Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

Las Vegas Part 2 - The Poker Rooms

(please note that all of these posts regarding my trip to Las Vegas will have pictures added to them once I get the pictures back from the other guys on the trip. Make sure to check back.)

One of the things I love about Las Vegas is the consistency, and by that I mean that when I walk into a card room in Las Vegas in June of 2009, I know that I can fully expect to see the same cast of characters I saw when I was there in February 2008 or July 2007. (I’m not just picking those dates randomly, those were my last 2 Vegas trips.) I’m talking about players, dealers, supervisors, cocktail waitress, massage therapists…pretty much everyone.

I love playing 4-8 limit at the Wynn, and I’ve told stories about Brooklyn Norm, with his thick accent and God Bless America eagle cardmarker, and his wife, with her equally thick New Yawwk accent, and the angry Indian lady who yells at everyone. And as soon as I walk in the Wynn poker room on this trip…sure enough, all three of them are there. Dave is sitting at a table before I get there, and I end up sitting at the same table with him, Mrs. Norm, and the Angry Indian Lady. Now I’ve told Dave a story in the past about her ripping on me and anyone she can, and when I pull him away from the table to tell him it’s her, he says, “Her? Really?” It wasn’t long after that he believed me when he saw her freak out on him for something.

As much as I love the Wynn from a poker standpoint, my favourite place to place now is Planet Hollywood. On the last trip with Phil, Colin, Neal, and Ron, we spent a lot of time there playing tournaments and cash games. The tournament structure is the best on the Strip for its value and starting stack, so I was telling the guys we needed to go play there. We were staying at Bally’s, which was 2 hotels down, so we were nice and close to get there regularly. I had heard from Ron earlier in the year that the poker room at PH was closed, but I had still found plenty of information online about it still being there, so I didn’t really believe it.

When I walked in the front entrance off of the strip, I looked left and expected to see the poker room there…but it wasn’t. It was now some sort of high roller area. Now I had a moment of panic thinking that perhaps it was true, and maybe it wasn’t open anymore, but I asked one of the staff members and he directed me to the back part of the casino behind the Heart Bar where the poker room was now located. I had told the guys about a few of the dealers at PH on the way to Vegas, like Jennifer (who looks like Jessica Biel), or the guy who looks just like our friend Paul, or Junior, the big Samoan teddy bear. Sure enough…as I approach the room, I see Jennifer (now a supervisor) at the pit stand, and Junior dealing one of the tables. Ahhh…consistency.

So, we all came back to play in a tournament that first day (Friday) at 2 pm. There were 85 entries, and 3 of the 4 of us made the final table, with Dave finishing 10th, me finishing 9th, and Tony finishing 4th. But more than just the tournament results, we had a blast, making new friends with the players and dealers. People like Sterling, who was busted by Tony, and his fiancĂ© Amber, who made the final table with us, and by the end of the tournament, was convinced that Tony would be a good fit for her sister back in Texas and end up being her brother-in-law. Or Daniel and Tim and the crew from California, who made the final table with us, and two of them went heads-up at the end. We ended up getting along great with those guys and had them and most of the onlookers yelling out our Vegas war cry of ‘GARRRRR!!’ with us during the tournament. We also saw them at the WSOP the next day, along with Sterling and Amber.

We also made friends with some of the new dealers at Planet Hollywood (well, new to me), like the guy who used to play in all the PH tournament with the spiky hair, but now works there as a dealer (didn’t catch his name), or Chase, who looked exactly like Olivia Wilde (but had no idea who Olivia Wilde was) and had a belt buckle that looked like it was about 4 pounds, or Laura, who is without a doubt the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life, or Kalani, who I truly believe Tony would have taken to wedding chapel and married on the spot, and who didn’t believe I would be able to spell her Italian last name. (Ha! First try!) The people at PH all week were great, as they always are, and it was a fantastic time.
I played a fair bit at Bally’s as well, and have a new favourite dealer in Las Vegas. Tricia at Bally’s was the first person I encountered when I signed up for a table, as she was working the pit stand. The excitement must have been evident on my face when she told me that there was a 3-6 limit H.O.R.S.E. game going on that night. I had just come back from Caesar’s Palace where I tried to get a H.O.R.S.E. game started to no avail, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the game being spread in my ‘home casino’. Tricia set me up playing 1-2 NL while I was waiting, and I had a good run there, but the H.O.R.S.E. list just wasn’t moving, so I went over to see the table and what was happening. I walk over to the table, and in seat 10…it’s Phil Laak. Wait a minute, Phil Laak playing 3-6 limit H.O.R.S.E. at Bally’s during the World Series of Poker? That can’t be right. It must just be someone who looks like him. But he REALLY looks like him.
So I go over to the Texas Bonus Shootout (or whatever it’s called) and get Dave, and say, “You have to come with me. I need confirmation that this is Phil Laak playing 3-6 limit H.O.R.S.E. in the poker room.” He can’t believe it either, so he comes with me, and once he sees him, confirms that it is indeed The Unabomber, as I knew, but just refused to believe. Now it makes sense why the list isn’t moving, no one wants to leave the table. So I return to my 1-2 NL table, where Tricia is now the dealer, and I ask her why he’s playing here. She says “It happens all the time. Sometimes Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan and Jennifer Harmon all show up and get a table to play Chinese Poker.”

I say “Really?”, and she just looks at me and smiles and says “No, not really.” Right then, I knew I liked Tricia. She used my own joke on me, and I never saw it coming. Plus, every time I came back to Bally’s later, she remembered my name, asked how I did in the WSOP, and was very friendly. I told her she would get a mention in my Vegas report as my new favourite dealer (Sorry, Junior), so if she sent me a picture, I would include it. As soon as I got off the plane home, there was an email from her waiting for me in my inbox. She’s good.
But getting back to the Phil Laak H.O.R.S.E. story. I was looking forward to playing with him obviously, but it never happened. I did, however, finally get a seat, when he cashed out and I took his place. I ran into him at the cage and asked him why he was playing there, and he said that a group of friends were in town and wanted to play H.O.R.S.E., so he said he’d join them. I asked how he did, and he responded (and this is word-for-word), “Dude, I just won $160 playing 3-6. I feel like the King of the World.”

To all the dealers and players I encountered on this trip, you all contributed to a great poker vacation. If any of you are reading here (and I know some of you are!), feel free to leave a comment and keep in touch.


Paul S. said...

Ok, so I'll bite....who's Olivia Wilde? Looks like Tricia would have been my favourite dealer

Sean said...

She's from the TV show House, among other things. I can't add a pic here in the comments, but google her name and you'll recognize her.

Anonymous said...

I know Tricia is the best in Vegas, she has perfected the art of dealing.If you are looking for the best H.O.R.S.E game in town you should have came over to the Venetian.

Tracy Mendiola
(Proud mom of Tricia)