This is the first of two parts. Part 2 will be published Sunday evening.
I’m sure all of my readers have been dying to know how I spent Christmas Day in Vegas. So at long last, I’m gonna tell you.
Actually it was closer to Christmas night by the time I got started. I slept late and got a late start for everything I did that day. I had decided that I would poker at MGM and give that NFL promo another try. You remember that one, right? I back-doored my way to $500 the first time I was there for it on my second night in town (see here).
To briefly explain, there’s this game called “football” and…..hmm, maybe that’s a bit more detail than you need. This took place during the waning days of the NFL season and it was a Sunday so MGM had their football promo. They have these “Poker Parlay Cards” and they start giving them out two hours before the Sunday Night Football game starts (same for Monday and Thursday night games). There are five poker hands on it, which are: two pair, three-of-a-kind, straight, flush and a full house. Every time you make one of those hands, you get that hand stamped. If you fill out the card with all five stamps before the football game ends, you win $300. If you fill out the card after the game ends but before midnight, you win $200. At midnight, they take all the cards that have at least one stamp on them and put them in a drum and pull out two “last chance” winners. First one gets $500 and second one gets $300. That’s how I lucked into a $500 win my second night in town.
In order to get the stamp for a hand, there must be $40 in the pot, both of your hole cards must play, and you actually have to win the pot.
I was running so late I didn’t get to the poker room until the football game started. I hadn’t left my room until then. I knew at one point I would have to take a dinner break. I would have to see how I was doing in my quest to fill out the parlay card to figure out when it was best for me to take that dinner break.
I didn’t have to wait too long for a table, I was seated soon after the game started. And I quite literally was sent to the worst table in the room. I state that not based on the quality of the game, but based on the weather. It is in the back corner of the room, closest to the utility/maintenance door which the janitors and the maids open about every 10 minutes to empty the trash or get supplies. That area is outside the casino and thus in winter, every time they go out there, a huge blast of freezing cold air enters the back of the poker room and hits the back tables, particular the one I was assigned to. During the summer, when the blast of air is obscenely hot, it’s not nearly as annoying. Actually, it usually feels good, because the A/C in the casino is set at a comfy 43° year ‘round. Also, this particular table is sitting directly under one of the A/C vents, so it would be uncomfortably cold even without the door to the outside being opened constantly.
Almost immediately after taking my seat, I wanted to request a table change. Then I thought I would try to wait it out a bit. I figured I might take a dinner break early and just cash out, and come back and hopefully get assigned to a new table. And there didn’t seem to be any point to changing tables if I was just gonna cash out soon.
So I toughed it out, at least for awhile. But I had to put my heavy jacket on while playing, which is totally ridiculous. It’s actually a ski jacket and I can assure you I have never taken it skiing. That kept my upper body almost warm enough but my legs were freezing. I guess I need to shop for ski pants!
I had only been at the table a few minutes when I was dealt Queen-Jack of diamonds. I made it $10 after one limper. There were only five callers. The flop came Queen-Jack-X, two clubs. I bet $35 and no one called. And I almost forgot to show my hand so I could get a stamp for two pair. Fortunately, just as I was about to shove my cards face down to the dealer, I remembered and flipped them over. Stamp #1 in less than 10 minutes. Cool.
Not long after a new dealer pushed in, one I was mostly unfamiliar with. She was new. I may have seen her a time or two this past summer, but not before then. She comes from a Eurasian country.
Early in her down she dealt me the mighty deuce-four, aka the most powerful hand in poker. It was even suited (diamonds). And I was on the button. I called a $10 raise from the most active player at the table and it was three-way. The flop was Jack-10-9, two diamonds. The preflop raiser bet $20, I called and we were heads up. The turn was the 8 of diamonds, completing my baby flush. Now I said this guy was the most active player at the table. He played virtually every hand. At this stage of the game, I don’t think I’d ever seen him fold preflop. But he didn’t always raise so he probably had a real hand, at least to start. The third diamond didn’t bother him, and he bet $50. Of course, in a situation like that, I’m always worried about a bigger flush. I didn’t think he had the flush but obviously he could have. I just called.
The river was a black 3 and this time he led out for $75. Hmm….maybe he did have the bigger flush? But from playing with him for just a brief time, I knew he was more than capable of making that bet with a lot of hands lesser than the flush—like a straight, for example. I had pegged him as a recreational player who hadn’t really studied the game much. Probably plays in a home game back home. I couldn’t see myself folding. I called and he turned over Ace-Queen, neither of which was a diamond. He did have the straight of course. I took down a really nice pot. And of course I got the second stamp on my card for the flush. I dunno why, but for some reason I said to the guy, “I couldn’t convince myself you had a bigger flush there.” He said, “Yeah, I’m pretty easy to read.” No, he wasn’t given off any tells. I just didn’t smell a flush there.
Now I may have gotten some of the details on that hand a little wrong, because I hadn’t started writing notes on it when the next hand started and it was every bit as noteworthy, and then some.
I had pocket 9’s in the cut-off. The guy from the last hand limped in and then the guy next to him, a fellow who appeared to be from India, made it $10. I called and so did the limper. The flop was Queen-9-2, rainbow I think. But it was checked to me. The Indian hadn’t been a particular active player up until now, which was a bit of a surprise. My default stereotype for Indians is that they are pretty aggro. Clearly not this guy. So when he checked the flop, I figured he had something like Ace-King, or maybe an under pair to the Queen. I had to hope the limper would give me some action. I bet $20 but the limper folded. However, the Indian called. Hmm…
The turn was another deuce, filling me up. Again the Indian checked. He sure didn’t strike me as the type of player who would take a stab at the pot on the river if I checked behind him. I figured I had to try to squeeze something out of him if I could. So I bet $25 or $30. And I was happy to see him call that.
But not as happy as I was to see the river card, which was the case 9. Sweet. Even better, instead of checking, he reached for chips to bet with. Wow. But he only bet $25, a totally baffling bet.
What to do? I’ve heard from one dealer pal that if you have the stone-cold nuts, you should always shove. Sure, you won’t always get called. But you’ll get called enough in the long run to make it a profitable move. I’ve never subscribed to that theory, however. Maybe I should? I usually just try to figure out the most I can bet and still get a call.
I decided to make a small raise. Not quite the min-raise, but a little more. I made it $60. And I had no idea what he would do. I figured a fold, a call or a re-raise were all equally likely. He went for my second choice, a call.
I showed my quads and he turned over—can you guess—pocket Queens! Holy shit, I was stunned. I had no idea, none at all, that he was so strong. Or that I was behind the whole way until the river. Or….that I had extremely improbably hit my freaking one-outer!
Yeah, I hit a damn one-outer. Not sure I can remember ever doing that before. Pretty sure it was a first.
I sorta apologized to him. I think I said, “I’m not really sorry about it, but that’s a terrible beat.” He said, “That’s ok.” He was surprisingly good-natured about it.
Then I thought about the hand, the way he played it and all. We should have gotten it all in on the turn, for sure. I mean, if this was the old west, I would have put my horse, the deed to my ranch and my grandfather’s gold watch in the pot if I could have. All the while having no clue I was drawing to a one-outer. But then, on the river, how the hell does he not come over the top when I raise? Seriously? He’s got the third nuts but the other two better hands are both quads. I honestly think I hit my one-outer against the only player on the planet that wouldn’t have shoved on the river (if not before).
I had to ask him…I had to. “Why didn’t you shove? Why didn’t you re-raise me?” I wasn’t asking because I was upset I didn’t get more of his money for my monster. I was just genuinely curious.
He replied, “No, no no…I don’t do that. I don’t go all-in.”
Huh? I wanted to say to him, “Really? You’re playing the wrong game.” But of course I didn’t say that. I didn’t really respond. I suppose I should have asked him if he would have called my shove or a bigger re-raise (I had him covered by quite a bit, I think he started with ~$200). I have to think he would have called, but maybe not. Maybe if I had made it $100 or enough to put him all-in he would have found the fold button?
The thing is, as I kept playing with him during the evening, I realized—and I may have even heard him say—he was new to the game. I think he was mostly interested in having his one buy-in last as long as possible. Maybe he wouldn’t have called off all of his chips there if I had forced him to. I’ll never know.
Now, quads isn’t (aren’t?) on the poker parlay card (neither is a straight flush). But if you get quads or a straight flush, you are entitled to get stamp for any hand on your card that you need, your choice. Of course what makes the most sense is to get the highest hand remaining that you still need stamped. I already had two pair and a flush. It only made sense to take the stamp for a full house and get that out of the way. But I have to tell you, the thought crossed my mind to use it for the straight instead. I swear I make a lot fewer straights than flushes, though it’s not supposed to be that way. I may even get fewer straights than boats. I guess it has to do with my starting hand selection. I really don’t play a lot of connected cards unless they are suited—or really big. And whenever they’ve run similar promos, it always seems like the straight is the toughest for me to hit. Nevertheless, I did the “sensible” thing and took the stamp for the full house.
I had been at the table for about a half an hour and had 3/5’s of a card filled out. I was starting to get optimistic that I could complete the card and win the promo money.
And that’s where part 1 ends. Be sure to come back Sunday for the concluding chapter and find out if I completed the promo card.