Saturday, November 05, 2005

Settling into my rut

A month into this move to Vegas, I'm not rich, but I'm not broke. I did need some parental help, as I'll get to, but I'm starting to settle in to where I know I'll end up being all right here.

When I wrote the last entry, I believe (I haven't reread it yet, but I sort of remember ending it when I got tired of typing instead of any natural ending spot) I was waiting to start a driver job for an auto-parts store. Well, they took a long time to get back to me, so I needed to find something sooner to keep the metaphorical rain off my head. I still had the Sunday paper from the day I got here, so I looked for something where I could start immediately (and, hopefully, be paid immediately).

I ended up finding a telemarketing outfit who advertised being paid daily. I went in, filled out an application, and had about a two-minute interview with the guy who runs the place. I didn't know this at the time, but I apparently made a good first impression, because I essentially got an instant promotion, being sent up to where I would receive a base pay plus commission, rather than straight commission. (Over the long haul this probably works out about the same, but the daily-pay people aren't generally around for the long haul.)

I had to stretch a lot to make it until payday, and in fact sought some help on that mark, but this did in fact sound like a better deal than the daily-pay deal, so I went with it. I seem to have lucked into this in a lot of ways, because it'll probably add up to $15–16 an hour overall, which is pretty good for a tide-me-over job.

Okay, the job isn't a lot of fun, but the people in my part of the place are actually fairly decent (against my expectations), and it fits one of my requirements: It isn't hard work. (Hard work bad. See, well, pretty much any of my entries.) And it does allow me to play the appropriate amount of catch-up and to get in a little card-playing.

The Cards are Hot Cold ... The Cards Are

Actually, that about tells the tale. I've put a fair number of hours in at the poker table, and the results are, overall, that I'm down an estimated $200. I only started keeping records again recently, and it's about $125 down since then, but that's my estimate. Over the amount of hours I've played, it's rather disappointing.

The thing is, that I think I should be beating most of the low-limit games here, handily. But I'm not. Generally, I'll have several modest positive sessions in a row, and then one disastrous negative session. (These are modest wins and losses in terms of actual cash, but in terms of bets won and lost, mostly at $2/$4, they're actually pretty large swings.)

Something with the modest wins and disastrous losses might suggest that I'm staying in bad games too long. Another possibility is that my hand-selection deteriorates too far after a couple of hours of seven- to nine-handed pots. This always ends up seeming like a great idea after the flop: With pots that big, I've got the odds to chase almost any draw. A gutshot plus a backdoor flush draw, in a pot that size, I have to take off the turn, at least, and sometimes even the river. But, in the long run, bad hands don't win, and I need to keep my starting-hand requirements high.

I've been to a couple of poker rooms I haven't been to before, since I last wrote up my quickie reviews of the various rooms. The ones I can think of at the moment:

Binions: A co-worker suggested that Binion's $4.95 steak dinner was among the best specials in Vegas. And indeed, it was good. The steak was overcooked, but it was a good cut of steak, so it wasn't ruined. And, afterward, I played a bit of poker. During the afternoons they generally have three to five low-limit cash games, at $2/$4, $3/$6, and $1/$2 NL. They also run four tournaments a day, usually $70+1$40RB, which attract 50 to 100 people. I haven't sat one of these yet, although the 2PM tournament is ideal for my schedule, but I plan to. They have a final-table area set up to resemble a TV final table, including the lighted area around the table's rail that is designed to make the cards easier for the hole-card cameras to read. Simply the fact that they set up a TV-like table attracts a number a railbirds to the final table of the tournaments, even though first place seems generally to pay less than $2000.

I like the overall feel of Binion's. I'd been told a number of times that Binion's is a dump, and I didn't see it in the waning days of Becky's stewardship, but overall, right now, I have to disagree. Sure, it's old. Sure, it's small, compared to a Strip casino. And, okay, for all I know, other downtown casinos might be nicer. But I make the comparison this way. Think of Tiger Stadium (or substitute the "old" ballpark in your town). Most of it was built in about six different projects over a period of about thirty years, with a final addition in the early 1990s. In the ninety years that the stadium was used, things were shoehorned into odd spaces in the building, so you might find a narrow corridor in one section and a mysterious open space in another. Enough people have passed through the park that even some of the graffiti has historical significance. Now, think of Comerica Park (or your town's "new" ballpark). Okay, the aisles are wide everywhere, the bathrooms are modern and plentiful, the luxury boxes are nice, and (at least in the lower deck) there isn't a bad seat in the whole place. But the very fact that it's so well-designed, means that the place has no soul. Fenway Park, for example, has a left field so short that they had to build a ridiculously high wall to prevent every hit from being a home run: And it's loved for that. Similarly, Binions' narrow aisles, low ceilings, and creaky elevators give it an intimate character that (for example) the MGM Grand could never have.

Excalibur: The only time I've played here so far, it was a Tuesday afternoon, so it may simply have been atypical that there was hardly anyone in the poker room. I saw only four or five games going in a room that can easily handle twenty or thirty. But the MGM, where I'd planned to play, had some construction going on right outside the poker room that made the poker room rather unpleasant, so I walked across to the Excalibur to play (see also below). This is the only time so far that I've played no-limit, and I lost my (maximum) buy-in, but I think this was mainly because I lost two large pots. One of them was truly a bad beat, where I had JJ on an AJ4 flop, and I was loving my hand when an Ace turned: except that the other fellow had A4. I'm mainly glad there that I had him covered, because this could have, and probably would have, broken me, otherwise.

The main point that I wanted to make here is that with the casino slow, it had the feel more of a locals' place than a Strip casino. I know that on the past blogger get-togethers, they've met at Excalibur, and I'm wondering what their vibe was when they were there.

Tropicana: I passed the Trop's new poker room on the way from MGM to Excalibur, mainly because I went into the Trop to take a crap. But I passed the poker room on the way, and saw six or eight tables, only one of which was in use, for a $1/$2 NL game. The one or two hands I watched appeared to be typical of $1/$2, and this is really all I have to report about the place.

The Orleans Gives Back

An interesting phenomenon has been taking place at the Orleans lately: They've been adding promotions for the players, and I don't see where the money is coming from, so it might be totally added value for the players.

A few weeks ago, they began high-hand jackpots, where the highest hand of each dealer shift (1AM-9AM, 9AM-5PM, 5PM-1AM) wins $250 or $500, depending on the shift. It seems to take a Royal Flush to win on about half of the shifts, although hands as bad as JJJJA have been seen to win the jackpot. The biggest downside of this for holdem players, is that the high hand applies across all non-tournament games, whether holdem, Omaha, or (theoretically) stud, so Omaha players have the advantage in their nine-card game. I've heard no rumblings among the staff that this is likely to change.

Also, just this week, they are handing out tickets for a series of drawings next Wednesday, to win $500 to $5000. Like most casinos' drawings of this type, it substantially favors (A) regulars and (B) locals, since there is a "must be present to win" rule. Therefore, extra tickets generally go begging around the table, as the players who will not or cannot be present to win hand their tickets to the regulars. With the bad beat jackpot topping $70,000 now, I expect I'll play at the Orleans quite a bit this week, collecting tickets (and maybe sharing in a bad beat, although I've never done that before).


Last spring, I saw my father's brother's wife's brother, who is therefore not related to me at all. I've decided to refer to him as my semi-cousin, since it's shorter. I see him even less often than a typical weddings-and-funerals relative, since my relationship to my aunt's extended family is pretty concatenative. Her husband (my father's brother), I'm sure, attends events in her family, but the invitation rarely extends to his family. And the same applies in reverse. No bad blood, of course, it's just that really, how far do you go with that? Does my mom's family get to go? Does my mom's sister-in-law's family? You get the idea. And since David, my semi-cousin, is career Air Force stationed at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, I've seen him maybe three times since he joined the Air Force fifteen or twenty years ago.

Nonetheless, he is the closest relative that I have in Las Vegas, so I called him yesterday to suggest that we go out for a beer. Since we haven't actually gone yet, that's pretty much the whole story, really. Our phone conversation makes it seem like he's a little younger at heart than I am, despite being a few years older; he follows local bands and the local art scene and so forth, which is a whole phase that I skipped over growing up. I think I went right from my teenage years into my forties, in a lot of ways. But anyway, we'll hang out tomorrow night, and we'll see how much we hit it off. It might be tough: he doesn't gamble at all, so what do we talk about?