Having recently been out to Las Vegas for the WSOP I was looking forward to heading back there with absolutely no work commitments to get in the way of actually sitting down and playing some poker. A decade ago, taking a 'poker holiday' in Vegas required some serious planning. You needed to know exactly when the few decent poker rooms in town were running their juicy games, and be prepared to leapfrog from one tournament to the next to minimise dead time and maximise value. Sitting at the table was as much about finding out the good 'tourney routes' from other players as it was about taking their chips.
These days the poker comes to you. Even the smallest casinos have a poker room, even if that 'room' is nothing more than a couple of tables with a rope around them. My basic plan for the trip was to enjoy the Vegas sun (what with the British 'Summer' being the usual mixture of snow, wind, piss and general misery), hit a few shows, drink a few cocktails, and make some strategic decisions about where to play my poker.
We are forever harping on about profitability in poker being about game selection... When it comes to making money in Las Vegas the game selection goes as far as deciding which casinos to sit down in.
Consider this: Big Dave fancies himself as a bit of a poker player (having 'totally pwned' a £5 sit 'n' go on Betfair... twice!) Where would you expect him to go to play poker? O'Sheas? Casino Royale? That shitty little casino made of wood that I can't even remember the name of that nearly got blown up because everyone forgot it was hidden behind Stardust? No; of course not. Minutes after his fat head bobbles into McCarren's arrivals lounge, Big Dave will be swaggering into The Bellagio's sweet-smelling poker room looking like something out of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The locals will take one look at him and - quick as a flash - metaphorically have his pants down, his Pringle jumper up over his head, and be sending him tarred and feathered back out into the blistering sun, scratching his fat bonce and wondering where all his beer money went.
Which is exactly why you WON'T find me down The Bellagio, The Wynn, The Mandalay Bay, or any other casino that might be considered 'nice'. Why? Well let me ask you another question: where do you think the meek, timid, new-to-the-game, first-live-experience enthusiasts are going to go to pop their poker cherries? How about all the sh*t-holes that are entirely unlikely to have any 'proper' poker players sitting there!
And that, my wily friends, is exactly why you'll find me trying to peel my shoes off the sticky carpets at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, sucking down warm beers at the soon-to-be-demolished Imperial Palace, and generally rubbing shoulders with the voucher-obsessed tramps who frequent the - shall we say - less salubrious casinos Las Vegas has to offer.
While my more image-conscious friends are trying to make a name for themselves in the beautiful surroundings of the Caesar's Palace poker room (with its fancy perfumed air-conditioning and yet-to-be-pensioned waitresses) I'm sat at the Flamingo's entirely adequate poker room between a rock and a hard place (i.e. two fat blokes) enjoying the juiciest cash table I've ever witnessed.
On a future occasion I shall share some specifics regarding the games I encountered during this latest trip, but suffice to say that upon my return my MSN 'tag' screamed "A VEGAS WINNER!" at my friends for a full week. Truly, it was the best of times (the results), it was the worst of times (the surroundings).
It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it...