Last week, I managed to squeeze some poker into my busy vacation schedule of chaperoning drunks around Vegas. As I was taking advantage of an excellent Bellagio room rate, I wanted to keep my play focused on MGM Megalith rooms, so I strolled over to Aria one morning to check out the action.
With the WSOP in town, Aria's poker room was humming, with maybe ten tables running by 11:00 a.m. and long lists for $1/$3 and $2/$5 NLHE, as well as $1/$3 PLO. Not feeling up for the roller coaster of gamboooling that early in the day, I put my name on both the $1/$3 and $2/$5 NLHE lists, figuring I would play whichever game opened up first.
The floor soon opened a new $2/$5 NLHE table, so I vaulted to the top of that list. Shortly after, I was called for a spot at an established $2/$5 NLHE game. As I approached the table, it was pretty obvious this was a game that had run all night, with several players having wads of $100 bills and stacks of green and black chips in play. A glance around the table confirmed that this was not the game I was looking for; eight players, all in their 20s, all wearing hoodies and sunglasses. Yes, I had stumbled into a nest of WSOP pro-wannabes. So I pulled $400 out of my pocket and nodded when the floor asked me if I wanted to remain on the $1/$3 NLHE list.
Working on the assumption the table would play loose and aggressive, I vowed to play tight for an orbit or two to feel out the exploitable spots. It's good to have plans.
First hand, I was in the big blind. Action folded to hijack who raised to $15. Button thought and smooth called. Small blind called. I looked down to find 9h8h. Well, I would complete the action, and my cards were soooooted, so of course I called.
Flop was JhTh4d. Yahtzee!
I checked, assuming Hijack would c-bet, allowing me to check-raise with my monster draw and take down a nice first pot. Hijack did not disappoint, auto-betting $40. But then Button threw a monkey wrench into my plans, thinking a bit before raising to $110. Small blind insta-folded. Yikes! Here's where not knowing the table really makes poker tough. Was Button a tight player, raising with strong hands like sets, and top two pair? Or was Button betting top or second pair, or maybe a draw of his own, albeit bigger than mine, say the nut heart draw, KQ, or even something like AhQh? Or was Button just aggro-barreling with an underpair or air, leveraging a night of plays and reads of Hijack in an attempt to steal a pot?
After a bit of thought, I decided my draw was too strong to fold against two obviously aggro opponents. I pushed all-in, and was rather indifferent to whether either or both players called. Hijack snap-called, and Button nearly beat him into the pot, going all-in for maybe an additional $30. Hijack auto-called, and we were off to the races.
Just then the floor announced a new $1/$3 NLHE game starting at the table next to our table, and my name was called for the game. I watched as the board ran out. Turn—Qd. Donkey Kong! Well, unless I was up against AhKh ... Just so the board didn't pair, I had a shot. River—Qs. Ruh roh, Rooby!
I had a feeling I was beat somehow, somewhere. Still, I rolled my hand, and channeled my best Santa Claus drawl, announcing, "I have ... straight." My opponents stared at each other, and I started to feel a little better when Hijack asked the dealer, "Is there a side pot?" The dealer confirmed there was a side pot, and Hijack showed pocket Kings. Button looked disgusted, but mucked without showing. I suspect Button had JT for altos dos pairs and was counterfeited by the running Queens.
As the dealer broke down our stacks to figure out how much I had won, I strolled over to the new $1/$3 game and put down my player card to lock up a seat. I grabbed two racks on my way back to the table, just as the dealer was pushing me a ~$1,200 pot. I tossed the dealer three red chips, then racked up the rest of the pot. As the table stared at me, I politely said, "Good playing with you gents, but my game is starting." Then I headed over to my new table where I had a lucrative session before heading back to Bellagio.
And I didn't end up in a hole in the desert. Truly, I run good.