After the end of the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championships and the resulting celebration, I was able to catch a couple hours of sleep before heading off from Las Vegas. It was a tremendous week of poker, both watching and playing, and as the Boeing headed off into the eastern skies to return me home, I found myself sitting back and thinking of everything that had just happened. By the time I touched down in North Carolina, I had come up with many thoughts on the week that was.
First off, I have always thought that Las Vegas would be a great city to live in. I found myself, after a couple of stays there, rethinking that thought. While the city has a tremendous nightlife, with Broadway shows and musical and comedy acts performing constantly, once you step away from the Strip, it becomes a little less appealing. The cost of living is high in a city where money is the name of the game, thus you have to have a very good bottom line before you could even step into the city.
Also, having lived in both cities and small town America, I have come to like the factor of trees and grass! Something that I noticed as the jet climbed into the sky from Nevada is the landscape. Everywhere there was brown, scorched desert earth, broken up by the attempts to grow grass in little squares scattered about. Although there are mountains nearby with snow capping the tops, there isn't the trees and nature that many like to have, whether they have children or not. Las Vegas is a great place to visit, perhaps not so much as to live in.
I also have a newfound appreciation for those who ply their skills in the poker world of Las Vegas. If you believe that you are a good enough player to be able to take Sin City by storm, good isn't good enough! You must be a GREAT player to be able to make a living there. Not only are there hundreds, if not thousands, of poker players that populate the poker rooms of the casinos, there are the thousands of recreational players who step to the plate in those same arenas. Daily you must step up with nothing less than your best game, and that can grind you down quickly.
Imagine that you are killing your local game, even possibly being considered one of the best in your region. Then step up to a table where you could daily face professionals such as Mel Judah, Daniel Negreanu or many of the other professionals that live there year round. One of two things will happen: either your game will raise to a greater level (and then there's the Big Game in Bobby's Room at the Bellagio!) or your bankroll and living expenses will take a pounding, sending you back to your small pond to regroup. Either way, it will be an eye opening experience.
I also learned that there are many outside temptations to a poker player in Las Vegas. Once you walk away from the poker rooms, there are the myriad of other games that can stick your bankroll bad. It is a well known fact that more than one poker player has made a small fortune in the card room, only to turn around and give it back to the casinos at the craps or blackjack tables. When those things lose their taste, the sports books are usually right alongside the poker room, providing another way to tap into your financial accounts. Alcohol runs freely throughout the gaming centers of the city and, following that, if your weakness is the opposite (or same) sex, that can be had at anytime through various legal and illegal means. It can be a devastating gauntlet for those that are not wise.
Having said all of this, the city of Las Vegas is truly a great American success story and, in the 21st century, probably the new melting pot of the United States. Consider that the city a scant fifty or so years ago was nothing more than a wide spot in the desert. To see Las Vegas today, growing by leaps and bounds, is truly a testament to American ingenuity, business and enterprise and American spirit.
It also is one of the new crossroads of the world. Whereas New York, Chicago or Los Angeles were the first great world centers of America, Las Vegas has to be considered in the same vein. Walking the streets of the city, you will see all nationalities and the constant stream of different languages, from Spanish to French to Arabic and other dialects and accents all in the mix. The hard working people of Sin City also cross every nationality and provide a true mixing bowl that continues to thrive in the desert.
As far as poker goes, I learned tremendously there as well. I learned that I really have to work on my concentration and patience to take my game even further. During my time in the Mirage poker tournament, I kept getting sidetracked from the action at the tables to the televisions surrounding the room, tuned into the Game Six victory by the Houston Astros over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. This is an unforgivable error, because I should have been watching my opponents to pick up on their styles and possibly some of the tells they were displaying on the table.
It is something that I will be working on.
I also have to make some changes in my patience at the tables and learn to release hands that I know are beaten. It is one of the plagues of Internet poker that you will bring into the felt circle. Because of the fast pace of the online game, you will push harder with lesser hands and hold on to things that, in a live game, you should get away from. That was probably the biggest adjustment that I had to make playing live. In addition, I have to learn to get away from hands that just aren't going to cut it. As I said in an earlier part of this story, I could have stuck around in the Mirage tournament longer if I had trusted my instincts and gotten off my pocket pair. Because I didn't, my game was cut far shorter than I liked.
Are there things I would have liked to have done? Sure there were. As far as poker goes, I would have loved to hit more of the poker rooms. I would have loved to have made a pilgrimage to Binion's down on Fremont Street and play at the tables that Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim and many of the legends of the game once played at. I would have liked to have hit the Palms, the MGM Grand, the Rio and Mandalay Bay poker rooms, as well as other casinos where the action was tremendous, according to locals I talked to. I would have liked to have taken in some of the shows there. George Carlin, Dennis Miller, Don Rickles and Andrew "Dice" Clay all were performing. How many did I see? Zero. I would have liked to have checked out some of the musicals and other shows that were performing but was unable to. And the plentitude of restaurants and world class cuisine could satisfy any appetite around. Except for the Pink Pony Café at Circus Circus (where I stayed) and the buffet at the Bellagio (both excellent places to eat, by the way), I didn't get a chance to sample the offerings of Las Vegas as a food connoisseur.
All in all, my Excellent Poker Adventure was all I could ask for and then some and I still wanted more. It was a tremendous trip on the poker front, both in my own personal poker experience as well as watching the finest players in the world play at the highest level. It was also a tremendous experience for things outside of the game as well. When I get ready for my next Excellent Poker Adventure, I'll be even more ready than this time!
Ed Note: Have your own poker adventure at Poker Blue