I went to Las Vegas in September 2020 to play poker around town to pick up some cash, write about my experiences, and to help host a poker tournament on September 18, 2020 at the Sahara Poker Room. This trip didn’t start out good. Below are two of my Facebook posts to indicate that…
1st night in Covid Vegas…
Nobody tips the shuttle driver (10 other people). I’m dropped off last so I tip him for everyone.
Bust online game. On way to another poker room for cash. Uber driver doesn’t say “Hey” back, ignores me, and blasts Rick Astley.
FB Friends Feedback: They felt my pain. However, two people wrote that me tipping the shuttle bus driver would lead to good karma for the remainder of the trip. They ended up being correct.
Last night sucked. Lose online, Uber driver blasts Rick Astley and Susanna, KK cracked in cash at Caesars by dude chasing gut-shot with A5 (for hundreds), play tourney to get it back and finish 5 of 23 (not good enough), and then decide to walk from Caesars to Sahara at 1:15 a.m. Two things happened…
1. I was looking at my phone while walking for a minute and had to split two women, one of which started threatening me while pointing at me like a gangsta, saying, “Eyes up! Eyes Up!” I didn’t acknowledge her existence.
2. When I was in no-man’s land and the only one around, a car pulled up with a couple in it. The woman in the passenger seat asked, “Are you working or walking?” My reply: “Walking.” They tore off.
Now the gym is closed. Rough start!
Slow and Steady
The next day, I only had one goal, which was to book a win. It didn’t matter if the win was for $5. I knew that the psychological impact would play a role in my playing for the rest of the trip. It wasn’t going to be easy to stay poised, but that second day wasn’t dedicated to getting all my money back at once. In fact, at that time, my goal was to grind back to even by the end of the trip. This slow and steady mindset is a good one to have.
Sahara Poker Room
I played the 1/2 NL game at Sahara and finished +$136. The poker room was much nicer than I expected, the dealers were incredibly friendly, and the staff makes you feel at home. Additionally, the chairs are crazy comfortable, there is a lot of space, and they have the biggest screen for sports I have seen in any poker room anywhere. Wait service is also very consistent.
After dropping $500 on the first night at Caesars (tired, jet lag, three cups of wine), I wasn’t in hyper-happy mode. I only got some of it back. But, only $300 of the money lost at Caesars was cash, and after a five-year hiatus, I’m back to focusing on cash as business. It’s a grind, but it’s much steadier. It’s also profitable. Any money I spend on tournaments is fun money now.
Therefore, I knew I wasn’t that far behind. I keep track of every session and exactly where I’m at for the year with cash games. And I will never lie to myself or anyone else. If I can’t turn a profit, then I shouldn’t be playing. I also love the ‘W’ column. Even if it’s a small win, writing a mark in the ‘W’ column always puts me in a good mood.
Bellagio Poker Room
I felt like I had a little momentum and woke up the next morning to play at Bellagio. The instant I walked into the Bellagio poker room, I could feel the negative energy crawling all over me. The Floor lady appeared to be miserable and told me I could buy chips at the table (but I had to go to the cage), a player was arguing with a dealer and the dealer was arguing back, another staff member came over to discipline a player because he was arguing with the dealer, and two players were arguing with each other at another table.
Not one person in this room smiled the entire time I was there. The entire room REEKED of self-importance. I couldn’t get anything going here. During my session, I told myself: Just roll with it as best you can. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.
Aria Poker Room
Pay careful attention to that last sentence. It doesn’t relate to poker, but life. By rolling with wherever the energy took me and staying poised, it led to something good. I lost $300 at Bellagio, and I was now taking a hit overall in a short period of time, but I told myself to go with the flow. Every time I do this, it works. On this occasion, it led to me grabbing some breakfast at Salt & Ivy Café and Patio Bar at Aria. Excellent service, food, and atmosphere. And I got a full and well-balanced meal. It was like calling a timeout.
I now felt invigorated and headed to the Aria Poker Room, where everything was more inviting and the mood was much better. Sat down and was dealt KK on my first hand. I 3-bet and my opponent 4-bet jammed. I called and held. They never showed their hand. On the second hand, I was dealt TT, there were three unders on the board, and a different opponent jammed on me for $135. I called and held. Later in the session, I was dealt the key hand for this session.
I was dealt QQ in the BB.
UTG raised to $10.
Three players called, including BTN.
I raised to $35.
Everyone called to BTN, who jammed for $310.
Processing time. I don’t just snap-call in these situations. I need to figure out what’s going on. The key clue in this hand was that UTG originally raised to $10, two players called, and BTN flatted. If he was stronger than QQ, he wouldn’t just flat. He would have raised. This led me to believe he had a medium or small pair and it was a semi-squeeze.
This would make sense because he would assume it was unlikely for one of the blinds to pick up a premium hand. I called and everyone else folded—I knew everyone else would fold. The board ran out with a potential straight but my hand held and he mucked, saying he had a pair. I finished this session +$923.
A couple of things here. One, prior to Aria, I didn’t have enough cash to play at Aria because I purposely leave my cash in a safe in the hotel room, which means I can only fire one bullet. This one buy-in rule has played a huge role in my cash game success.
However, I had accidentally brought my ATM card, which I never do. I didn’t want to pay the outlandish $8.99 ATM fee, but I calculated Uber costs to go play somewhere else and then come back to Aria another day and it would have been more than $8.99. So, I got me the money. Good thing I did because this put me in the black.
Two, some dude who had never been to Vegas before would clap and shout, “Celebrate the victories! We celebrate the victories here!” He did this for three hours regardless of who won the hand. This was annoying to others at the table, but it was great for me because he was getting other players on tilt without me having to do anything. At the same time, he kept giving me his money.
Sahara Poker Room
Later that night, I played at Sahara again and hit for $507. This was just a matter of table control, changing speeds at the right times, and easy reading. The majority of the player in this room are playing face-up. If you have decent reading ability, you’re going to know exactly what they have most of the time.
If you ever need some cash and you’re free at night, go to Sahara. It’s a 1/2 NL but it plays much bigger. It doesn’t play bigger in the traditional way. More like in a bad gambler way, which is ideal. You will find 1-2 grinders. But they will stand out immediately.
I chilled at the pool the next day until hitting Sahara again at night. I finished this session +$616. This was basically due to one very tough call with QQ (again). Only this time I had to call with an A on the board. I called his jam because he was Uber Aggro. Plain and simple. He said, “I don’t have an Ace” and mucked.
I got him in another big hand as well, but he was raising so big so often that I knew I put my stack at risk if I continued to play. He would build his stack from other players and then lose to me. But since he had that many chips, my wins weren’t safe. If he had $200 in front of him and kept rebuying, that would have been different. I would have stayed. But I wanted to lock in the win, so I left.
Golden Nugget Poker Room
I headed downtown to Golden Nugget the following day. I ended up at the most passive live table I have ever seen in Las Vegas. Since it was a five-handed game, I couldn’t do too much, but I left +$134 after three hours. I always enjoy playing in this room. The staff is friendly, it’s comfortable, and the competition is always average at best. You might run into one good player at your table, but you will know who it is immediately and can play accordingly. That person is not your target. If they are your target, you have let Ego in the door. Poker Tip: Choose Your Opponents Wisely.
The next morning, I played at Caesars because there was no game running at Flamingo—one of the poker rooms on this list I wanted to hit because it was open and it’s soft competition. On the other hand, I got my ass kicked at Caesars and didn’t mind attempting to erase that bad mojo. I kind of did with a +$48 session after a few hours. Been down $140 in this one, so I’ll take it.
I went back to Sahara yet again and hit for $207.
Venetian Poker Room
The next night, I had to decide to hit Sahara again or play a small tourney at Venetian. I walked downstairs at Sahara—where I was staying—saw an empty seat and started to walk over. As I got closer, I saw a stack of chips and a drink. I immediately ordered an Uber to Venetian.
I played the $125 and busted on the first hand I played, which was TT. Backing up a little, two of the players at this table looked at me like they knew me. It turned out they did—one from Cherokee and one from Tunica.
When I raised 3x BB UTG with a short stack and the guy from Tunica jammed from BTN, I knew I was in trouble. But I also knew to call. I don’t know why. It was more of a life energy thing. I knew it was the wrong decision in poker. I trusted the energy and called. He tabled KK and won. But … I went to the cash game and hit quad tens on the first hand for the High Hand. I coasted from there and finished +$1,193.
This also happened at Venetian…
Cash game Sunday night at Venetian…
Old thin dude sits down and says to table, “Your generations are always wearing your headphones in the hallways. That’s not reality! I don’t understand it! Open your eyes!”
After five minutes, he’s so worked up that he leaves the game, leaving a free drink he ordered after taking one sip. Not one person at the table was wearing headphones.
I lost some money in tourneys, but nowhere near what I won in cash.
Cash Game Result…
This doesn’t mean I’m crushing all over. I’m still comfortably ahead in the online game, but I gave back $1k of my winnings over the past week. Believe it or not, this has been from running terrible opposed to bad decisions. I don’t do bad beat stories. You’ll just have to trust me. You’re welcome.
Next Stop: The Lodge in Round Rock TX. I’ll be there 10/9-10/13. I’ll be playing cash, two tournaments, and commentating on poker TV show.
Next Stop (2): BestBet Jacksonville. I’ll be there 10/21-10/26. I’ll be playing cash, one tournament, and I’ll be on their livestream for 2/2 NL DEEP ($500 max buy-in) on 10/22 at 7 p.m.
See you on the felt!
♠ Tyler Nals | pokerjournal.org