The Cards Spoke

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The Road to Vegas

That’s right. It’s Vegas time! Today marks my first trip to Vegas as a somewhat established poker player… the last three times I’ve been, I’ve gone primarily as a card counter. I did place third in the Luxor $25 Sunday tourney on the last trip, but before today, the chips have primarily been of the blackjack denomination, not poker. Anyway, it will be interesting to have a choice between poker and blackjack… I guess I should probably try to maximize my time spent playing blackjack, since that game is illegal in Los Angeles. But after printing out a list of the weekly Vegas tourneys at, I figure I’ll be stuck in the poker room for much of the trip.

The trip was spawned as a birthday present for one of my best friends, a budding poker player. He’s been playing for a couple months, and I’ve offered some tutelage, although he can’t seem to shed that loose-beginner shell that is common to most beginners. Maybe the tightness required to win these tourneys will help his game. I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon, so we’ll probably roll in to the Tropicana (where we’ll be staying) around 7. I’d prefer to stay downtown, but he’s bringing his wife, so we’re stuck on the strip. We stay until Sunday, so we’ve got a night and 3 full days of gambling.

The last trip showed my worst loss in my Vegas history-- -$600, mostly due to some horrible luck on the blackjack tables. I’d count down the double deck games, wait for a hot shoe, and then lose about 5 $50 hands in a row (scroll down for the trip report). Hopefully the odds will “catch up” this time around.

I’ll be fighting fatigue—after a busy 5 day conference in DC, my body managed to adjust itself to east coast time. Hopefully the combination of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can keep me sharp when its 1 am Vegas time and I’m feeling 4 am DC time. Who needs sleep anyway?

I’ve set my trip bankroll at around $1000. This is a pretty hefty sum, and represents half of my poker winnings. But in blackjack, you need a pretty large bankroll to exploit the card counter’s small edge over the house when the deck is good. Technically, you need a bankroll of around $10K just to average around $20 an hour. But perhaps the god of standard deviation will bless me today. If I can come out up $500, I’ll be ecstatic… a 50% increase in bankroll is within reason, although I’d have to be pretty lucky to get there. It’s probably best if I stay away from the sportsbook and the craps table, but hey, it’s Vegas. The possibility of doubling my trip bankroll makes me smile… that would put my poker bankroll at 3K, just about enough (with the help of my recent raise) to let me sit in the $10.20 games in LA.

Where to play? And what limit? Right now I’m thinking that the Mirage is the best option, probably starting out at $6.12, although the $10.20 game is an option if blackjack treats me well. I’ve never really played Vegas poker though, so I’m a little wary… I’ve always had better results online, where the games are tighter, so I’ll be happy if I sit down at a table with 6 or 7 local rocks. We’ll see if I can spot the sucker, or if I am the sucker.

Maybe a little homage to the gambling gods is in order… I’m not a religious man, or a poet, but I’ll give it a shot:

The pilgrim returns to do battle
With mathematic wit
Armed with odds, a score to settle
At the feet of chance I’ll sit
Knowing the path is long and hard
The long run, glowing green in the distance
Outwaiting fickle Luck, who owns the river card
Outsmarting with skill, her sister named Chance

To swim with the fish and bite like a shark
I’ll act like a lamb, and then release my wolf bark
Patiently preying on tourists so weak
So begins the winning streak

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