Finding it wasn't an issue.
I took the opportunity to swing by M&M World to buy $80 worth of the little candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hands. Yes, $80 worth of M&Ms. Deal with it. I once again got a free dispenser with my ridiculous purchase.
Then to Walgreens to finally charge up my prepaid phone with minutes. This wrapped up all the "errands" I had to run on the trip. It was a small load off my shoulders.
The thing is, once you get to where the Walgreens is, it's a shorter walk to the Bellagio than Mandalay Bay... so we abandoned the car in favour of more time and walked back to the hotel, where we had just enough time to suit up for dinner.
Cab back to MGM and quick walk to the finest dining in Vegas, and one of the top in the States, if not the world. What can I say about this meal? It was simply amazing.
13 types of bread offered. 15 minutes of covering the cheeses available. 40 types of petit four for the taking. And those were just the carts. N and I both opted for the Menu Degustation - 16 or so course for $395. E went with the $195 Prix Fixe option. All of use were overwhelmed with the quality.
The room is the definition of lush. Firm purple couches. A massive chandelier. A bio wall that makes you forget that you're not sitting in a restaurant in the French countryside. Impeccable service and knowledge. And each dish an eye-opening taste of excellence. Hell, here's the menu. It shows 13 courses, but the carts add 3 more. If you ever have money to burn or win big enough to not care - go here. Just make sure you're dressed for it.
I'll probably be back, and will start saving now. :)
The meal took nearly 6 hours to finish. We changed down to protect the suits from the IP smoke cloud, and made it to the Palace around 1am. Lucky for me, it was Thursday night, also known as the night everyone gets in and stays up late. I started with a hug from Kat, a surprise attack hug from CK, handshakes with JJok, Ohcaptain, Schaubs, Iggy, Pauly, Falstaff, Peaker, Penner (either one), Otis, BamBam, Pebbles, and the list goes on and on of course. I gave the Wife instructions for drunken husband, drinks were drank, stories told, and a good time had by all. I can't remember if I gambled... I think I wandered off to lose at slots a bit. Regardless, it was 5am when I bid the room adieu and wandered back solo to my room for another solid 3 hours of sleep.
It's the same every time. Days before I leave, the tune gets stuck in my head. Then it fades as I rush around to get ready. Then, as the wheels lift and the plane starts climbing, a distant singing begins in my brain. It's as if the man is standing there on the Strip belting out the tune and I can just pick it up over the Toronto skies. As we approach, it gets louder and louder.
Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
I watch TV, movies, read, and usually doze off for a bit. But eventually I turn my head and look out the window. Blackness for miles starts to brighten. Outlines of mountains and valleys are barely visible. Then, a road, and a speckling of lights.
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
The smile that's been sporadically appearing on my face for the past few days starts to grow again. It has no intentions of leaving this time.
There's a thousand pretty women waitin' out there
And they're all livin' devil may care
Finally, the lights fill the window. Desert gives way to a civilization that has no right being there. Some of those lights are higher in the sky than others. Some spell words like "Flamingo" or "MGM", and one shoots straight into space. The songs starts hitting its crescendo.
And I'm just the devil with love to spare
We touch down, with The Strip looking close enough to touch. And I hear nothing but The King's voice going through my head.
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas
I'm back baby. As sick as I get of Vegas after a weekend, there's no other feeling quite like the joy and anticipation of landing at McCarran. It's time for my 3rd WPBT Winter Gathering.
We got in Wednesday night, a full 12 hours earlier than usual. The flights were cheaper than the extra night in the hotel, that's +EV. N picked E and I up, having arrived a few hours earlier. First stop? In-N-Out Burger. Verdict? Decent fast food burger, fresh ingredients, and the worst fries I've had in a long time. They were pretty obviously overcooked in stale oil. Shame about that.
Then it was check-in time, where I was going to put in my first bet of the trip - $20 on upgrade. The line was short, but long enough for me to pull out President Jackson, fold him up, and make a sandwich with him and my cards. I handed that meal over to the middle-aged woman behind the counter, and the bill fell out in front of her. Without missing a beat, she picked it up and put it the side with just enough body language to let me know I was a winner.
"One or two beds? Smoking or non?"
Hmmm... info that is in my reservation already. Unless she's redoing it.
"Okay. We have you in a lakeview room on the 36th floor, which is the highest floor I have to give, and they're all suites. Tune to channel 22 to listen to the music for the fountain show, and at that level you can reach out your window and touch the fountains. I'm just kidding about the last bit. You will need your room card to access the floor."
Standing next to me was N, with a reservation in his own name. I'd mentioned a couple times that I was dropping $20 to shoot for the upgrade. But he missed the part where I actually did it. I had mentioned he was checking in with me in the hopes I could spread some of the mojo his way. He neglected to provide any green paper to the woman, and was given a parking lot view on the 25th. Lesson learned.
The room was great. Fairly standard 2 queen layout, but a HIGH ceiling, on the top floor, dead-centre of the hotel (one room north of the middle column of the Bellagio). The Eiffel Tower across the road completed the scene. I'll have some pics to get up soon. For $90/night + $20 at check-in, this couldn't be beat.
Checked in, it was time to explore. E had never been to the Rio, and had an interest in the cocktail waitresses' outfits, so despite my warnings of it being a Wednesday, we went. And were disappointed by the lack of staff. So it was time to head to the IP, for I had heard rumours that they had craps there.
Dice were rolled, money was lost. There was a cute flirty girl from Alaska having a blast at the table. She couldn't remember where she got the fat lip from the night before, but we all assumed she won the fight. She left with some drunken skeezebag who wouldn't leave her alone. No, it wasn't me. It was 6am when we called it a night. When the staff says "you guys don't know when to quit" and accusing you of spreading lies and falsehoods when you announce that "this is my LAST roll!", you get the impression that it's time to get some sleep. Besides, we had to go ziplining in a few hours.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
More later, as I'm on that winner's high and trying to figure out where to gorge myself in celebration.
2009 WINTER CLASSIC WINNER HERE!
Short version? Down the felt more times than I remember. Hands holding up when I needed them most, and finally getting a stack that I could use, and using it.
My old friends AA showing up 3-handed for the first time in the game.
AKs vs AQs for all the marbles... and big slick holding up.
Blogger money is the sweetest money.
And just like that, the Bellagio fountain show kicks off (Singing in the Rain), and it looks great from the top floor. TOP O' THE WORLD BABY!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Played in the last home game of the season yesterday. I finally got my buddy E out for a game, convincing him it would be a good warmup for the clusterfuck we'll be playing on Saturday with you degenerates. My advice was to bring $100 but only spend $20. I think he got $80 in vs my $40.
Poor guy was card dead, and when he DID have cards, he ran them into me.
His first big raise was an all-in as his stack dwindled during the rebuy period. I had been planning on going all-in blind from the button myself this hand. He pushed, and I hadn't looked at my cards yet. I figured he had to have a decent pair or AK/AQ, and would be in a solid position against my random cards. Plus, I didn't mind putting another $20 in if it meant he got to win a big hand, go a bit deeper, and come out to more games in the future - it's all about having fun.
So I announced that I hadn't looked at my cards, but was going to call him anyway. The blinds folded and we here heads-up. I flipped over my cards while looking across the table at his holding. He had pocket nines. The table let out one of those exasperations that only happen when something notable is in play. I looked down at my flipped over cards at the Hiltons. E lets out a "you asshole!" (jokingly, I've only REALLY pissed him off once or twice in the years I've known him), and I laugh. "I swear I didn't look at them first!" The ladies held up, despite him getting a ton of outs by the turn (flush, OESD). He rebought.
The next time we tangled, I did look. We were out of the rebuys, and I had him covered by a bit, but we were the short stacks. He went all-in over a bet from me and I opted to call with a suited 1-gapper. He flipped over TT.
The board straightened out and we split the pot.
We then threw rock, paper, scissors for the extra blind chip (not splittable at this point, and it's a fun game). We tied 4 times before he finally beat me for the extra small blind.
He eventually went out in 5th, seemed to have a good time, and didn't smack me for being such a luckbox.
I finished 3rd to break even. I played passive poker until the bubble, which was a mistake by me. The luckbox powers are warming back up just in time for Vegas, and I'm reviewing my favourite poker book to kick my ass back into gear too. Victory will be MINE!
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Where the hell did the time go?
My first ever trip to Las Vegas was with a bachelor party 5 years ago. It was a good time, but I largely remember learning to play craps from that trip.
I definitely caught something from that trip though, because I would regularly get this itch if I stayed away from the neon lights too long.
The next year I returned with a buddy who had never been, didn't gamble much, but was looking for something to do. I introduced him to terrible casino poker tournaments and cheap drinks on Fremont street.
Somewhere between those two trips I started playing poker online. A little site known as PokerStars, in a little tournament dubbed The Wheatie (by me at least). Here I did meet some other bad poker players, and even a couple decent ones.
It seems that some of these degenerates would meet up a couple times a year in Vegas to drink, gamble, and generally have a blast. I, however, was new, a bit shy, and not entirely sure I wanted to meet up with dozens of people I only knew from their cards and icons.
So I didn't go that December.
But June rolled around, and a summer gathering was happening. I'd gotten to know these calling stations a bit better and figured it was time to take the plunge. I booked a flight, and a room at the shitastic Orleans hotel. By the time I had checked in and wandered downstairs, it was nearing 1am. I didn't know a soul, or what anybody looked like.
Of course, the Zeem and Falstaff jerseys that were being worn at the Pai Gow table helped matters. This led to meeting The Penners, Irongirl, and whoever else was around at the time. The next morning I met up with LJ, another newbie, for breakfast before finding everyone else who had made the trek.
By the end of the trip, hell, right from the start, I knew I'd be back. December came and I landed in Sin City as planned. This time with a couple friends in tow. Then Kat dragged some people up north for Eh Vegas. Then I found myself in Austin for a Weekend at Mookie's. I was in Vegas again the next summer for a much less organized gathering that involved a lot of running into people around the Amazon ballroom. Then once again in December with a posse in tow.
This year has been slimmer for meetups. I didn't make it out in the summer, but did meet up with Dawn and Mary in Atlantic City, saw VinNay a few times in either of our hometowns or Niagara falls, and of course another Eh-Vegas in the chilly Toronto winter. Yah, slim - I've only gone out of my way to see these people a half dozen times since last December.
And starting Wednesday, I'll see a whole bunch of them again. Let us ask Zoltan how it will go, after all, he was so insightful at Eh-Vegas this year.
Zoltan predicts the usual amount of far too much fun.