As I mentioned here, I played in three tournaments during this month’s visit to Vegas. Here’s the story of the second, and the most unusual one.
It was sort of last minute that I knew for sure I could and would play in this one. I had read on All Vegas Poker that they were starting something new that very night. Every week, they would pick some regular Vegas tournament and make it the “AVP Weekly Showdown.” AVP’ers would be encouraged to go to a different Vegas poker room each week and make the regular tournament there a sort of mini-AVP Meet & Greet. The folks at AVP have been very good to me, and they’re all really great people, so I knew I would want to attend whenever I was in town and available.
This was the very first one on this particular Thursday night, and it was to be at the 7PM tournament at The Stratosphere. Wow. There’s a poker room I had never played before. Now, I can remember way back when, when The Stratosphere was called “Vegas World.” Yeah, that’s how old I am. Even back then, long before I ever played poker, my friends and I considered it a dump. It was owned by a fellow named Bob Stupak, who has since gone on to meet his maker. I mention him because I can recall that he used his name prominently at the casino itself and in all the advertising they did for the place. In fact, it was always referred as “Bob Stupak’s Vegas World,” I guess to distinguish it from Charles Manson’s Vegas World, or some such.
I remember my first visit to Vegas World. It was also my very first visit to Vegas, many, many years ago. My two friends and I went there one evening to see a show—I have no idea which one. We were rushed, and in order to make the show, we had to eat in a hurry first and thus ate in the nearby McDonald’s. Now in those days, it was especially crazy to eat in a place like Mickey D’s, because the food in Vegas was ridiculous cheap. Almost any buffet you could find was like $5 or less. The McDonald’s meal we had was probably the most expensive of our trip. I’m pretty sure the McDonald’s we ate at nearby Vegas World was not the same as the one that is now located across the street from where the Sahara used to be, but can’t be sure. One thing I know, it was a standalone McDonald’s; in those days, you never saw a franchise operation like that inside a casino. Now, you can’t escape them.
Anyway, as I recall, parking there was kind of scary. We weren’t familiar with the place and we made a wrong turn trying to find the parking entrance, and ended up in a nearby residential area which was not the best, to say the least. I assume the neighborhood has not gotten any better in the intervening years. Until we found our way back to Vegas World, we were rather uncomfortable, to say the least.
We did make it to Vegas World and asked where the show we wanted to see was. We were told it was in the lounge. So we went over there. No one greeted us, and no one else was there, which should have been a clue that something was amiss. We took seats near the dark stage and a waitress came by and we ordered drinks. We were surprised by the small tab, because we thought that there was a X-drink minimum which was the cost of the show, and expected it to be more than they charged us.
Time went by and no one else was there. The starting time for the show came and went and still no show. Finally the waitress came by and asked if we needed refills. So we asked her when the show started.
“Show? What show?” We mentioned the show, which was prominently featured on the marquee in front of the hotel. “Oh, that show closed yesterday. There’s no show tonight.”
Uh, thanks. Every piece of literature we had, every sign we had seen inside the place, indicated there was a show that night. Remember, this was long before the internet existed. So we got up and left. Thanks to their screw up, we had wasted an opportunity to have seen another show, we had gotten lost in a terrible neighborhood, and we had eaten a meal at McDonald’s for more money that a buffet would have cost us.
So I’ve always held a grudge against the place. But really, that story has nothing to do with the tournament I played at Stratosphere on this particular Thursday. I was just afraid if I didn’t include it, this post would be too short to please my fans who constantly tell me that the longer my posts, the better.
I guess I’ve been to Stratosphere maybe one time previously since I switched to playing poker almost exclusively. I did check out the poker room that one time, and either it was empty, or there was one game going. It was probably a NL game as this was when I was playing 2/4. So I never played and was never really enticed to ever go back there.
Until this night. If I’m not mistaken, when the Sahara closed, the Stratosphere simply took over the very popular smallish ($65) three times a day tournaments that used to run there. I did play in the Sahara tournaments a few times, without any success. But this was before I started taking tournaments seriously.
On this night, I found the Stratosphere parking lot without incident and then tried to find the poker room. This was a challenge, as I’m pretty sure it was moved from when I first observed it (wasn’t it located right near the entrance to the parking lot?). I was early and hung around outside the poker room, hoping to see some familiar AVP faces. It took awhile, as this was definitely a late arriving crowd.
But eventually I did see a familiar face, my fellow blogger Stump. I’ve met Stump a few times and played with him twice to my recollection (see here and here). So we had a nice chat and talked about a few fellow bloggers who shall remain nameless, and of course, we were not assigned to the same table.
As has been noted on the AVP forum, the good folks at AVP really need a better way to help identify each other for the occasional visitor. The locals all know each other of course, but those who are just visiting really have no idea who the AVP’ers were. I’ve met quite a few of the folks by now, and I could only identify two: Jon Friedberg, AVP’s head honcho, and the fabulous Alaskagal. Jon recognized me as well, and early during the first level came over to say hi. I made sure to say hello to Alaskagal during the first break and we had a nice chat. While talking with her, a woman who lives back east did introduce herself to Alaskagal, Stump and myself as a fellow AVP’er, but for the life of me, I cannot remember her handle.
And as far as I know, those were the only AVP’ers there. The rest of the crowd was mostly locals, quite a few looked familiar to me as folks I’ve seen in tournaments before. And then, just as the tournament was about to start, a guy with an English accent took the seat immediately to my left and said hi to me. I immediately recognized him as one of the folks I had played with at the Aria tournament two days before. But there were at least three British blokes I had played with at various times during that tournament. So when I said hello back to him, I wasn’t sure which one he was. “Hi, I played with you at the Aria tournament on Tuesday, right?”
“Yes, you did. In fact, I was the one who knocked you out.” Ugh. Thanks for the reminder. And of course I immediately realized he was right. He was indeed that British bloke who called my all in with a pair of 6’s and hit his set on the flop to force me to settle for 6th place.
Small world. Now, I know the poker community in Vegas is a very tight, very insular world, and I’m used to running into the same folks over and over again. But it’s usually locals. It was a little bit more unusual to run into to the same guy who was visiting from across the pond on two separate days, at two separate tournaments, at two separate times of day. But there he was.
Turns out he was a very nice guy. I asked how he ended up, and he actually chopped first place at that Aria tournament with the guy I flopped the nut flush against who complained about not being able to beat me. I told you he was a good player. Actually, I forgot to mention in the previous post that that guy had actually thanked the British bloke sitting next to me for knocking me out, since, as he pointed out, I was the one player he couldn’t beat.
Because I asked, my new British pal pretty much recreated the entire end of that Aria tournament for me while we were playing the tournament we were presently both in. He remembered pretty much how everyone I remembered from that final table busted out. It was an impressive display of memory, I guess that’s why he’s such a good player. And in case you haven’t figured it out, I keep using the word “bloke” here because that’s the word he used for every single male player we discussed at that final table.
Anyway, discussing the prior tournament with him was a lot more interesting that the tournament I was actually playing. My new British pal busted out very early. I was typically card dead, and with this not being a deepstack tournament, it didn’t take long before I had to start taking chances. Early I called a raise with 10/9 of hearts, flopped two pair and filled up on the river. The original raiser kept calling me and didn’t show his hand, I bet he had pocket Aces. That was pretty much the only pot I won.
During the break, they served pizza. This was not because of AVP’s presence, it is actually a regular feature of the 7PM tournament at the Stratosphere. What I found unusual about the pizza was that every single pizza pie was just plain cheese pizza. Not a single topping on any of the pies. I’ve never seen this before. Usually when multiple pizzas are served, there are various kinds of toppings on multiple pizzas. Now this was not a problem at all for me, I’m a plain guy who actually likes plain pizza. Frequently I get stuck with a slice that has anchovies or pineapple or peanut butter or some other crap that doesn’t belong on pizza. So I was fine with the plain cheese. I just don’t remember ever seeing that before. No vegetarian pizza? No meat lover’s pizza? OK by me.
After the break I didn’t last long. I was light on chips and looking to take a risk to score some chips or get out early. When I was dealt Jack/10 (Josie’s favorite hand), I made my move with a big preflop raise. The big stack at the table three-bet me and I called all-in. I figured I was behind and needed some luck. I was right. He had A-10. Nothing hit either of us and Ace high held up. And I was done.
Despite the early exit, I was glad I went and glad I participated in this first of its kind event by AVP. I’ll attend as many as I can going forward--as long as they don't ever do an Omaha tournament--and it was definitely interesting to return to the Vegas World, I mean the Stratosphere, and finally play some (though not much) poker there. Plus I got to hear how that Aria tournament played out!