Just what poker needs … another podcast! Yep, I know … but this one is different, it’s special … Vegas Grinders we’re calling it — featuring yours truly @Pokerati with @AndrewNeeme and @RandomPoker …just a few dudes grinding out a life in poker, telling you what’s going on at the local tables.
This week we talk about Michael Phelps’ residence in Vegas and his play at Aria and the Palms; and we compare and contrast the WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Palace and the Venetian Deep Stacks, both of which were playing at the same time in February. Andrew, as it turns out, may or may not be on tilt after bubbling the $365 WSOP-Caesars PLO. We also take a look at the recently released 2013 WSOP schedule, and question the hairiness factor in the new variable buy-in “ladies” event. All that, plus the Millionaire Maker and LOL the tag-team charity tourney this weekend at Binion’s. We wanna know, will Dave ever get there on his heart draw?
The newest poker room in Las Vegas opened Friday night at Ellis Island, which sits just off the strip behind Bally’s, between a 7-Eleven and Super 8 motel. It’s a casino that caters to local casino workers — with stiff drinks, cheap steaks, and loud karaoke — and I was there for the very first hand. (I folded 2-8 offsuit in early position.)
Cards got in the air shortly after 6 pm for a 1-2 no-limit and 2-4 limit game, both 10-handed. Though inside a Leroy’s Sportsbook, the casino operates the two-table room, which is next to the cage and slot machines, but out of earshot from the karaoke bar.
The unceremonious close of Jamie Gold’s short-lived affiliation with the Tropicana poker room.
Less than one month after the “Official Grand Opening of the Jamie Gold Poker Room,” the relationship between the Tropicana and the 2006 WSOP main event champion has apparently ended — more quickly than it began. Though no word yet from either side about what prompted the abrupt change of course, posters of Jamie Gold, hands to the sky, and videos of him daring players to “catch me bluffing” are gone.
The Feb. 17-19 launch-party weekend included a Sunday afternoon “second chance” tourney that got canceled when only two players registered, and Gold himself showed up an hour after cards were supposed to have gone in the air. But the 2/5NL game (with David Williams and other pros) that sprung up in the Jamie Gold room looked to be growing successfully — running regularly on Wednesdays and Saturdays — as it was fast becoming known as the biggest 2/5NL games in Las Vegas, with reports of pots as big as $20,000.
I’m sure Jamie Gold and Las Vegas will eventually become friends. I for one have a whole new respect for the WSOP-champ in Residence @TropLVPoker after hearing his interview on Donkdown; and philosophically, he’s trying to bring some of the same things to the Tropicana that the Pokerati Game tries to bring to the Palms. But still …
This is Pokerati’s new Las Vegas poker room column, and I’m the hired hack on the beat.
As a journalist who recently emigrated from the other side of the Mississippi River to divide his time writing and grinding in Las Vegas, the poker capital of the world, I hear a lot of buzz around town. Much of it is just noise, sometimes it’s early rumblings of actual news, and occasionally it’s just really good FYI for Vegas live-poker-room regs.
We hope to have a little bit of everything here for you. Some of the topics I’m looking to explore:
* Just about every casino has a daily tournament — some just a short-handed sit-n-go while others play like a mini-multitable bracelet event. Where can you get the most play for your buy-in? And what’s really going on with the juice?
* Different rooms have different rules. Some, like Tropicana’s Jamie Gold Room, are throwing many of the standards out the window. Which rooms have the strictest rules? Aria, for instance, has a rule against talking to gain information in a heads-up pot. Why?
* More and more casinos are offering rakeback-type promotions. The “get paid to play” trend sweeping through town varies from place to place. What rooms have the best deals? Is it possible to be a live rakeback grinder? What kind of players do these promos attract? What are the upcoming promotions to look out for?
* How should you go about finding the best action, or any action? Is it Venetian’s updated online list of cash games or Bellagio’s Twitter feed? What should you do to get a seat at the juiciest table in the house? Where should you be playing on a Friday night? Can you find a good game on a Monday?
Whether you play every day or visit Vegas once a year, I’m here to keep you informed about what’s happening in the games around town. Whether you’re a tournament grinder, cash game specialist, or maybe even just a live-poker bonus whore, we’ll scope out the action. We’re at the table right beside floor managers, dealers, locals and tourists, and we can’t help chatting it up.
Las Vegas is a 24-7 poker hot spot like no other — what happens here sets standards around the world — and we want to help you maximize your time on the felt.
The redevelopment of the the Palms Poker Room continues. While some of us can’t wait for the state-of-the-art-in-2003 room to step into 2005ish with the coming addition of an electronic Bravo check-in system … Joe, Bobby, Eldon and crew are pushing forward with their plans to bring non-$20,000 tournament action back to the Palms … starting with a Tuesday-night $100 HORSE tournament.
They say $100 HORSE at the Palms is the Colonial Yellow ’79 Cadillac of Poker.
It may not be PLO, but hey, I’m no one-trick pony. More like a half-trick pony, lol. But regardless, I’ve been meaning to sack up and get more live, low-stakes Razz under my belt. (I dominated the $1,500 event in the ’07 WSOP for Playstation — won a bracelet and everything!) The tournament is just a couple weeks old and supposedly has gotten a great response from the start: three tables of tournament action last week, followed by a $4/$8 HORSE cash game as players started busting.
Something similar expected tomorrow. RSVP on Facebook here … and/or just show up @ the Palms tomorrow at 7:30pm.
CORRECTION(S): I got a few factoids wrong. According to Michelle Lau’s FB invite …
You can LOL all you want because nobody got shot … but as things usually go with poker robberies, attempted or otherwise, someone in the Stratosphere poker room probably has more than a sneaking suspicion of who attempted to rob a single table Wednesday night of its low-stakes casino chips. Or maybe not … because from the sounds of it there might not have been any players around … which makes sense, because as far as I know no one tweeted from the actual scene … so did it really happen?
Hear for yourself about the man police are seeking:
Maybe this is old news, but new to me … while scouting out the pre-2011 WSOP bowling-alley bar scene late Saturday night — things were bumpin’ — I popped by the Gold Coast poker room and saw this:
click to enlarge
The Gold Coast poker room is apparently no longer … The flat-screens were dark, and tables had been replaced by video-poker and slot machines. And according to the sign they intend to turn the previously post-boom-downsized poker room into a slots and video poker tournament area. Not that anyone misses one of the least raucous, nittiest $2/$4 limit games in town … and I don’t think you can say much about this being a trend of poker continuing to recede or anything like that, but it may say something about smaller rooms being unable to justify their existence when small-stakes players gravitate to the bigger rooms in town.
As the sign says, all Gold Coast player(s) are being shipped over to The Orleans, which seems to be re-emerging as the big-little off-Strip room that locals like for the sake of convenient parking if nothing else. (Their Friday-night tourney continues to set field-size records, consistently drawing 100+.)
Talk of PLO on Poker After Dark comes as I personally have been jonesin’ for mo-bigger low-stakes PLO … and based on emails, tweets, and Facebook, a stream of Vegas visitors and locals seem to be, too. Interest in PLO may be growing, but players in Las Vegas looking for starter stakes can’t always be sure where to find reliable action.
Word from the Strip is that a rather strong 1/2 PLO game has been running lately at the Venetian, apparently fueled by the November Deep Stacks. But one-bullet buyers beware, a $5 bring-in at the V makes the game kinda steep … especially for those with a strategy of pushing with weak two-pairs, calling with non-nut draws, and relying on run-it-twice to stick around long enough for a meal comp. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
And Aria Poker spreads a vibrant 1/2 NLH/PLO that occasionally makes. Their game plays most similarly to the Pokerati Game of old — and though it runs only sporadically, Aria often has the game posted on the board with a list of mostly 1/3 and 2/5 no-limit regulars ready to take a seat against any and all PLO tourists.
Check it out … caught my eye the other night … Cashout tourneys. Though I’m not sure if they’ll be a regular thing, they made their debut this past weekend @AriaPoker. Interesting concept — essentially tournaments with pre-established guaranteed chops, allowing players to cash out at any point (and go home) … you know, should they not like their chip situation, have somewhere else to be, be on tilt from incessant angry wife texts … whatever … backer with a gun? Apparently they also can cash out and keep playing, too.
Full Tilt began offering these online a while back, but no clue how they worked out. According to the sign, these were the first ever in a land-based casino. I ventured over to see how it was playing, but they were down to three and it seemed at this point it was just straight poker. Mel Judah sat at the final table but wasn’t playing. I assumed he was sweating, or at least trying to woo, the lovely middle-age Asian lady still with chips. That may or may not have been true, but turns out primarily Judah was there because it was his game — supposedly his creation.
UPDATE: Oops, turns out the lovely lady was JJ Liu. One of these days I will learn actual players.
Hard Rock charity knocks
Upon his own early elimination, Gavin Smith took over as charity photog, no-flash rules be damned!
Also stopped by the Hard Rock this weekend … first time since Detox and the shuttering of their room (and operations) that made @hardrockpoker the Pokerati game’s home for most of 2010. No new-resto construct has begun — just a bunch of tables stuffed in the back of the old room, with their previously decorative orange-luxe highback leather chairs lined up in front of the TVs that used to entertain 1/2 players. With football on and one viewer lounging per screen, It was both awesome and sad.
Anyhow, the new smaller spot is still called the “Poker Lounge” … nice-ish, but looks unsettled in. And though it seemed clear from a matter of simple square footage that the Hard Rock’s days as a red-carpet poker venue are gone, none of that seemed to stop the good times at Gavin Smith’sDarius Goes West charity tourney (with Bryan Devonshire) … which was kinda a birthday party for the namesake beneficiary, Darius Weems, the kid with an extra-funky form of muscular dystrophy that Smith says inspired him to a WSOP bracelet this summer. Darius had just turned 21 (he wasn’t supposed to live past 16 I think?) … and really, can you think of a better host to welcome those coming of age into the glorious world of degenerate gambling?
Here’s video from the final table, with Layne Flack, David Plastik, and at least one semi-awkward kiss:
BTW, fwiw, the Hard Rock has changed their basic game to 1/3 NL, with a $500 max buy-in.
Elsewhere in Vegas …
Unvetted, unconfirmed word has it that Fiesta Henderson has closed their poker room. Supposedly they lost their players to the Club Fortune casino, which began holding a $40 bounty tourney ($10 for each knockout) and taking a better-for-locals high hand jackpot drop. (You’ll have to pardon Pokerati for not digging into this plausibly controversial game-shift.)
And here’s a globally funny poker picture … from power Vegas player Eric Baldwin at EPT-London:
More confirmation of what we suspected all along upon seeing this video … here’s additional video of the OJ Simpson of Poker playing 2/5 at MGM a couple weeks earlier.
And here’s an amusing video of the other Russ Hamilton, which makes you realize how shafted some people’s legacy can be in Google, particularly for a cultural renegade who sang about the desire to “make love” out of wedlock to a teenage girl in 1957:
Unconfirmed … so you make the call: Is that everybody’s favorite online poker supervillain Russ Hamilton in the 3 seat?
(Of course it is, but surely that can’t be a silver main event bracelet he’s wearing, right?)
This video was shot at MGM yesterday, about 9:30. (That’s the lion attack exhibit in the background.)
Again, without saying this is for certain any one specific person who has never been formally accused of any crimes yet still finds himself living something of an OJ Simpson retirement … Hamilton has apparently resurfaced from poker exile in the Nevada amateur pub leagues and has been showing up at the MGM about once a week for the past month or so to in put in some hours on the low-stakes grind.
Supposedly this player was noticeably a bit tilted by the lingering camera, and quickly got up to put his name on the 2/5 list as “RR”.
UPDATE: RH said in ’08 he keeps his bracelet in a safe, only to be taken out for the World Series. Thinks obviously coulda changed since then, but that was his answer almost three years ago. [Video interview]
Speaking of Jungleman … this has little to do with poker other than that the Lion habitat at MGM happens to be right outside the poker room … so it’s the kinda thing plainly visible from the 1/2 tables — happened just a few days ago:
Damn. Kinda cool to see the lady lion try to help break up the fight. And Papa Lion clearly had it in for that one dude. That’s how it can go at MGM poker … a tame game can suddenly turn brutal. Still contend that the lion wouldn’t stand a chance against Ivey.
Also, with no information other than what you just saw in the video, I’ll bet for sure that the overall rake for MGM poker goes up over the next week, even though the number of lion attacks will almost certainly go down.
Part of the buzz underlying this week’s Detox Poker activity has been the fate of the Hard Rock Poker Lounge. To be sure, the luxed-out $12 million 18+table poker room that opened in 2008 — nearly two years ago to the day and possibly two-and-a-half years too late — will be closing in about a week.
According to casino personnel, almost immediately upon the conclusion of Detox, Hard Rock cash games will be moving to a more efficient 6-8 table spot connected to the main casino area — something with a smaller electric bill, more in line with plans for expanded sports-book offerings, and in view of the round casino’s famously raucous “center bar”.
The decision to downsize was final before Detox even started — and gotta say … kudos to HR Poker Director Troy Evans for presumably putting his job on the line to keep Detox. New suits above him were supposedly less enthusiastic about keeping the Matt “Savage Rocks!” late-summer mini-series on the calendar. Don’t have any hard dates for transition, but all potentially affected say it will be quick. Here’s a glimpse of what the new space next to Wasted Space will look like:
(Wasted Space is also closing, to make room for the new-and-improved sportsbook.)
The new poker room — about a third the square footage and in an arguably better location — will replace the former “Hell’s Belles” blackjack pit (hot dealers, go-go dancers, $100 minimum bets), which prior to that had been the “Peacock Lounge” (a pimped-out tribute to Jimi Hendrix). It will supposedly still have its own bar (with video poker, of course), a semi-private nook for high-stakes or VIP games, and a separate poker-player’s bathroom. Management says they’ll be bringing over the same tables and chairs, but are unsure whether or not they will keep the name “poker lounge”.
Decisions were also still pending (as of last week) about whether or not the Detox Series would be back and held in a Hard Rock ballroom. The current poker space will apparently become a restaurant.