There goes my Vegas virginity

I’d been to Las Vegas before on business but rarely done anything cool or vaguely scandalous. Some years back I played a little blackjack at the Showboat (so off the strip, you might not know the strip existed) and was so nervous and clueless that I didn’t enjoy it. I’d gone to a nice dinner at a steakhouse once on a biz trip, and gone swimming once with Kat. Most of time I’ve been there for meetings or conferences or trade shows and I was just focused on business.

Midway had an event this week and I went to get the scoop on their upcoming games. After the demos and the parties, I went to the Luxor to finally play poker for real. My local card room is a little expensive for my tastes ($3/$6, which means you kind of have to buy in for $100 to be competitive) and both times I’ve gone, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was assured that Vegas was more relaxed, more fun, and more drunk.

All in all, it was good. I did not come out ahead. In fact, I was $100 down after two $50 buy-ins, and with the second one, I was all-in and pulled a straight to win a $40 pot, which kept me playing for a good while longer. But I enjoyed playing poker in Vegas for several hours, so I know I was buying the experience more than anything. That win just bought me more time.

I saw the kind of play I expected on a low-stakes table ($1/$2 limit), which is to say “reckless and hoping to catch a card on the river, which happened to me once and everybody else a lot.” I mean, I can’t complain because at low stakes, some people literally play any two cards and see what happens. Tonight, they won a lot — lots of unsuited, disconnected cards took the pot. One of the Mandalay Bay employees said he felt 60-70% of limit games were decided on the river, and that held up at our table. And like I said, some of the play was just horrible so you find yourself going “You’re kidding, THAT won?” But again, that’s poker, and lousy play/crappy cards being rewarded sometimes is part of the game. A lot can happen in seven cards.

The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth is when a few side conversations were struck up in Spanish. I don’t mean that to sound xenophobic, but I’ve read a book or two on poker cheating at casinos, and collusion is the number one way to cheat. Speaking in a different language is the easiest way to do that. Mandalay Bay’s rules actually explicitly prohibit table conversations in any language but English for just that reason…but I wasn’t playing there. So when these chats en Espanol showed up at my table at the Luxor and were not addressed for a very long time, I did get a little put off. I kind of stayed around longer because I wanted to take some of their possibly-ill-gotten chips, so I might have quit a little earlier if the rule had been handed down. Then again, maybe not. And maybe it’s not a rule at the Luxor, but the third or fourth dealer in did finally say something, so I have to believe it’s common across all the casinos. It didn’t help that one of the Spanish-speaking guys said “Talk, talk!” when I casually struck up a conversation with other people. And then he changes his seat to be right next to his buddy? It all just seemed suspicious.

That said, my mistakes were still my own, and many times I simply didn’t have the cards when someone else did. I was victim to a lot of overcards. I played pretty smart overall, though I did chase a few things I shouldn’t have, and I probably was not aggressive enough (or consistently aggressive). In the end, it was $100 of education. I’d do it again. But when I do, I’m gonna bust out some Latin or something.

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