January 27, 2013
Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend.
Come inside! Come inside!
Come inside, the show's about to start,
Guaranteed to blow your head apart.
Soon the Gypsy Queen
In a glaze of Vaseline,
Will perform on guillotine.
What a scene! What a scene!
Performing on a stool,
We've a sight to make you drool.
Seven virgins and a mule.
Keep it cool. Keep it cool.
Come and see the show! Come and see the show!
Come and see the show! See the show!
~ Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Karn Evil 9 First Impression, Part 2"
As has been my tradition over the past several years, I found myself in Vegas as part of my holiday travels. Because Vegas is not the usual Christmas season destination, the couple of weeks before Christmas through a few days after the holiday are typically the lull before the Vegas tourist storm that is kicked off by New Year's Eve. It's easy to find bargain basement airfares and free or cheap upscale Strip hotel rooms during that holiday period, making a Vegas holiday trip extraordinarily economical. So, after a few great days hanging with my family at my brother's new home in Denver, I took a three day solo poker journey to Vegas.
This trip, MGM's MLife program offered me two free nights at a variety of hotels. I opted for the MGM Grand, both for quality of accommodations and out of nostalgia for my first trip to Vegas. Way back in the summer of 2006, the MGM poker room was smack in the center of the recreational poker universe. The Venetian poker room had been open only a few months, and was beautiful, huge, and mostly empty. The Wynn poker room had been open only a year. The "Big Game" had long migrated from Mirage to Bellagio, with the latter catering to bigger-rolled players ($2/$5 was the lowest NLHE game) while the former was waging a myopic war against no-limit games, preferring to cater to limit hold-'em and stud players. Many of the other Strip casinos had small poker rooms, with 6-10 tables spreading mostly $1/$2 NLHE and $2/$4 LHE.
MGM's poker room filled a key niche in the '06 Vegas poker ecosystem—the big room that catered to the "little" players. With 23 tables in a prime location between the sports book and Centrifuge bar, poker players could find a game nearly 24/7, and a packed room with waiting lists was common most evenings and weekends. The room catered to low stakes players, offering mostly $3/$6 LHE and $1/$2 NLHE (with a bankroll friendly buy-in of $60-$200), and some soft $2/$5 NLHE games. The MGM poker room had a definite "young gun" vibe, filled with brash, drunk, noisy players. Fortunately, most of those players were terrible, and finding a juicy, profitable game was generally easy.
Although the Vegas poker scene has evolved considerably during the intervening years, in many ways the MGM poker room is remarkably unchanged. Other than the more traditional poker tables replacing the MGM's original unique tables with a marble "racetrack" edge, the MGM poker room still looks identical to how it looked back during my first Vegas trip. Same location, same mix of games, same generally bad players.
Which was a good thing. A lucrative thing. A shooting fish in a barrel thing, or at least some sort of fish-poker-profit metaphor thing.
- Buy into MGM poker room cash game.
- Identify fish.
Which brings us to the last evening of my vacation. It was a Friday night, which would have meant a busy poker room on an average weekend. But this was the Friday before New Years Eve, and tourists were starting to surge into Vegas to get a jumpstart on their holiday celebrations. Dinner and drinks with some friends, with a detour to the Mandalay Bay sports book to sweat the end of the Missouri loss to UCLA, caused me to get back to MGM a hour or so later than planned. Losing that Mizzou investment turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The MGM poker room was jammed, so I put my name on both the $1/$2 and $2/$5 NLHE lists. After a short wait, a new $2/$5 game was opened, so I settled in for what I figured would be a pretty standard game. Rarely have I so badly underestimated a game's potential.
Come inside, the show's about to start. Guaranteed to blow your head apart.
The game was wild from the git-go. No hand went unraised, and 3-bets routinely found three or four callers. I decided to sit back and play an almond-broker strategy, looking to trap the aggros with a monster hand. From the table chatter, it sounded like many of the players were regulars, or at least had played together on prior occasions. The players included myself, two young ladies, and seven guys who fit every stereotype of young, hyper-aggro yahoos.
Ah yes, two ladies, seven virgins, and a Mule (me, natch—the token non-reproducing jackass).
Much of the early action was being driven by two of the aggro dudes and one of the young gals. The lady was quite attractive, if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not. She clearly was trying to dominate the table, and the two aggro dudes were equally clearly trying to push her around. One of the three would raise or 3-bet nearly every hand preflop, and on most of those hands, at least two of the three would stick around for the flop. The three were fearless, perhaps even reckless, pulling out a steady series of ballsy bluffs, ridiculous draws, sick calls, and improbable catches to win bloated pot after bloated pot.
Adding to the intrigue was the fact that none of the three players respected the others. Many poker games involve a little good-natured joking and even the occasional taunt. These three players were openly critical of each other, making the game a bit uncomfortable. After a while, it became clearer that those three had played together the night before, and one of the guys had caught an improbable runner-runner to snap off the lady's big pocket pair. This yahoo of course taunted the lady that she hadn't bet big enough on the turn, giving him "pot odds" to call. From their description of the hand, I doubt that's the case. Nonetheless, the three continued to trade rapid-fire caustic barbs about the other's poker skills, with a couple of the other yahoos chiming in whenever the chatter lagged.
The action hadn't been going on long when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Rob, of Ante Up and All Vegas Poker fame. Rob likes to recount his poker exploits on his "Vegas and Poker" blog, sometimes at great length. Well, almost always at great length. But still, his posts are an enjoyable read for anyone wanting a low-stakes Vegas poker fix between trips to poker mecca. Rob said hello, then pointed at the aggro lady and whispered conspiratorially, "Do you know who that is?" I shook my head. Rob chuckled, "It's Prudence!"
Keep it cool. Keep it cool.
Ah yes, the famous (infamous?) Prudence, the mysterious Queen of the Degenerates who has been featured in a handful (assuming we're discussing the Hindu goddess Mahakali) of posts on Rob's blog. Rob had always painted a picture of Prudence as a show-stopping diva, a modern-day poker-playing Lili Von Shtupp. Prudence did not disappoint. The Prudence Poker Show was a true masterpiece, blending snarky commentary with blitzkrieg poker tactics, seasoned liberally with a never-ending stream of blue language. In the space of a couple of hours, I heard Prudence flirt with dealers, heckle players, and use both the F-bomb and the derivative MF-bomb as every part of speech. Someone outside the game might have viewed the proceedings as a trainwreck, but in reality it was more like Prudence was playing a game of chicken with the other players, only using taunts and chips rather than cars.
Or, if you like, Prudence was the Gypsy Queen performing on a guillotine (I can't confirm any Vaseline but it's sort of implied, I think).
While enjoying the Prudence Show, I also actually played some poker. I used my tight image to steal a few nice pots preflop with 3-bets and 4-bets scaring off the lagtards who were focused on their d*ck measuring contest. I got a courtesy double up early on when my Queens (obviously) turned a set and another player put me on a bluff. Later, I took down a nice pot with Tens; the flop was low trash, I bet, got check-raised, then shoved over the top, leading to a major tank-fold by one of the mouthy yahoos. My thinking was that the yahoo likely had a medium overpair or was bluffing with big cards; though a set was always possible, the board really wasn't scary enough to make a set ram and jam. The yahoo tanking was a bit odd for big cards, unless he was just Hollywooding. I don't know if my hand was good there, but I suppose it was also possible the yahoo had something like a pair-plus-draw and didn't want to play a big pot on the come. Chickensh*t. Rob was railing Prudence (well, not like that) and asked me about the hand later; it would be interesting to hear his perspective (after all, I apparently inspired Rob to play the Spanish Inquisition to great profit the very next night).
Unfortunately for Prudence, the poker gods were not viewing her performance favorably, and she took several tough beats while also picking a couple of bad spots to make big moves. Some might suggest her steady consumption of "carrot juice" on the rocks contributed to her run of bad fortune, but I think her night was mostly the typical downswing part of the LAG roller coaster. Prudence and I only really tangled once, when I called her preflop raise (along with half the table) on the button with 76 sooooted. Yahtzee! I loved the 7-6-2 rainbow flop. Apparently, Prudence did as well, leading out with a bet that was raised by one of the usual yahoos. I made a big raise, and Prudence pushed all-in, leading the yahoo to fold. I insta-called and rolled my hand. The board ran out trash, and Prudence mucked. I don't know what Prudence held, but I suspect a middle pocket pair or maybe something like A7 sooooted.
Eventually the jawing between Prudence and the two main yahoos took a turn from entertaining to nasty when one of the guys started taunting Prudence after the other yahoo hit a lucky suckout to stack her, reminding Prudence of a similar suckout in their session the night prior when the yahoo's Q6s luckboxed a rivered boat to beat Prudence's altos dos pairs of KQ. The yahoo called Prudence an "effing moron". Prudence suggested the yahoo take his Q6s and do something unnatural that would likely kill his hand, at least in most nicer poker rooms. Suddenly the yahoo was calling for the floor, whining about Prudence's language (which although out of bounds for most tables, was hardly all that objectionable given the general chatter at the table to that point). A rather humorless floor gave a warning to the entire table about language. Of course, Prudence let loose another F-bomb moments later, and the same yahoo was again screaming for the floor.
What a scene! What a scene!
Prudence defused the situation by racking up for the night; probably a wise decision. I stayed for another couple of hours, building up a nice stack with a combination of good tight play and a fortunate run of cards. But the game was no fun without Prudence; just a bunch of social misfits grinding out pots with the only talk being discussion of poker strategy (most of it rather ill-conceived). FML, as Prudence might have said. I racked up a four buy-in profit, then played $1/$2 NLHE and drank for a couple of hours, having a lot of fun with the low stakes crowd while padding my profit for the trip.
I've seen a lot in various Vegas poker rooms. Drunk Englishmen taunting pit bosses and tackling me at the table. Grown men eating ribs at the table, after pulling them out of a jacket pocket. But the Prudence Poker Show was an instant classic. So on your next trip to Vegas, head on over to the MGM poker room.
Come and see the show! Come and see the show!