Thursday, March 29, 2018

Guest Post: Norwegians Invade Venetian (Part 2)

Here's part 2 of guest-blogger Eivind Brenne's report on his recent visit to Vegas to play the Venetian Deepstacks.  You can find part 1 here.

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Here we are again. Just over 2 months after our last trip to Vegas. Work in the Oil & Gas sector had not really picked up yet after the low season in the North Sea. Again, our minds were drifting off to Vegas and FM pointed out that he would soon turn 50 years and could play in the senior’s event next time at the Venetian DSE. As it turned out, such an event took place just two days after he turned 50 in the January DSE. He called me from his house in Maine and said he was planning on taking a short trip down to Vegas to play in the senior’s event. The day after I gave it some thinking and called him back and told him. “No way you are going to Vegas alone. I’m coming with you!!” Ohh crap. I had just promised my buddy to go to Vegas with him without even asking my wife. So, I found a good opportunity when we were having dinner at a restaurant in Bangkok and mentioned this. She looked at me and said sure, why not? Then my daughter of 5 years said “NO can do!” (With a slight smile). “You can only go if you buy me lots of toys.' So, we logged onto EBay with my phone and started browsing for her favorite toys and we chose some and shipped them to FM’s house in Maine, so he could bring them to Vegas for me. Then I asked my daughter if I now could get a “visa” to go to visit my friend FM. “Granted” she said and gave me a pretend “visa” stamp on my hand. Awesome!

I am blessed to have such a nice family when I want to go to play some poker. My wife knows that I never over spend money on poker or gambling, and that the rest of my time I spend with my family taking care of our child.

Actually, this reminds me of a story a few years earlier when my buddy FM called, and we started talking about our next Vegas trip. I’m not sure I should tell you this story, but here it goes. In the aftermath I’m not really proud of this. That time, I asked FM on the phone “When should we go to Vegas again?” "How about tomorrow?" FM said. "Hmmm. I’m going to have to get back to you on that one. Give me 5 min." My wife had already gone to sleep about 30 minutes prior to this. I snuck into the bedroom and asked my wife if she was sleeping. Not yet she said. Listen, I said……. You know my buddy FM called and we ended up talking about our next Vegas trip. Ok she said. "When are you planning to go?" Ehhhh, tomorrow. A brief moment of silence occurred, and she finally said yes. Not an angry yes. Then she said. “I’ll drive you to the airport tomorrow. As I closed the door to the bedroom I started thinking. “Did I just wake up my wife and asked her if I could go to Vegas tomorrow???" Almost shocked at what I really did, I grabbed my credit card and booked the trip. Ok, judge me whoever wants to J

Back to January,2018. I booked a ticket with the same Chinese airline. Hainan Airlines, to be more specific. This time I got a real good deal for a business class ticket, so I took them up on the offer. The 3 hours of customs lineup were still fresh in my mind from my last trip. The day of the travel finally came, and I really enjoyed the trip to Vegas. On the flight from Beijing to Vegas in a brand new 787 Dreamliner, I was treated with a 7-course dinner and unlimited drinks served by very attractive Asian flight attendants. 

Hmmmm, no, they did not really look like this, but in my mind they did.

After we landed I was the second person out of the airplane and I started walking very fast. No way I’m going to be last in the queue this time! I came to the immigration check point and no one was there!  A lady that was preparing the queue system said. “You are too early” The immigration staff has not yet arrived to handle your flight. Ohh my. This time I was too early. Then I hear a gentleman sitting in the green card slot saying, "Come over here, I’ll get you through." I thanked him, and he asked me what I was doing in Vegas. "I’m here to play poker." "Ohh really, I play poker too."  He told me he knew many dealers that worked at various casinos around Vegas. We had a friendly chat about poker and I told him I will be playing at the Venetian mostly. "Ohh,  then say hello to my friend Bobby that works there as a dealer." I said I would do that if I saw him. (Obviously, Bobby is a name I gave the dealer for this blog, not the real name). Just as he let me through to pick up my luggage, the 400 tourists from the cattle class showed up to wreak havoc just like last time. The only difference now was that I was already through immigration. I got my luggage immediately as it had a “priority” tag on it. Customs gave me no problems and I was out of the terminal in record speed. I took a shuttle bus down to the domestic terminal where I had to wait for FM this time. We did not book a rental car this time as we were staying at the LINQ, and it’s just a short walk down to the Venetian. What’s even better, it’s just a few hundred meters away from In-N-Out Burger!!

This time we just checked in, took a shower and headed out for a burger as usual. We decided to do the same as last trip and kick it all off with an Aria tournament. However, this time we made it to the 1pm tournament as the DSE did not start until the day after. We played there a few hours with no success. When we entered the Aria poker room we saw that the US Poker Open had started just a few days later. We decided to drop by a few days later and see if we could spot some poker celebrities. More on that later.

I’m going to break it to you early. This was a trip filled with bad beats and bad luck. We must have used all the good poker mojo on the previous trip where we won two tournaments in a row. Anyhow, the rest of the first day we played some cash at the Mirage and at the Venetian.

The main event for this DSE was the $1,100 MSPT (Mid States Poker Tour) that had two starting flights. We definitely wanted to play in this one! There where daily satellites for this tournament and we played them all. Again, the bad beats were just stacking up. The story goes like this: All in and ahead… Then our opponent hit his two outer and draws out on us. Nonstop this went on until the day before the senior’s event. This was on a Thursday I believe. FM managed to win a ticket but could not play in Day 1 as he would play in the senior’s event that day. No problem, he was booked into Day 2. I played my last satellite (I thought) and the story repeats itself. Bad beat, bad beat, bad beat. Crap, I need to change poker rooms for a while. FM looked forward to playing his first seniors event. He was thinking. “This should be easy money to play with those nits”. Ohh boy, was he wrong. The game was hyper-aggressive. The older gentlemen were not afraid to put their chips into play. And in good old fashion of this trip he was all in and ahead only to be drawn out on.

I decided that enough is enough. I need to try something else. I checked out the PokerAtlas app on my phone and found out that they were running a $50k guarantee, two starting flights tournament at South Point Casino a bit south on the strip. I think the buyin was $250. I grabbed a taxi while FM was still waiting for the senior’s event to start. Once I sat down at the table at South Point, I quickly understood that this was a room filled mostly with regulars. I think I was the only one who did not know the name of all the dealers. Anyhow, the regs were all nice and the play got under way. I did not last long and was out during the third level. I texted FM and at that time he was also out of the senior event. We agreed to meet at the Aria poker room just to have a look. Once we got there the room was packed with action. All tables were full and a $10k PLO event was going on. There were cameras, lights, PokerGO and there was Daniel Negreanu sitting at the table right in front of us. He was chatting it up with the other players on his table as he usually is. What a nice guy that is! Just on another table, Justin Bonomo was sitting with his pink hair and a big stack. The more we looked around, the more poker celebs we spotted. Several of the big names of Poker After Dark were there as well. Wow, this was so cool. Up until now, we had only seen them play poker on TV. Now they were there just in front of us. We hung around for a while soaking up the atmosphere. We kept looking around for the Poker Brat, Mr. Phil Helmuth, but he was nowhere to be seen. Not sure he played any of those events at all.

We eventually grabbed a taxi back to Venetian and sat down and played some 1-2 cash. I noticed that they had added an extra last satellite to the program. FM already had a ticket, so he continued to play some cash, but I took yet another shot to win a ticket to the $1,100 MSPT the day after. This satellite was on temporary tables right outside of the poker room as the room was packed with MSPT Day 1 players, senior event players and another tournament currently going on. Not to mention all the cash action during these events. Before I busted out of the last satellite, FM had already called it a night and headed back home. I busted out long before any tickets were awarded as usual. I texted FM when I walked back home and told him my plan for tomorrow. Alright, I said. I could not let him play alone in the $1,100 MSPT tournament tomorrow. I will buy in I told him. He thought it was a good idea and I went to bed to get some sleep. When I met him in the reception area of the LINQ the day after he handed me $550. Why, I asked. We share all the wins he said, and he had technically won $1,100 for the ticket. What a nice gesture!  

On Saturday we played the second starting flight of the MSPT. Ohh, I forgot to say…first, we had another nutritious breakfast at a place I think you know by now. A massive field came along for the last starting flight. On Day 1A I think they got just under 400 entries. On Day 1B they got almost the double. First place prize money turned out to be just over $108k! I got a quiet table at the shielded area by the cashier counter. The starting stack of this tournament was 20k. As play kicked off I had a good feeling for the first time of this trip. I accumulated some chips and hit some flops. Once the ante kicked in there was a bust out and we got a new player. A fairly young guy, clearly experienced. He immediately said hello and started chatting up another guy on our table. It turned out the guy that was already on our table was one of the guys managing and commenting on live streams for the MSPT. However, on this day he was playing poker instead. It was impossible not to hear what they talked about, but the guy that works for MSPT kept talking of all the success of the new young guy that came to our table. He had won several MSPT’s before and had several big cashes in various tournaments in L.A.

Did anyone say Hyper LAG? The new player was definitely a LAG. Hyper LAG I would say. He opened 100% of the pots that were not already opened. I did not see him fold one single time if the pot was not opened. He did not open huge, but min raised all the time. In the beginning he was running over the table. Then I got involved in a hand with his buddy. I can’t remember all the details, but I flopped a gutshot. I made a continuation bet and got called. The turn put the second spade on the board. I fired another bet and I was called again. Damn…. Then the third spade hit on the river and I made a pot sized bet as a bluff. My opponent tanked for a while but eventually folded. After that, I decided that someone had to play back on our LAG. I started raising him in position with a wide range. I got folds most of the time and an occasional call. If he called, I fired a large bullet on the flop that ended the hand. This went on for a while and I kind of took away his revenue stream. He turned over to me and said. “Are you going to continue raising all my opens?” “Yep” I said. We both laughed a bit and I did just that.  

One nice hand came up a little later where the LAG opened, and I decided to just call this time. I held T9 suited in clubs. The flop came J-8-7, one club. Wow, what a flop! I c-bet just like I usually did and got a call. The turn brought a low card and I bet half the pot. I was quickly called again, and the pot was now of a decent size. The river brought the second club on the board and more straight possibilities in the eyes of my opponent. This time a threw out a single 5k chip and the LAG tanked for a while. He ended up calling and mucked in disgust once he saw my flopped straight. Sometime later he told me that he had pocket Aces. Those can be hard to lay down, I know all about that.

I continued to build my stack and had a real good feeling. Then I got a text from FM. He was back at his hotel room!! What? He had just busted out and taken his worst bad beat of this trip. He raised with pocket Queens and got 3-bet. He 4-bet and his opponent 5-bet all in. He called, and his opponent showed pocket 5’s! Alright, way ahead and the flop brought another Q and FM almost started to celebrate right there. Here is the catch. There were two diamonds on the board and one of his opponents 5’s was the 5 of diamond. Then the turn and river were runner runner diamonds!!!! He could not believe it. He flopped a set of Queens against a pair of 5’s and ended up busting to runner runner flush with a single 5 of diamonds. Poker can be a bitch some time. His exact words in the text message was: “Busted. Home licking my wounds”.

Ohh well. I continued to play and had a bit more than twice the average. This was just before the dinner break. I looked down at pocket Kings. The dreaded pocket Kings as we all know Rob calls them. The guy to my right opened the pot and I 3-bet. He 4-bet, I 5-bet and he pushed all in. Hmmm, could I be up against Aces I thought for a while. Antonio Esfandiari was in a similar situation against Tom Dwan in a recent Poker After Dark episode. (Check it out here. It did not end well for Antonio’s Kings that time. As I had most of my stack already invested, I felt I had to go for it. When I 5-bet I was hoping I was up against A-K. I pushed my stack in and sure, he flipped over pocket Aces!! Crap! We had more or less identical stacks. I started getting up and grabbing my backpack ready to leave. I stood behind my chair and saw a flop with all low cards appear. Should I have said “One time, I need my one time now”? Nhaaa, I don’t believe in that stuff. As lightning from a clear sky, a beautiful K appeared on the turn. I was fist pumping and suddenly my opponent was in disgust over seeing that King. I said to myself. “Rob… Those Kings are not so dreaded as you keep telling us they are." Then another player at the table told us that he folded an Ace preflop, so my opponent only had one out!! One single out, the last Ace in the deck. I was so sure I was going to get a double up and a very, very playable stack with a great chance of bagging chips for day 2. It felt like an eternity before the dealer dealt the river and I enjoyed every millisecond of it even though it took only a few seconds. And then……WHAMBOOOZA…… THE LAST ACE IN THE DECK HIT!!! I was floored. I could hardly stand. The whole table went “Whooooooooaaaaaaaa. That’s sick, dude”. Alright Rob, I should have listened to you after reading countless stories about the dreaded pocket Kings. 

Once the dust settled and the dealer was finished counting the chips I had less than one ante behind. I could do nothing but laugh of the whole situation. When I finally thought I had a chance after so many days with bad beats I was shot down with a bazooka. With my less than one ante left, I was all in before the automatic shuffler was even finished shuffling the cards. Once I got my cards I did not even look at them. Two guys ended up all in, so my chances were slim. I flipped over T8o. There was an 8 on the board, but the guys going all in had premium pocket pairs. I wished my table all the best for the rest of the tournament and sent a text to FM. He immediately called me and could not believe what he just read in my text. Actually, he was on the way to In-N-Out to buy me a burger for my dinner break as the breaks are quite short on the DSE. Ohh well, I slowly walked towards In-N-Out and sat down at a table with FM. We could do nothing than smile and shake our heads in disbelief. Did anyone say shake? Yes, the Chocolate shake at In-N-Out is the best shake in Vegas.

We started to walk relentlessly around not really knowing what to do next. We ended up at a cash table at Harrahs and immediately had the waiter bring us a Budweiser. Man, that Budweiser tasted good and worked like some kind of medicine for the bad beats we had that day. After a couple of more Bud’s we called it a day and went to sleep. We woke up a bit early on Sunday and decided to head downtown for the 11am Sunday tournament at the Golden Nugget. No more Venetian for this trip we said that morning. And get this, we did not have the nutritious breakfast at you know where that morning. Instead we had a couple of sizes of pizza in Fremont street instead. (The real reason we did not have an In-N-Out breakfast was actually because they had not yet opened when we woke up!)

We bought in to the $125 tournament and took our seats. I was immediately card dead and could not get any traction. I was shortly thereafter shot down in flames and busted out. No, I did not re-enter. Instead I grabbed a Bud light and watched FM battle it out. The hours went by and FM was in the money. Sweet. He ended up heads up with a nice lady and after some heads up play they decided to chop. They each got $1,500 and gave $100 to the dealer’s tip box. FM handed me $700 and we walked outside. It could be worse. We finally made some money that day. It was our last day in sin city for this trip.

Somehow, we ended up back at the Venetian just before 7pm. I tried hard, but I could not resist buying in on the last DSE event of the trip. The buy in was the regular $200 for the 7pm events. It was a roller coaster ride, but we managed to be on the right side of the coin flips enough times to last all the way to the bubble. As there were two tables, it was hand by hand. One grueling hour went by with hand by hand play and the blinds kept eating up my above average chip stacks. Finally, the bubble burst and we were both in the money again. FM busted out shortly thereafter and received the min cash of $393. I ended up with the same fate shortly after FM busted out and took the last of the min cash for a mighty $393. Ohh well, after a week of being brutally beaten up by the deck of cards, cashing sure felt like heaven! We went back to our hotel and packed our bags for an early departure the next day.

Once again I found myself in a brilliant business class seat of a 787 Dreamliner and started thinking…… Did it all change that last day of poker? Had our poker mojo returned? Did we finally see the light in the end of the bad beat tunnel? Do they have In-N-Out Burger in Bangkok? Very interesting questions indeed. I do not have an answer to those questions until our next poker trip is due. All I can tell you is they do NOT have In-N-Out burgers in Bangkok!

As it looks like right now, we are hoping to go to Vegas again during the WSOP this year. I can hardly wait!! In the meantime, I have to start looking around for a cheeseburger detox program.


  1. Say hello the next time you guys are at the Venetian, I’d be happy to buy you and FM lunch. Very nice read.

    Tommy- VenetianTD

    1. That's really nice of you Tommy, and thanks for stopping by the blog!

      Eivand & FM--Tommy is the real deal. One of the best guys in poker. Be sure to say hello and take advantage of his offer next time!

    2. Tommy. Thanks for checking out our story! We had an awesome time during our visits, and no bad beats could keep us away from returning this summer during the world series. We will definitely look you up and say hello on our next trip.

  2. Thanks again, Eivand and FM for two great blog posts and some great stories.

    Your bad beat with the Dreaded Pocket Kings actually is probably worse than any bad beat I've taken with them! Wow. So, so sorry.

    But there's an old poker wive's tale or superstition that says whenever someone in just that type of situation says, "I folded a ____(the card needed to beat you, especially if only a two outer will beat you)" then for sure the last available card to beat you will hit. I blame the guy who said aloud he folded an Ace.

    Glad you made a little bit of a recovery, anyway.

    Hope to meet you this summer....I know where to find you--at the In-N-Out Burger!

  3. @Rob. Yes, there is something in that poker wives' tale of superstition. It will hit you at the worst possible time. And the opposite was the case for FM. He had too many outs!

    I think it's important as a poker player take these bad beats with a smile, and say. "That's poker", and it will always be a part of the game we all love.

    Obviously, a visit to In & Out followed by a couple of Budweisers is the perfect cure :)

    1. It sounds to me like a trip to In-N-Out is you cure for whatever ails you!