Down the Strip

I’m at the Wynn early for a $1100 single day tournament. I get solid hands and play strong poker, doubling my stack by the fourth level without ever going all-in.

I flat a hijack open from the button with the 65 of diamonds and the blinds also call. The hijack continues on a J65 flop with two clubs, and I raise. The blinds fold and the hijack calls.

The turn is an off-suit four, and my opponent checks to me and I make a large bet. He goes into the tank, clearly uncomfortable — it’s a decision for a lot of his chips. He finally makes the call, which tells me he has a strong starting hand or monster draw, but I’m confident I’m ahead.

I stare him down while the dealer reveals the river card. My subconscious catches something. It may be a glint in his eye, a flex of his jaw, a lift of the chest. I can’t articulate exactly what it is, but something tells me: he likes the queen.

He moves all-in.

It’s a tough spot. I don’t want to overweight my read of physical tells. Some players are great at exhibiting “reverse tells” to deliberately mislead opponents. Or I could have misread him — wanting to find a tell, so creating a story where there isn’t one.

Or maybe I’m right, but he likes the queen because he’s holding AQ or KQ, likely with the busted flush draw. Or he just didn’t want to see another low card, and liked the queen as a good card to shove his AA, KK, AJ or AK. In any of those cases, I'll win the hand.

I lean towards the math — he has more believable combos that I can beat than ones where I’m behind. It’s a big pot relative to his bet, and I should only be folding about 1/3 of the time here. I call.

He turns over pocket queens for the set, besting my two pair.

I hang on with a short stack for a couple more levels but eventually move all-in pre-flop with AJ and am called by AK. A jack comes on the turn to put me ahead, but a king on the river seals the deal.

I'm in for another bullet, the starting stack giving me a less-than-ideal 30 big blinds. I float for a couple levels until I'm all-in pre-flop with AK versus AQ. A queen on the river beats me, leaving me with dust. I'm out a few hands later when my A5 can't hold against KJ.

It's getting close to the end of registration, and a rebuy would have me jumping in with only 20 big blinds. I'm grasping a little — it only takes one or two great hands for me to build that into a powerful stack, but in the long run it's probably not a profitable play.

I go ahead and fire. I survive another couple levels, blinds climbing quickly. I get it in with AT against AQ and QQ, a terrible spot. The late registration period is over, so I'm done at Wynn.

The evening weather is perfect, mid 70s with a cool breeze. I decide to take a 20 minute walk down the Strip, heading to Caesars for some dinner.

It’s still early when I’m done. I wander, in search of my next adventure. I eye the poker room at Bellagio, but the waits are long. I spot the lists at Aria, but the story is the same.

I continue down the Strip until I’m in the dark, cramped poker room at MGM. It’s one of the last remaining small poker rooms on the Strip. I happen to get there right before a $100 daily tournament is going to start. The structure is ridiculous — blinds increase steeply every 15 minutes. I can’t believe I’m seriously considering playing this. But I’m not ready to go home, and assume I'll have more fun here than anywhere else in the casino.

I run up a stack in the first few levels, then Slate texts me — he has an extra ticket for a comedy show, “…if you aren’t in some random tournament.” He knows me well. I have an hour or so before the show starts so tell him I’ll keep him posted.

A few levels later I call two all-in players on a 876 flop when I’m holding pocket tens — an overpair, gutshot straight draw and backdoor flush draw. I suspect I’m behind, but it’s the biggest pot of the night and I have to gamble. It turns out I’m behind a flopped straight and two pair. The latter scoops when he hits a full house on the river.

My remaining stack is no match for the compounding blinds. I have Uber open on my phone while it’s my big blind. I admit to the Texan I've befriended that I have two minutes to bust or run it up. There’s a show to catch.

I’m ready to shove any two cards but see a monster: AQ. I’m all-in against an early position opener and I jokingly call the clock on him when he thinks for a few seconds. There's an Uber driver available 3 minutes away. My opponent finally calls with A4 and nails a four on the flop. I chuckle, wish everyone luck, and sprint to catch my Uber.

I get to the Rio right on time. It feels strange, the first time I’ve been here without sitting at a poker table. We’re at the Comedy Cellar, a replica of the iconic New York City club. We have a fabulous time, front row seats to a good lineup.

I'm glad it worked out to make it to the show. I commit to taking the next day off from poker. I’ll be back at Rio in a couple days, rested up for day 2 of the Main Event.


Buy-Ins: $58,600 (28 events / 43 entries)
Cashes: $16,644 (8)
Times a comedian called me out from the stage: 4