Where to find quality Vegas action on Mondays and Tuesdays
Mondays and Tuesdays are arguably the worst days of the week for poker, which is why I often take those days off.
The tourists have donated their Vegas dollars to the grinders over the weekend, and even the L.A. crowd has headed back to their movie studios and plastic surgeons.
This meant that for the final two days of my week-long experiment in playing Las Vegas daily tournaments, I would have to hit some of the bigger casinos — Caesars Palace and Bellagio.
With a WSOP-circuit event being held at Caesars, I didn’t have trouble finding a comfortable-size field for their nightly 7pm tournament on a Monday. With a $110 entry fee, this event has a $5,000 guaranteed prize pool (Mon-Fri only). The staff and one local at my starting table who had already worked out the math said they would need at least 63 entrants to reach that figure. Caesars’s nightly tournaments sometimes start with even fewer players, offering a healthy overlay.
Of the buy-in, Caesars took $20 as a “maintenance fee” and $10 was for the staff toke.)
Grinders and well-known pros filled the room — the 2008 WSOP Main Event third-place finisher Dennis Phillips sat a few tables away playing a cash game and Jeff Madsen, the rapper who also won 2006 WSOP player of the year, was at the final table of the main event in the elevated area nearby. I didn’t recognize anyone at my table who should have given me trouble.
A Week of Whiffs?
I was due for a nice run, having missed the money in my first 5 tournaments. The 10,000 chip starting stack and 20-minute levels felt comfortable out of the gate. I’d have to beat out 59 others to earn the $1,914 first-place prize.
Four players limped in the first hand and many would continue to do the same. Later, when a loose and fishy player made a string raise, the dealer stopped him. In protest, the player delayed so long before playing his next hand preflop that someone called the clock without any previous action having been made. He tried this for a couple more hands, then gave up.
I couldn’t have scripted a more perfect lineup.
The cards, however, would prove to be my worst enemy. I held on for about three hours, but connected with too few boards. I was eliminated after raising KJ preflop, getting called by the blinds and calling off against the small blind’s KT on a KTQ flop. Another finish out of the money, but I remained determined to finish with a bang.
Bellagio’s 2p.m. event on Tuesday was a $125 buy-in that gave me a similar 10,000 chip starting stack. Of that entry fee, $97 goes into the prize pool, and the casino collects $28.
At 50/100, the blinds started a little higher than other events, but the 25-minute levels offered more play.
Before we got started, the tournament director zipped through a long list of rules, which included “no talking while heads up and no phone use while in a hand.”
Doyle Brunson sat behind the glass inside Bobby’s Room, betting in one hand more than the prize that this entire field is chasing.
The 54 players would fight for $1,781, and it was a peculiar battle, filled mostly with older tourists.
Shortly after the start, I was moved to a table loaded with calling stations. Some raised pots would see 6-way action preflop. But yet again, I struggled to make hands and take down relatively big pots. With more than half the field eliminated, I busted after I was forced to move in with QJ and could not outdraw AK.
And it was over, 0 for 7. A week of whiffs.
If I could have taken one down or at least cash in a couple, that easily would have covered the $830 I spent. Cut another way, I paid $171 in tournament fees in one week, meaning more than 20 percent goes to the house.
It would certainly be a grind to exclusively play these tournaments, but there’s lots of cash out there. And I intend to get some of it.
I’m going to give a few of these another shot — Aria, Bellagio, Caesars and Stratosphere will definitely see me again — and check out some other regular events around Vegas. If you’re playing a daily or nightly tournament and you see me at your table, look out, because my luck’s about to change!
Here’s a breakdown of each tournament I played, and amount paid in entry fees and other charges:
Aria: $125 buy-in, 10,000 starting stack, 30-minute levels. The house takes $25 and $3 is paid to the staff and dealers. ($28 total, or 22 percent)
Bellagio: $125 buy-in, 10,000 starting stack, 25-minute levels. The house takes $28. (22 percent)
Caesars: $110 buy-in, 10,000 starting stack, 20-minute levels. Caesars takes $20 as a “maintenance fee” and $10 goes to the staff. ($30 total, or 27 percent)
Golden Nugget: $65 initial buy-in for 4,500 starting stack with a $40 optional rebuy for a 4,000 add-on, 20-minute levels. Of the initial buy-in, $13 goes to the house and $5 goes to the staff. All of the rebuy goes to the prize pool. ($18 total, or between 17 and 28 percent, depending on rebuys)
Orleans: $125 buy-in for 12,500 chips, 20-minute levels, $2 goes to tournament “players of the month,” $13 goes to the house and $10 goes to staff. ($23 total, or 18 percent)
Stratosphere: $45 initial buy-in for 4,500 in chips, plus a $20 add-on for 4,000 chips, 20-minute levels, $10 goes to the house and $7 goes to the staff and dealers. ($17 total, or between 26 and 38 percent, depending on add-ons)
Venetian: $175 buy-in for 10,000 chips, 20-minute levels, $20 goes to the house and $5 pays a “staff bonus.” ($25 total, or 14 percent)