Saturday, July 04, 2009

Guess the casino, #193

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Answer: Fitzgeralds

Scenes from the Poker Palooza expo thingy

Shamus had the day off from blogging for PokerNews, so he suggested we try to get together at the Rio for dinner and to see the Poker Palooza gaming expo going on in association with the World Series of Poker Main Event, which started today. Good idea.

There were countless booths selling poker-themed clothing. This one had some of the better selections. Stuff at most of the other booths was even more lame.

It doesn't seem like many people would go to a poker expo in order to find Jesus, but just in case one did, he's there waiting for you:

There was a reggae band playing, which was really annoying, because (1) only about a dozen people were listening to it, and (2) it was so loud that it made conversation with vendors nearly impossible.

For the most part, the expo struck me as a collection of enlarged versions of the same ads that one seens in every poker magazine. For example, this automatic card shuffler:

More poker clothes. Seriously, that was the dominant product category on display, followed closely by custom poker tables.

Some different card protectors:

These chairs look like they would be ultra-comfortable for long sessions of online poker. Maybe too comfortable.

At this point, an embarrassing thing happened. Apparently in the process of flicking in and out of camera mode on my cell phone, I entered the wrong sub-menu and changed the preferred image size without knowing it until I got home and downloaded the photos to my computer. So these last three are the actual, maximum size at which they were stored. Oops.

This is the main entrance to the expo. It's hard to see here, but the thing on the left is a big house of cards, which is roped off and which all sorts of signs warn you not to touch.

This poor woman was selling some rather bizarre poker-themed art. Her web site is here, in case you want to see the products more clearly. She seemed like a very nice lady, but I can't say I fell in love with any of her work.

Big Jack Link's truck. I got a free meat stick.

That's the end of the photos. A few more miscellaneous notes:

There was a booth promoting a new online-only poker magazine, which I had not heard of before: I haven't checked it out yet, but will do so soon.

One place was pitching a new online poker site that has an innovative twist. It's (I know this because they handed me a free deck of cards with that printed on them.) However, the site isn't live yet--next week, we were told. The twist is that in addition to a regular lobby showing cash games and tournaments, each player will have a "private lobby," from which you can send out invitations to your friends to play with you. You will also be able to set up tournaments with whatever structure you want--pick your own combination of blinds and progression, starting chips, length of levels, etc. I have long thought that both features (being able to have tables that you reserve just for people you invite to play against you, and being able to make custom tournaments) were kind of obvious things for the big sites to add, but they never have. In business terms, frankly, I doubt that this outfit has any more of a chance of surviving than most of the other online poker sites that start up and shut down within a couple of years. (Right, Johnny Chan?) But I wish that the big boys would learn something from this newcomer and build such capabilities into their systems.

At one point I saw a guy looking at some wares, and from the back I thought he had hair as crazy at Joe Reitman's. A few seconds later, I was surprised to see Annie Duke come over and put her arm around him. Oh, it was Joe Reitman!

Overall, the expo isn't really much to see. If you don't get there, you're not missing out.

Shamus and I then left the convention center area and went to the Rub BBQ restaurant. It was OK, but not as great as I had sort of built it up in my mind to be. And I forgot to bring my $10 off voucher left over from my WSOP event. D'oh!

On the way to Rub, the Masquerade show in the sky was going on, which I had not seen before. Lame. Completely lame. I snapped a few pictures, but they were from far away, and given the image size, they're completely worthless, so I'm not even posting them.

Oh, and one other completely unrelated note: The guy who picked me up to take me back to the car repair shop is married to the woman who cuts Doyle Brunson's hair every two weeks. Isn't that exciting?

That is all for now.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Does he doctor the cards?

Spotted this license plate in the parking garage at Harrah's Thursday morning. Not really sure what to make of it.

Guess the casino, #192

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Answer: Wynn

My most interesting cab ride ever

Warning: Minimal poker content.

Cardgrrl's scheduled flight out Wednesday night got scrubbed, so she left tonight instead. We had planned for me to drive her to the airport, but my car suffered a serious failure in the afternoon and is now sitting overnight in the shop. So she took a cab to the airport, and I hitched along for the company. I just got home after taking the bus back. (It's only the third time in three years here I've used the city bus system. It's mostly pretty awful in every way, but there's one that runs directly from the airport to a spot about 300 yards from my apartment building's front gate in about 40 minutes, with no transfers, so it's an occasionally useful fallback.)

The ride to the airport was interesting, to say the least. The cabbie quickly asked us the usual basic info--locals or visiting, line of work, etc. That naturally led to the subject of gambling generally, and he mentioned that he aspired to be a professional sports bettor. I told him that I preferred poker, because I had a lot more control over the outcome than with sports betting. He made the rather perplexing remark that sports betting was more of a sure thing, because with poker you don't know how the hand is going to turn out, but with sports, it's right there in the newspaper.

Cardgrrl quipped that, yes, it was easy if you happened to subscribe to the edition of the paper that published the results before the events were played--which is approximately what I had been thinking, too.

This is where it got strange.

The guy said that the results were in the paper before the games were played. You just had to know how to read the clues.

Uh, OK....

He said that, as an example, he got his tip of the day from Doyle Brunson. I naturally assumed that that meant Dolly had taken a ride in his cab, the conversation veered to sports, and Brunson expressed some opinion about a game that the driver thought sounded valid, and put down a bet accordingly. (Cardgrrl later told me that that had been her guess, too.)


The cabbie whips out a copy of USA Today that is sitting on his dashboard, and opens it up. Mind you, he does this while he is driving at full speed down Las Vegas Boulevard, which in itself was more than mildly alarming. He found and showed us the large photo of Brunson that had been in the paper today. "Doyle is from Houston, and you see how he is looking up toward the upper left-hand corner? That means to bet Houston to win." Apparently he did, and they did.

A later conversation confirmed that Cardgrrl was feeling, at this point, about as I was: unsure whether this guy was serious or pulling our legs. (Or, as she subsequently speculated, perhaps an elaborate piece of performance art.) But it soon became clear that he was, in fact, dead serious.

He pulled another section of the same paper off the dashboard, again unfolded it--again while driving through heavy traffic--and showed us the front page. A picture of the Statue of Liberty adorned a feature about the re-opening of the crown to visitors. The story is "Statue of Liberty Gets Her View Back." He said that that obviously referred to New York--and specifically the Mets, because the Yankes are always referred to by something that is about the city, whereas this article was more about New York state; please do not ask me how he inferred that--and the title of the article, being optimistic or positive in tone, clearly meant that the team would win.

He said that he had discovered that the way things in photographs were positioned with respect to corners was key. In particular, he had found a phenomenon he called the "dead corner" that was most telling, though he didn't elaborate on what this was or how it worked. He said that recently he had seen a photograph of a torpedo that looked to him a lot like a Marlin, and it was pointed toward one of the bottom corners of the picture, so he knew to take the under in the Marlins game. (How one distiguishes taking the under versus betting against them to win in a money-line bet was, sadly, not explained to us.)

We were informed that USA Today was a far better source of this information than the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which always led him astray. I was a very, very bad boy here; I suggested to him that this was because the casino industry controls the LVRJ and doesn't want the paper giving out good information that would help people win bets. It seemed that this possibility hadn't occurred to him before, and he liked the theory. If there were a crime for contributing to the delusions of a madman, I'd have been arrested.

At one point, he mentioned in passing that it's the "government" that is responsible for both controlling the outcomes of the games and for planting the clues in newspapers. I told him that I thought that USA Today's headquarters was in Washington, D.C.--a factoid that probably confirmed what he had already figured out about who was behind it all.

Making a living at sports betting, he was certain, was easy, once you knew how to read the clues the government put out.

The man was genuinely convinced that he just needed a big bankroll so that he could make bets big enough to live off of. Why, you might wonder, wouldn't he be able to build a bankroll starting with a single bet, if he has this foolproof system? Good question.

The problem is that it isn't foolproof. Like a crossword puzzle (a truly excellent analogy that he had thought up all on his own), sometimes you think you know what the answer is and fill it in and it fits, but you later discover, once more is filled in, that it was wrong. Reading the sports clues planted in the newspaper and on TV news (which he scoffed at as being right about half the time but misleading the other half, and therefore pretty much worthless) was like that--sometimes you interpret them incorrectly, and only figure out what the clue-planters were trying to tell you after the fact, when you go back and look at them in retrospect, knowing how the game turned out.*

About this time, he decided to stop chatting about sports betting and instead took the topic back to poker. He said that he doesn't play much anymore because he always loses. He occasionally plays at the Sahara and Excalibur, but "I haven't won a pot in 15 years." All of you who think you run bad, try topping that cold streak! He said that in his most recent serious poker attempt, he had played $2/4 limit hold'em for three days and lost $300.

Toward the end of our journey, he again expressed his hope that he would soon hit it big in sports betting. This was especially urgent since he thought he was about to get fired as a cab driver. "I'm not cutting it," he frankly admitted. Cardgrrl and I didn't press him for information on what the problem might be, but both thought privately that it might have something to do with customers complaining about him driving while his eyes, attention, and both hands were on a fully spread-out newspaper that he was holding up between his face and the windshield.

He finally mentioned that on Monday he is starting poker dealer school at a place that is literally a stone's throw from my apartment building--just on the diagonally opposite corner of the same intersection. Maybe that will tide him over between being fired as a taxi driver and taking the world of sports betting by storm. (Oh, he also said that picking winners in horse races was easy, though there wasn't time left on the ride for him to explain how that worked.)

The guy was extremely nice and pleasant. He seemed like a perfectly decent human being, but lost in a world of his own imagination. I found it simultaneously amusing, sad, and scary.

I don't have any big point to be made from it. It was simply a surprising, interesting, and weird encounter that I thought readers might enjoy. People--and in particular, Las Vegas people--are a continual source of fascination to me.

Hey, Cardgrrl, if you feel like it, can you give me an amen on this story, lest people think I am making it up, exaggerating, or misinterpreting what was said?

*Speaking of crossword puzzles, here's another recent story, apropos of nothing, that I found amusing. Cardgrrl and I were trying to work our second old Sunday New York Times puzzle from a book I have. The clue was something like, "What's lacking in pernicious anemia." She and I each have our areas of fairly useless, arcane knowledge--which is why we seem to do well tackling the puzzles jointly--and this one was clearly in my ballpark. She was giving me just a bit of the stinkeye when I was taking quite a while to come up with the answer. Finally it dawned on me, and I filled in "BTWELVE." Sensing that she was wondering what the delay was, I told her, honestly, "I was trying to figure out how to fit 'cyanocobalamin' into that space." She burst out laughing, and, when she stopped, said something about me possibly being slightly overeducated.

I think I'm going to miss that grrl.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Guess the casino, #191

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Santa Fe Station

Watch this space

Actual post coming soon!

Finally got a couple of decent nights of sleep. I'm feeling back to normal and ready to resume blogging. Also, the WSOP writing gig ends after tonight's installment. I have a post in mind about a couple of weird floor rulings at the WSOP. Can't do it tonight, though. Also, Cardgrrl, who was scheduled to leave tonight, is actually staying an extra day due to her flight being cancelled (some mechanical problem), so I may or may not get to writing tomorrow. But by Friday, my world will pretty much be back to the way I'm used to it all being.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Guess the casino, #190

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Answer: O'Shea's

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perversely looking forward to...

Just saw this Tweet from Phil Hellmuth:

Sunday July 5 i show up to WSOP as 'Caesar: with 100 models, 11 muses w body paint, a chariot w 2 horses, and a drummer dropping rose petals

Guess the casino, #189

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Green Valley Ranch

Monday, June 29, 2009

Guess the casino, #188

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Binion's

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guess the casino, #187

To reveal the hidden answer, use your mouse to highlight the space immediately after the word "Answer" below.

Answer: Venetian