Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cut Down By The Lumberjack

Aria Post-Christmas Tournament, Part 2

This part two of my two-part write-up, and you can find part one here.  We pick up where we left off, late in level 8.

It folded to the small blind who completed when I had Ace-8 off in the big blind.  I made it $4K and he folded.  Then, after a limper, I raised to $4K with pocket Jacks and had one caller.  Low flop, I c-bet $6,500 and took it down.

In late position, I opened to $3K with 8-7 of diamonds and didn’t get a call.

Level 9 (200/800/1600) $66K. I opened to $4200 with King-Queen off and took it.

In the small blind I completed with King-2 of hearts after it folded to me.  The big blind checked behind.  The flop totally missed me but I bet $2,100, and again the lady folded face up.  She had 7-2….but there was a 7 on the flop.

After many limpers, I made it $7K with Ace-King of diamonds and no one called.

I opened to $4,200 with Ace-8 and took it. 

Level 10 (300/1000/2000) ($82,700).  I opened to $5,500 with pocket 4’s but folded to a shove.

Next hand I had pocket 8’s and tried again, opening to $5,500.  I got two callers, including the guy who shoved in the previous hand.  The flop was King-Queen-3.  I made a $10K c-bet and didn’t get a call. 

I opened to $5,500 with Ace-3 off in late position.  One of the blinds shoved for a total of $9K.  It folded back to me so I called.  He had pocket 9’s.  I caught my Ace on the turn and his tournament was done.

I opened to $5,500 with pocket Jacks and had 2 callers.  The flop was 9-8-6, two diamonds.  A player who had me covered donk-shoved and I folded.  Well, that’s what my notes say.  At the time, it didn’t seem so remarkable to me, and I mentioned it much in my notes without comment, but now it looks like a really weird play.  If he had me covered there was really no reason for him to shove if he had a big hand, he had plenty of chips.  So my notes might be off a little, maybe he only made a big bet.  Maybe he didn’t have me covered but had too many chips for me to risk it. Or I suppose maybe he had the flush draw and was semi-bluffing?  I dunno, I wish I had made a better note about it. 

I took pots uncontested from the big blind and small blind by raising with Ace-King off and Queen-10 of spades.

Level 11 (400/1500/3000) $101,500.  I open to $8K with King-Queen and no call.

I raised $8K with pocket 9’s.  A short stack shoved for a bit less than $10K.  Another guy asked the dealer if I could raise if he called.  Assured I couldn’t, he called.  I called.  There were two Aces on the flop and no one bet any street.  The short stack had pocket 8’s but the other guy had pocket Jacks.

I threw $4K on top of my small blind when it folded to me with King-10 off and the big blind folded.

Level 12 (500/2000/4000) $98,500. We were down to 19 players and it was starting to look like I had a chance at cashing.  If only I could get enough chips to avoid the dreaded min-cash.

And in fact Level 12 was the key level for me, as it turned out.  I was in the big blind with Ace-10 off. It folded to the small blind who just completed.  I raised to $10K and he called.  The flop was Ace high, two diamonds.  He checked, I shoved, he snap called.  He had a similar stack to me, I had a few chips more.  He turned over Ace-9, but both were diamonds.  He whiffed on his draw. That was a timely double-up. 

The very next hand I had Ace-King. I raised to $10K and a guy shoved for $28K.  I called.  He had Ace-Jack.  There was a Jack in the window but the flop also had a King.  I took the pot.

By the time I finished counting all my chips—$246K—we were down to the bubble.  Someone at the other table proposed paying the bubble $10 each, which would basically be a refund of the buy-in.  But before my table had a chance to vote, someone at the other table said no.  I heard him say, “I never make deals.”

I opened to $11K with King-5 of spades and didn’t get a call.

Fortunately, we weren’t hand-for-hand for very long.  Unlucky player 13 busted and we were now in the money.  And with my sudden big stack, I was no longer thinking I was probably going to have to settle for the min-cash.  I figured I could break into the top 3 and get some real money.  I think I may have had the biggest stack at our table at this point.

Late in level 12, we were down to 10 and assembled the final table I noted that I had $241K chips at that point.  I was still pretty much at that stack when we started level 13 (500/3000/6000).

Just before we were down to the final table, they had to move a player over from the other table for balance.  The player they brought over to me was obviously the biggest stack of all, he had a massive pile of chips.  The guy was a big, burly, hairy guy and for some reason, when I thought about him later, I realized he kind of made me think of a lumberjack. So let’s call him The Lumberjack, or LJ for short.

When he moved over to my table, he was seated directly to my left, which I certainly wasn’t very happy about.  He had clearly not gotten all those chips by playing timidly.  He liked to enter pots and he rarely limped when he did.  He was definitely using that big stack to bully everyone.

However, during the brief time he was on my left, he didn’t really affect my play much because I didn’t get any cards to play.  Then we drew for the final table and I thought I was fine with the fact that I was now on his immediate left.

But actually, that was really bad luck.  You see, at this stage of the tournament, being first to act is often a lot better than being last to act.  It was now almost always raised before it got to me.  I never had a chance to open a pot.  I was pretty much reduced to sitting there waiting for a big starting hand.  I soon realized that I was going to have to think about three-betting him light since he was clearly opening the pot with pretty weak holdings.  But of course, I still had to worry about the players behind me.  It was really a bad situation for me.

He was also a really good player, I was sure he was a regular tournament grinder.  He could call chip stacks more accurately than any dealer.  And I was virtually certain that he was the guy who said that he doesn’t make deals at the other table. 

It was really a pisser because when the final table was formed, I was second in chips behind LJ.  So I sure wanted to keep that position and get a really nice score.  And I realized that if I was one of the last three players with him—or even heads up with him—we were never going to make a deal.  We’d have to play it out.  I envisioned playing heads up with the guy for the first place money.

One of the issues there was that I had earlier decided not to try to stuff a really fast dinner down during one of the breaks.  I figured I was doing too well to afford risking missing hands for it, and also, we were dropping players fast enough (unlike the week before at Binion’s) that I figured I could play it out and have a late dinner.  But when I made that decision, it was under the assumption that if I was fortunate enough to make the final three, we’d cut a deal.  Now it was looking like that wasn’t gonna happen.  Ugh.  In the meantime, during the last two breaks I had munched on the big bag of peanuts I had with me so I wasn’t worried about the lack of fuel. 

Anyway, I got pocket 10’s and LJ had made it $17K in front of me.  Now maybe you don’t consider re-raising with pocket 10’s “three-betting light” but I do, and did there.  I made it $47K.  He tanked for a long time, and sized up the rest of my stack and realized it wasn’t all that much less than his.  He finally folded.  I needed more opportunities like that.

I got to level 14 (1000/4000/8000) with $296K chips.  I noted that the average stack was $155K. We were down to 8 players. Next player out would get $331.  But I was still in good shape to get top two money if I could just figure out how to play back against LJ—and/or if I could get some cards.

I picked a really bad time to go card dead.

In the small blind, I had Ace-7.  After one limper, I was shocked when LJ, from the button, just limped in.  I completed and four of us saw the flop.  It was Queen-7-2.  No one bet.  The turn was a blank, and this time I led out for $25K.  No one called.

It folded to me in late position with Jack-9 of clubs.  One of the rare preflop folds from LJ, so I made it $18K.  Just one player called, an older gentleman.  The flop was all low, two hearts.  I made a $25K c-bet and took it.

I was able to open to $18K with Ace-3 off, but I had to fold to a shove.

Those were the only three hands I was able to play that level, between the cards I was getting and LJ opening almost every pot.  So I had $293K at level 15 (2000/6000/12000), 

During that level, I was probably the chip leader for awhile.  LJ was calling short stack shoves with fairly light holdings and for awhile, the short stacks kept hitting what they need to remain alive—and drain chips from LJ.  But he kept at it and busted a few players and got his stack back to bigger than mine.

I had Ace-10 off and good ol’ LJ had opened to $24K.  I figured this was a good time for another light three-bet.  I made it $60K.  But a player shoved for less.  Then that older gentleman shoved for $106K.  LJ tanked forever and finally folded.  I felt there was no way I could fold so I called.  Winning that hand would have been awesome.  Too bad I didn’t.

The shortest stack had Ace-Jack and the $106K stack had Ace-Queen.  Ugh.  The flop was all blanks, although LJ noted that it hit him as he had raised with 9-3 of spades.  He was regretting folding.  He said he would have called me but couldn’t call the $106K.  But he was glad he folded when a Queen hit the turn.  I was drawing dead and lost over 1/3 my stack.  Very harmful to my tournament longevity.

At least the short stack was gone and we were down to 6 players.  Worst I could do was $541 prize.

With the blinds and antes killing me, I started level 16 (2000/8000/16000) with $136K.  We lost another player and it was just the 5 of us, with my stack being the shortest.  On the button I had King-3 of spades.  When it folded to me, I shoved. One of the blinds had a big stack—it was that older gentleman who I had helped out on the Ace-10 hand earlier. He called with Ace-rag.  The flop was blank but he caught an Ace on the turn and my tournament was over.

So I settled for fifth place money, $710.  It was 8-1/2 hours of poker, just about exactly the same as last week when I didn’t cash.  So that was of course a major improvement.  Still, it was pretty frustrating—not so much because of the pay scale but because at the final table I was second in chips most of the time and was probably the chip leader for awhile.  Sigh. I felt at that point I had a pretty good shot at the really meaningful first ($3,900) or second place money $2,500).  I felt that I had played really well all along, and obviously had gotten some well-timed luck along the way.  But I went card dead at the end and then had the bad fortune of being directly behind the aggro Lumberjack.

When I was back at the Aria the next weekend, I picked up the results sheet.  I’m pretty sure that LJ ended up third.  It looked like the first two made a deal after that, with first getting only $3,500 and second moving up to $3K.  First place, I’m sure, was the older gentleman who crippled me when I three-bet Ace-10 and he shoved with Ace-Queen.

By then, I had figured out my hourly for the tournament was over $67.  So there’s that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It Ain't Quads if You Don't Call

Aria Post-Christmas Tournament, Part 1

This is the write up of my second Vegas tournament from December.  The first one was the weekend before, at Binion’s (see here).  As noted in that write up, the next day I was swearing to never play in another tournament, but that vow lasted only a week, and the Saturday after Christmas I was a ready to get back on the horse (though it was not HORSE tournament, you see).

This time I played for about the same length of time as the one the prior week, but with a better result (how much better is kind of open to debate, at least for me, as you will see).  This time it was the Aria 1PM.  The details are these, $125 buy-in $10K starting stack, 30-minute levels.  No guarantee but they almost get over 100 players for this, especially on a weekend, so it would be a nice prize pool.

In fact, let’s get the bookkeeping out of the way first.  When the tournament started, there were 64 players but by end of registration there were 124 players.  I guess poker players aren’t very good at being on time.  And now you know why tournaments have re-entry and also allow two hours of late registration, as this one does.  The total prize pool was over $12K, and twelve spots were to be paid.  The bottom three would get the min-cash, which was $204. 

Let that sink in, because this may be my grudge-of-a-lifetime.  Even more so than someone stealing my half-empty glass of diet coke, even more so than a baseball cap being worn backwards (but not anywhere near as bad as the Designated Hitter rule, which is worse than the Spanish Inquisition).  I’ve railed about this several times, most notably here, that the min cash in a tournament of this size is not enough.  And here it is.  If you play 7 hours or so and make the min cash, your reward is a measly $79 profit for your efforts.  That’s for a buy-in of $125.  You don’t get paid even money—not even close, in this case. And that $79 assumes you don’t tip the dealers a penny when you get paid.  If you’re a decent human being who tips, it will be even less.

The rest of the pay scale seemed a little questionable to me as well.  First place was a nice $3,900 or so, second place dropped all the way to $2,500.  Third was $1,600 and you had to come in fourth to get over $1K, and then just barely, at $1,022.  Fifth place was $710 and so on.  All I can say is that, as I was watching the pay outs adjust with each entrant through the first four levels, I kept asking myself over and over again, “Why didn’t I keep my vow to stop playing tournaments again?” 

The decision to play at Aria this time instead of Binion’s was partially a business one.  The previous weekend I wanted to play at Binion’s to talk to the new person running the room.  As I mentioned in this post, Paul, the TD at Binion’s had left for the Aria.  So I wanted to make sure I had a contact at Binion’s still.  That was easily resolved.  This time, I wanted to go to Aria and see Paul in his new surroundings and wish him well. 

My tournament experience this day got off to a shaky start, and it looked like I might be in need of some mid-afternoon plans.  First level (25/50) in the big blind I called $150 with Ace-3 of diamonds.  It was heads up.  No bet on a blank flop, I bet $200 on an Ace turn, he called.  I bet $400 on a blank river and was called by Ace-10.

The very next hand, I was the small blind with Ace-9 off. I called a small raise (my notes are unclear).  The flop was Queen-10-9, two clubs—my Ace was a club. It was heads up, no betting.  I called a small bet on the turn which was a King, giving me a gut shot.  I folded on the river when the board paired a Queen, the player showed Queen-10 for the boat.

I raised to $225 with pocket 10’s, one player called.  The flop was King-Queen-Jack. I c-bet $300 and took it down.

Last hand of level 1, I called $200 on the button with Ace-10 offsuit, it was three-way. The flop was Ace-8-3 and it checked to me, I bet $400.  The pre-flopp raiser called, the other folded.  I bet $1K on a King turn, he called. The river was a 10, and this time he led out for $2K.  Did he really have Queen-Jack for runner-runner straight?  I didn’t think so.  I tanked a bit and then called.  He showed a set of 8’s he’d been slow-playing.  Ugh.

That got me to level 2 (50/100) with $5,675, almost half my starting stack gone.  After a limper, I raised to $350 with pocket Queens.  One player called and my $350 c-bet on a Jack-high flop took it.

I got pocket Queens again a few hands later. I made it $250 and it was three-way.  I bet $600 on a low flop. The turn was an Ace and I bet $1,600, he called.  The river was another low card putting four to a straight on the board. He bet $2,700 and I folded.

Level 3 (100/200) I was down to $3,225.  Not good.  On the button, I made it $1K with Queen-Jack of diamonds after two limpers and took it.

In early position I raised to $500 with Ace-7 of hearts, two players called.  The flop was Jack-high, nothing for me, but I made a $1K c-bet and took it.

In the big blind I woke up with pocket Aces.  There were many limpers so I made it $1,100.  Only one player called.  The flop was Queen-high, I c-bet $1,300 and didn’t get a call.

I had eked my way up to $6,125 to start level 4 (25/100/200).  In the small blind, I had Ace-King off.  There were a bunch of limpers.  I made it $1,100 and the big blind, who had me covered, made it $2,400.  It folded back to me and I had to decide whether this was the time to shove with Ace-King.  It was early in the tournament but with my stack size I felt it was the right move, so I shoved.  He tanked for quite a bit.  I had enough to hurt him but he’d still have a playable stack if he lost. He finally called and showed Ace-Queen.  The trouble was that the flop was all diamonds and he had the Ace of diamonds, so he suddenly had all kinds of outs.  But he missed all of them, and I had the double up I so desperately needed.  The commentary after the hand was interesting.  One player said she folded King-Queen of diamonds and would have flopped the flush.  But another player lamented folding pocket deuces since there was deuce on the flop and another one on the river.  That’s why you raise, folks.

Even with that hand, I started level 5 (25/200/400) with only a bit above starting stack, $10,425.  I stole the blinds and maybe a limper or two by raising with King-Queen of spades and Ace-King off.

After a bunch of limpers, I made it $2,400 with Ace-King of spades on the button.  One of the limpers shoved for $8,400.  I called.  He had pocket 8’s.  A King on the flop was all I need to bust him out.

I limped in with pocket 4’s and it was heads up with the big blind.  There was a 4 on the flop, along with two clubs.  After he checked, I bet $700 and the other player shoved, around $5K.  I called and he had Queen-2 of clubs.  Lucky for me, he missed his flush.

I opened to $1,100 with Jack-9 offsuit in the cutoff.  One player called. I c-bet $1,600 on a blank flop and he called.  There was no betting on a blank turn.  I caught a 9 on the river and he bet $2K.  I  thought for a bit and figured he might just be taking a stab there since I had checked the turn.  I called and he showed pocket 6’s, lucky river for me.

Level 6 (50/300/600) $36,800.  I opened to $1,600 with pocket Kings and had one caller.  The flop was 7-7-4, two clubs.  I bet $3K and took it down.

In the big blind I had pocket Jacks and called $2,200 from the player who had the pocket 6’s few hands earlier.  It was heads up.  There was no betting on an Ace-high flop that had two clubs.  One of my Jacks was a club.  No betting on a club turn.  But another club hit the river so I bet $2,500.  The other player said, “If one of these is a club, I have to call you.” He looked at his hand and said no.  He showed two Queens, a red one and a spade.

I opened to $1,600 with Queen-10 of clubs.  I had to fold to a shove and a call.  One of the others showed Ace-Jack of clubs and the other player had two Kings, including the King of clubs.  Between the three of us, we had the Royal. 

Level 7 (75/400/800) $37K. I open to $2,100 with Ace-6 offsuit, heads up. Low flop, two diamonds.  I bet $3K and he called.  An Ace hit the turn, I bet $4,500 and took it.

After one limper I made it $3K on the button with Ace-10 off.  Three of us saw a flop of Ace-King-4, two spades (my 10 was a spade).  I bet $7.500 and dragged the pot.

Level 8 (100/600/1200) $50,500.  I opened to $3,100 with Ace-Queen off, one caller.  Totally bricked the flop.  I c-bet $5,500.  My opponent folded face up—Ace-King.  Heh heh.  She muttered something about never being able to hit with Ace-King.

Opened to $3K with Ace-10 off.  Same lady as in the last hand was the only caller.  The flop was Queen-high, nothing for me.  I c-bet $4,500 and she folded face up again.  This time she had a pocket pair (7’s or 8’s, I think) and of course had me beat again but didn’t know it.

This next hand, I didn’t write down all the details at the time and was struggling to remember them the next day when I did my voice notes.  I didn’t write them down because I folded right away but you’ll see why I couldn’t easily forget it.

I had pocket 6’s and the guy in front of me raised to $3,300 under-the-gun.  He had been pretty aggro but I didn’t think 6’s was the spot to challenge him, especially with all those players behind me, so I folded.  Two players, both with smaller stacks than mine but not super short, called the raise.  The flop made me a bit ill—It was Queen-6-x.  There were two spades on it.  The preflop raiser checked, the next player checked, the last player made a bet, the preflop raiser folded and the other guy called.  All I could think of was, “Please let the spades get there.”

Somehow, they got it all in on the turn, which was not a spade, and they flipped their hands.  They both had Ace-Queen, neither of them had the flush draw. I got even more ill when I saw the river card….the case 6!

I have to admit, that took me off my game for awhile, thinking I would have won both of those stacks (which together were bigger than mine) if I had only called.  Of course, I knew I had made the right play folding there (I did, didn’t I?), but it was hard not to be using results-oriented thinking at that moment.  I mean, yeah, I was thinking that would have made me the chip leader at the table and possibly in the tournament if I had stayed in.

But then the next day, I reasoned that I might not have won all those chips.  I probably would have bet out on the flop, what with the spade draw out there.  Would both of those players been willing to put all their chips in play with TPTK if there was another player in the pot, with a bigger stack than both of them?  It probably doesn’t get to be a three-way all-in if I was in there with my set.  But you never know.  I would have gotten a bunch of chips for sure.

At the time, all I could think of was the hand that got away.  It took me a few orbits to get over it, and I had to keep telling myself that I made the right play.  But later, whenever I got into a chip crunch, I couldn’t help thinking about the chips that slipped out of my hand there.

And that’s where I’ll leave it for now.  Come back in a couple of days for the conclusion.  (Edited to add, part 2 is now posted and can be found here).

Note: The pic below really has nothing to do with this post, but writing about the quads I tossed away was kind of a downer, and when I came across this pic, it kind of cheered me up.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

And I suppose the title of this post really should be, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Out of the Forum.”
But I wanted the title to match the musical I’m paying homage to exactly.  You know that musical, don’t you?  It’s the one that opens with the following: 

But before I get to the story from whence the title came, I have to discuss a little poker first.

For this evening’s session, I decided to return Caesars Palace another shot.  I failed to mention that the story I told here took place at Caesars.  It wasn’t the bad beat that made me hesitant to return to Caesar—that could happen anywhere (and usually does). The reason I almost didn’t return was because of the temperature in the room that night was unbearably cold (as I’ve mentioned, this was a running theme during this trip—poker rooms almost as cold as the outside temperature).  When I told my pal Don of the issue of the temperature, he told me that the back of the room is particularly bad and that the tables closer to the front are usually much more comfortable.  My table was in the very back, of course, and my seat was as far away from the front as you could get.

So I went back there in hopes of getting assigned or reassigned a table where it wasn’t freezing.  I arrived and was taken to a table right away.  They took me right past a table with an empty seat in the very front.  I asked if I could play at that one and they said no, a player from another table was moving there.  So instead, they took me to the exact same table I had played at a week earlier, the freezing one.  Worse, the open seat was the same one I had then, too.

Well, I would have asked for a table change immediately but it turned out that a player was leaving in a middle seat, so not quite so far in the back of the room as the other one.  I took that seat instead, and figured if the temperature wasn’t more to my liking, I’d ask for a change.

And in fact, for the first half hour or so, the weather at my table was pleasant enough.  And then, there was the poker….

One of the first hands I hand was pocket deuces.  There was no raise, and in fact no betting at all.  The flop was all face cards, more highish cards on the turn and river, no one took a stab at it, and my deuces were good.  It was an $8 pot, but that sure as hell beats hitting a set with those deuces and losing your stack.

I limped in with pocket 6’s and then it was raised to $12.  Another player called the $12, my call would close the action so I called. The flop was King-8-6, two spades.  Remembering what happened the last time I caught a set in this room, and seeing those two spades, I decided to make a donk bet, I put out $25. The other reason for the bet was that I hadn’t been at the table very long, and hadn’t see the preflop raiser raise before, so I really had no strong feeling that he would c-bet and give me the opportunity to go for a check raise. The preflop raiser folded, but the other player called.

The turn card was the 6 of spades, not a bad card for me.  This time I checked my quads and hoped that maybe the other player caught his flush.  But he checked behind.  The river was a blank.  It looked like the other player had about $40-$45 left, so I bet $35.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you’re more likely to get called if you don’t say “all-in” when you don’t have to.  He immediately announced all-in, and I announced call and turned over my quads.  He was showing the flush.  Lucky for him he didn’t have more chips.

The very next hand I had Ace-King offsuit in the big blind.  There were a bunch of limpers so I added $15 to my buck and had one caller.  The flop was Jack-10-4 and my $25 c-bet took it.

Not too long later I called $12 with 6-5 of diamonds in late position.  I was hoping a few of the early limpers would call but they didn’t and we were heads up.  The flop was 8-7-7 rainbow.  I called $20.  The turn was a 9, giving me the straight (but the “ass” end of it, as I’ve recently started hearing it referred to).  I called $40. The river was another 8.  Yikes. Having a straight on a double paired board didn’t really thrill me.  He put out $40 again and I went into the tank.

The reason I hadn’t raised the turn was because my straight was the bottom end and the board was paired.  Now it was double paired.  It pretty easy to believe he had a boat there.  But I dunno, I guess I just had a feeling that maybe he didn’t.  So I made the hero call.  I was pretty surprised, pleasantly so, to see him turn over King-9 there. That was a nice pot to drag.

I had Queen-Jack of hearts in the big blind, no raise.  The flop was Queen-high, one heart, I called $20, heads up.  There was no more betting and my Queen was good.

I was up $235 but I had a dilemma.  It was no longer comfortable at my table.  It was freezing again, every bit as cold as the last time I’d played there.  I couldn’t stay there and that was frustrating because obviously I was running well.  I’d doubled up in less than 90 minutes. If poker was the only consideration, I’d have never considered leaving, but I was at the point where the cold was so bad I couldn’t really concentrate on the game anymore.

Of course, I could have asked for a table change in the hopes of finding a warmer spot.  But here I became kind of superstitious (hard to believe for a poker player, I know).  I don’t like changing seats when I’m running well, and I certainly don’t like changing tables when I’m running well.  While I was wrestling with that, another problem presented itself.  The table got short, and there were no players to replace the players who left.  We were down to 6 at one point.  And I realized that even if I wanted to change tables, it would be a good while before they could move me because they would want to fill up this table first.  Either that or I could hang on and see if maybe they would break the table.

But I really didn’t think I could wait. It was just too unpleasant where I was sitting.  So I felt I had no choice but to leave the poker room, even though it was too early to quit for the night.  Now, there are any number of other poker rooms near Caesars of course.  However, this brings me to the other issue of the night—my back.  Actually, my back had felt real good all day, as good as it had been since I got to town.  Then I drove to Caesars, parked a million miles away from the casino, and by the time I walked to the poker room, it was aching pretty good.  If I walked to my car and headed to almost any poker room on the strip, that would still be a lot of walking.

So I started wondering if I could make it on foot to any nearby room.  The trouble was that it was really cold outside, which would ordinarily encourage me to walk briskly when I was outside.  But my back only allowed me to walk slowly.  I was trying to figure out if I thought I could make it across the street to the Linq.

Then I had another idea.  Just up the Strip from Caesars is Mirage, And you know, when I’m feeling ok, I’ve been known to park at the Mirage and walk to Caesars (because I hate the Caesars parking structure).  If you exit Caesars from the northern most exit/entrance, you are actually only a few yards or so from the southern most entrance of Mirage.

The trouble is that at the northern most end of Caesars is something called “The Forum Shops at Caesars.”  It is their big shopping plaza.  So the closest entrance/exit to Mirage from Caesars is thru the Forum Shops.

I’ve walked through the Forum Shops many times over the years.  And every time I do, I come out of there with but one phrase going through my mind.  “Never again.”  If I ever meet the architect/designer of this place, I will punch him in the face as hard as I can.  If you’re familiar with it you no doubt know what I mean, and if you’ve never been there, there’s no way I could accurately describe it for you (and also, consider yourself lucky).

The place is a maze, and it is designed to make you walk as much as possible to get thru it.  I swear, Magellan couldn’t find his way through it.  When I enter it from the Strip, I always get lost trying to find the casino, reaching a dead end instead. Also, you have to go up one or two levels from the street (I never remember which) just to get to the level that actually has most of the shops and that goes to the casino.  On top of that, the escalators are super slow and semi circular so it takes forever to go up or down a level….and then they are spaced so you have to do the maximum amount of walking from wherever you happen to be to get to them.  There’s a point where are literally two feet from the bottom of the escalator and you can’t get there because of some barricade blocking you and you have to basically walk a city block to get on the damn thing, all in a big, useless circle.

So why would I even consider going thru the shops to get to the Mirage on this night?  I mean, aside from the fact that I’m stupid?Well, I usually get lost coming in from the Strip and heading to the poker room.  This time I was doing it in reverse.  I figured it would be much easier to find the Strip from the casino than it is to find the casino from the Strip.

I wasn’t sure how much—if any—walking I’d save if I went thru the shops.  But the important point was that it would be warm walking thru there, so I could walk slowly.  The key though to making it work was to not waste any steps—in other words, not get lost.

Thus, I cashed out and proceeded to the shops.  I kept looking for the fork that I knew I had to correctly navigate in order to take the direct route.  And then….somehow, as much as I was looking for it, I totally missed it.  Suddenly, after seemingly walking forever, I was at a freaking dead end, and had to double back.  The scream I let out was likely heard at the In-N-Out Burger.  Not the one on Tropicana.  The one in Barstow.

Note: Yes there are one or two giant maps in the place you can look at, but because the place is so weirdly laid out, I found them totally useless.  I was so mad, and by this time my back in so much discomfort, that I almost gave up and figured I’d just get back to my car and call it a night.  But as I was retracing my steps, I realized what I had done wrong.  There was a restaurant jutting out that, from the angle I approached it originally, looked like it didn’t have a way around it.  It turned out that if I noticed I could make a right there, I would have found the exit to the Strip.  Grrr.  I decided to make my way to the Mirage as planned.

By the time I got near the exit, and had to take those stupid, slow moving escalators, I was pretty enraged, and then as I said, I had to take a long walk around to get to the front (hard to explain, but if you’re familiar with the place you know).  I escaped, took a few more steps, and entered the Mirage.

By the time I got to the poker room there, I was in bad shape.  My back hurt and I was actually sweating (because I was wearing a heavy jacket inside the Forum shops).  And I was dying of thirst.  I had to wait a good 20-minutes to get seated.  By then, I was not really in the best frame of mind to play poker.

I don’t think that was the reason I lost my $200 buy-in in relatively quick fashion, however.  It was mostly that I was getting bad cards, and a few second best hands.  Nothing noteworthy enough to mention here.  It wasn’t pretty though.  When I was done, I still had a small profit for the night.  But now I had to head back to Caesars.  I was sure this time I would be able to find my way back to the casino from the shops.  I was 100% positive.

And then when I got to the Forum entrance, it was freaking closed for the nite!  My luck had sucked since the first hour of poker. I had to make my way back into Caesars the “long way” in the cold.  Grr.  Somehow I made it.  I think I sat by a slot machine to catch my breath before heading to my car—which was parked a long way from the casino. 

I made it somehow, wondering how such a night that started so well ended up like shit.