This is my first trip report and is mostly about my tournament experience. Warning: There is alot of poker jargon. I had won several smaller home tournaments with prizes ranging from $300-700 and I almost made it in the money at a bigger one at a local card club. So I figured Iâ€™d give a big tournament a try ($175,000 prize pool). It was my birthday, and I wanted to see how I held up against the big dogs. I saw this post Hard Rock Hold 'Em Tournament and after much thought through the week I decided Iâ€™d give it a shot. Even though the buy in was high ($1060), I justified it by saying my other tournament wins would pay for it. And it came with a two night stay at the Hard Rock too. I was nervous all week, cramming poker books late into the night. I drove in from LA with a friend. We checked in at the Hard Rock, I found the room to be pretty generic and modern at the same time; Ikea-ish would be the best description. I tried to read a little more from TJ Cloutierâ€™s Championship Pot Limit and No Limit book and squeeze in a short nap, but I was too wired to sleep. The tournament was held at Hard Rockâ€™s concert venue, the Joint. They set up 15 poker tables on the concert floor area in front of the stage. You were supposed to be in your seat by 7:15. I came down at around 7:05, as I expected there were a bunch of young and middle aged rich dudes milling about. It was a pro-am tournament and I expected to see a bunch of nobodies since the Hard Rock isnâ€™t exactly a poker hot spot. I was very surprised to see some really big names like TJ Cloutier (HOLY CRAP! I WAS JUST READING HIS BOOK!), Daniel Negreanu, the Unabomber guy, Andy Bloch, Antonio Esfandiari, Mel Judah and Evelyn Ng. Also, I saw the guy from that new ABC series Lost. Donâ€™t know his name, but heâ€™s the tall lead guy. As it turned out, Mel Judah and Evelyn Ng would be at my table. It was like a whoâ€™s who of the WPT. I made a couple observations: 1)the proâ€™s all seemed to know each other and seemed pretty friendly 2)proâ€™s have really hot girlfriends. I was really really nervous, and was beginning to feel a little dizzy because the adrenaline/ mild dehydration. I constantly felt paranoid thinking my every one of my movements at the table was a tell and every hand I was up against was pocket aces. I had to remind myself to play my normal game and everything would work out. I wish that I can remember individual hands better, but with the exception of a few notable hands, theyâ€™re kind of all a blur in my mind now. Like when I had pocket aces and called an all in from a guy with pocket 4â€™s and sucked him out. I even won a couple hands against the pros at the table. After the first hour I had an above average stack, so I was feeling pretty good. Then the guy next to me decides to go all in and the two proâ€™s also go all in. He wins when they miss their draws, since there is a $500 bounty on each proâ€™s head he wins $1000 right there and becomes by far the biggest stack at the table. For the next hour he makes a bunch of huge overbets for relatively small pots, at first he is successful and builds his stack up more. Slowly, his stack gets eaten away as he gets called on his overbets by stronger hands. The blinds progressively go up and an ante is introduced. The blinds and antes begin eating away at my stack. Then I get dealt one of my favorite lucky hand: Q-9, itâ€™s a pretty crappy no limit hand, but better than Doyleâ€™s 10-2. I come in for a raise hoping to steal the blinds. The other big stack at the table calls, uh oh. Luckily, I have Q-9 on my side. The flop comes A-Q-9, two pair! I make a small bet and big stack re-raises all in and I call. He has top pair, but my two pair holds up after the turn and river, doubling me up. I make it into the third hour, if I can get past the third hour I make it into day 2. The blinds at this point are big at 400-800 with 100 antes. Again, my stack is getting eaten away, I get dealt J-10 suited, not great. Iâ€™m on the button and one guy in front of me limps in. I bring it in for a raise of about three times the big blind which is about half my stack, again, hoping to steal the blinds and knocking out the limper. The blinds fold, but limper guy calls. Flop is 8-8-9, so I have an open ended strait draw. Limper checks and I make a semi-bluff with almost the rest of my stack. Limper thinks for a while and goes all in. Since Iâ€™m pretty much pot committed, I call. He turns over 8-9, a full house! Iâ€™m drawing dead. I have him covered so I have about 800 remaining in my stack after that big hit. A couple hands later Iâ€™m out. In the end, I did pretty well, I finished 40-something out of a field of 150. Not bad for an amateur. Apparently, Andy Bloch went on to win the whole thing. The rest of my trip consisted of low limit holdâ€™em (4-8) at the Mandalay, Harrahs, and the Horseshoe. I also tried the steakhouse at the Horseshoe on Saturday. I had the French onion soup and bleu cheese rib eye and they gave me a slice of chocolate cake for our table to share since it was my birthday. I was all very good. I had a massage at the Rio Spa Sunday (a birthday gift from a friend staying there) and it was home not too long after that. Now I need to build my poker bankroll back up for another shot at greatness.