For our 10th Anniversary trip, we politely requested some of the more recent joinees to allow the core group to celebrate and reminisce in a smaller group. In addition to the 2009 trip being our first poker run, it was my second-ever Vegas trip report. For the mandatory exposition, allow a brief copy/paste from the pre-trip report on how this got started (a little pre-expo context; the national bowling tournament was in Las Vegas in 2009 and I made a gambling profit. I was looking for an excuse to go back)... I blame Southwest airlines. When they announced that they were to begin flying to Milwaukee, and worse, they would have non-stops to Las Vegas, and even worser, that "introductory" fares begin at $35, it hit my weak spot. What's a boy to do? So one evening in June (still with this lump of money burning a hole in my savings account), I checked Southwest's fares to Vegas. Drat, the $35 fares were already sold out, though they were only about $90 each way. Why, I am not sure, but I then went to Expedia's site and searched for similar dates. In doing so, it appeared that AirTran was matching that price, and sumofagun, their fares were NOT sold out. Round trip tickets this weekend (the first full weekend in November) were - with taxes - $98. The next morning, I talked to Poker Buddy #1 (who works with me), and he said we'd be foolish not to... and he quickly committed his stepson (Poker Buddy #2, a Vegas Virgin). A couple more phone calls and we had Poker Buddy #3. When I actually bought the tickets, the return flight has a little more expensive, but the bottom line is that we got our round trip tickets at $138 each. Then it came time to look for the hotel. Poker Buddy #1 had been to Vegas about a year ago, but stayed at the South Point (about three miles south of the Mandalay Bay). But for a trip in which four guys will be in Vegas for a total of 52 hours, the cost was a little much. I had remembered that during my trip in April that the Golden Gate hotel (in downtown) was offering rooms for $19.06/night (in honor of being in a building that was built in 1906). Saturday night was a little more, but the total pre-tax cost of each room for the weekend was $76. I still haven't found a casino hotel on the strip or downtown anywhere close to that. (And before anyone scoffs at the Golden Gate, they are the home of the $0.99 shrimp cocktail and the coupon book that gives you $0.99 margaritas. Their rooms appear to be nice enough, has good reviews, and for the few minutes that we will use it to be cheating on our spouses sleeping, we can't go wrong. We had considered not renting a car, and actually went months (remember, we started planning in June) without reserving one. But for giggles, I did a search and found a car (Chevy Impala or similar) for two days for $50... which includes all taxes. Hell, it'll cost us that much to take one cab ride to downtown and back. Now we have our wheels, and we can roam all over the area on our whim. We can even head out to the desert to dig a hole, if Poker Buddy #2 can't control himself. So as you can see, the whole purpose of the trip was to play poker... cheaply. 10 years later, well... this is Vegas and nothing is cheap any more. What was a $98 plane ticket is now $328, Our $76 all-in for two days was about $192 for three days for the guys not on a full comp (raises hand) and our $50 car for three days was $112 for four days. Then again, we all look forward to this trip and wouldn't miss it. I wouldn't say that price is no option, but it is certainly no longer a priority. Well, its no longer a priority to me, Poker Buddy #1 (Scott) and Poker Buddy #3 (Pat). Poker Buddy #3 has kind of put poker on the back burner and recently bought a house. Accompanying us instead was Poker Buddy #5 (Phil) who actually first joined us on our second trip. Now, on with the show (all times are PDT unless shown)... Thursday, September 12 at sometime after work CDT - This was a Phil thing, nurtured by Pat, then carried over the goalline by Yours Truly. On Phil's first trip with us (in 2010) Scott had gotten ill while watching the Packers game, so I drove him back to the hotel and Phil set an over/under on my return time for $1 with the others. That went over so well that Phil started lines on everything. It was hilarious at the time, and the randomness was a lot of fun that Pat kept alive until last year when it kind of foundered. Then I had a flash of inspiration... everyone was to bring 25 $2 bills, and the $2 would be the base bet... it would also be the currency for tipping. If we made a lot of personal bets, we'd be passing $2 bills back and forth, and it would be its own contest to see who could come home with the most $2 bills. Pat's bank couldn't come up with 25 bills, so I had to make a run to my credit union to fill the gap. Saturday, September 14 at 4:15 AM CDT - I have railed numerous time against flights (that we end up taking anyway) that leave at 6:00 AM out of MKE. So what happens when our flight leaves at 7:20 AM? Right, I can't fall back asleep. Vegas... Vegas... Vegas... 4:55 AM CDT - My wife loves wheat pancakes for breakfast each morning, so I just finished up a double batch (18 total) and set them on the counter to cool. Scott was to meet me at 5:30 to head to the airport, so after getting dressed, I was going to put them in the freezer (she microwaves them to defrost for about 30 seconds, then pops them in the toaster for a cycle. She loves them.) 5:00 AM CDT - Scott texts that he had arrived. Apparently he couldn't sleep, either. I left while leaving the pancakes on the counter. 9:10 AM PDT - Once again, a perfect flight, and we head to the car rental shuttle bus area. 10 years ago, my original TR says that we arrived at 9:15 and were playing cards at South Point at 10:00 . This year we were going to try to replicate that, however today the shuttle line is very long and takes us about 10-15 minutes to get on the bus. 9:30 AM - Phil had come into Vegas the evening before, and he met us at the Rental Car Center. This was going to be a great trip. 9:35 AM - I had tried to check into Alamo the evening before so that I could walk right to my car, but the website gave me an error message. When I chatted with Alamo, they assured me that my reservation was good and that I could check-in at a kiosk. Shit. The delay keeps growing. No way we'll hit South Point by 10:00. 10:00 AM - Well, it could have been worse, but we've wasted about 40 minutes of Vegas Time. 10:10 AM - We clear the exit gate and have decided to hit breakfast, then an 11:00 game at the MGM Grand. Remembering Super Bowl weekend, I pull into the Black Bear Diner about a mile from the airport. Unfortunately, people are lined-up out the door. Despite my immutable law that "Line Food is Good Food", I was asked to find somewhere else. Right around the corner was an IHOP. Now, remember from past reports that Phil, Scott and I love food, but that Pat see food as sustenance, and you'd be surprised as I that it was Pat telling me to "Get the hell out of IHOP... find us a Michael James Las Vegas breakfast". Challenge accepted. 10:25 AM - We pull into Mr. Mamas parking lot, with a line out the door. We send in recon and we are told the wait is 45 minutes. Frustrated, we pull out of the parking lot and consider our poker options. 11:00 AM - We arrive at Red Rock Casino, check into their Noon tournament and then head to the cafe for lunch. Service seems to take forever, but finally my first healthy Las Vegas meal arrives... A lovely Acai Bowl to get my day started. I even ate the blueberries (swirl them in the sherbet-like stuff and you can't really taste them). 12:05 PM - We (finally) get to the first tournament of the trip, two full hours later than planned. The worst part is that we like to get three tournaments that first day, and we've all but assured that we've lost one already. To try to keep the poker part of my trip reports fresh, I am going to Wonky-Up (TM pending) the poker talk (I will indent the poker talk, so that if you want to skip it, you'll know when it ends). I am not writing the poker talk to discuss how I played a hand, how I could have played it better, or to brag about my skills. It is so that y'alls can live the ups and downs with me as I ratchet up the suspense of how I finish each tournament. Red Rock 12:05 PM Saturday tournament - 41 entries at $110 each ($25 bounty). Start with 12K chips. I had an early KK, then a full house to put me +6000 by the third level. Shortly before break, I was in the big blind with 24 in a limped pot. The flop was 2-4-8. The turn was a 10, the river a 3. After a bet, raise and 3-bet, I called my opponents all-in, and she showed 33. Damn river. By break, my stack was back to 12K. Scott was at my table and had AA three times. He won the first, lost the second and won the third. However, he got knocked out in the last hand before the break against... AA. About two hours in, I was getting low on chips and shoved pre-flop with JJ. I was called by AQ, and with a Q on the flop, I was out in 18th place. Phil held on for 4th place for $290 2:30 PM - Video Poker porn! 3:00 PM - As we waited for Phil to be done ("Don't lose, Phil, but hurry up") Scott, Pat and I wandered through the Red Rock property. In the months before this trip (and especially my April trip to Las Vegas and my June trip to Kansas City) I had gotten absolutely hammered on slot machines and my goal was to really try to limit my slot play. For awhile, at least, Scott indulged me which is how we got on our walk. I'm a bowler... what can I say? Though in fairness, many PBA tournaments have been contested at Red Rock, including (in my opinion) the greatest feat ever when Kelly Kulick became the first female to ever win a men's PBA event; she did it in a major - the Tournament of Champions - against Hall of Famer Chris Barnes. I am not a big fan of the casual side of bowling, but the suites do look sweet. 4:00 PM - After a few shoes of (losing) blackjack, we find a bank of slot machines and sit down to ostensibly check our phones. Scott pulls out a bill and starts playing. Now, Scott is a recovering alcoholic and I am very sensitive to him based on the availability of alcohol in Vegas. So when I am trying to break my addiction, the fucker slides a Benjamin into a slot 5 feet from my nose. Pat sees this, and though Pat is NOT a gambler, he slides a very dusty $20 into a Link machine, gets a quick bonus and a win of about $35, and he is on Cloud 9. Shortly after, Scott gets a bonus for about a $100 win. All as I sit there, refusing to join in on the fun, and jealous as hell about how quickly and easily they made some money. 5:00 PM - After Phil finishes up his game (five hours... that's not bad for $110) we decide to only hit one more game that evening and we strategize on where it should be. We're getting older, so we choose to head downtown, check into our hotels, and get a pizza. Although I've had a hankering for a Detroit Red Top at Pizza Rock, I also have never been to the Chicago Brewing Company inside the 4 Queens, so I point the group that way to eliminate that nonfeasance. 6:15 PM - Still waiting to be seated. We'd been there at least 10 minutes and both the bartender and a cook said that someone would be right with us for a seat in the quite-empty restaurant. 6:30 PM - With our order in, everyone is kinda griping about the waits... at the car rental center, for the breakfasts we never ate, the slow service at the Red Rock cafe, and now the wait just to get a table for pizza. It is kinda frustrating to everyone, but I am taking it a little personally because I am the Official Cruise Director, and frankly, almost all of the ideas have been mine. The guys assure me (almost like a bonding moment) that I am doing a great job, and the frustration is just that Vegas Time is precious, and we feel like we're burning too much of it. From left, Your Cruise Director, Phil, Pat and Scott 6:40 PM - The pizzas come out quickly, which is a little strange as two of them are the Chicago Deep Dish pies... those usually take longer. 7:10 PM - The quick pizza prep gave us time to enjoy the meal and get to the Golden Nugget for their evening tournament. Golden Nugget 7:00 PM Saturday tournament - 26 entries at $70 each. Start with 10K chips. In the first level, I raised with 22 with two callers. Flop 2AJ, bet big, one call. Turn brick. Bet bigger with call. River K. Bet 3000 on river and he called, showing Q10 for the inside straight. I had tried to bet him out of the pot. Never got untracked in this game, last hand before break I raised preflop with 10-10 with one caller. Flop all spades. I shoved my last 4500, hoping he didn't have two spades, and charging a tax to fish for one more. But he had 2 spades and I was done. Phil cashed chopping 2-3-4 for about $280. 9:30 PM - While Phil was still playing, Pat and Scott each said that they were headed to bed (man, we're getting old). I decide to get my gamble on. Alone. Downtown with casinos on every street corner. Trying to avoid losing my entire bankroll in slot machines. I got the phone out a little late, but this started as 20 spins X 3, plus the Wild +5. Quickly I got a retrigger. My mind raced on what I could win in 45 spins at max bet. I dunno, $110 seems a little weak for 45 free spins. Oh, shit. That was a slot machine; this could get bad. I do make a smart decision to stop playing, as I am actually staying at the California and have no real reason not to give Sam Boyd my money, so I head on over. But on my way out... I have heard a lot about how great Derek Stevens is towards his customers, and I have no reason to doubt that which is why I asked him for a photo. However, he seemed kind of busy and I tried to tell him not to worry about it after shaking hands, but he did insist and turned on a nice smile. When the photo was done, he went back to what he was doing without a lot of further discussion. This is kind of why I don't try to get photos with various levels of celebrities. 10:00 PM - I knew there was a big concert downtown, but I frankly didn't expect to have to pass through a metal detector to LEAVE a casino. However when I get outside, I see a massive crowd to watch Kenny Wayne Shepard, um, Kenny Wayne Sheparding. 11:30 PM - I have been playing video poker at the Boar's Head for three Black Chip Porters (or, 90 minutes) and not getting much of anything to show for it. As a matter of fact, only one shot of some soft-core Video Poker Porn. Sunday, September 15 at 12:00 AM - I schlep off to bed at my stop-loss limit for the day. As I cross the skywalk and head towards the east tower elevators at the Cal, it occurs to me that I still have a line of credit at the Cal and that I need money. I know its rude to take a cash marker then not lose it in their casino, but if I took out a marker at a table, play for awhile, and win... I am set. 12:45 AM and a $200 craps loss later - Well, that didn't go as planned. Evening came and morning followed, the first day.