This month, I finally returned to Las Vegas for the first time in over two years. This was an unheard of amount of time to be away from a city I’ve long considered my second home. The first thing I noticed upon my return was, thankfully, that Vegas hasn’t changed much. The night view from my condo (ok it’s technically not my condo) was just as bright and beautiful as ever, as seen above.

Report from the WSOP

The WSOP moved across the Strip this year to the combined conference centers at Bally’s and Paris. On the plus side, there is more space than ever, but now the action is split between two locations. This means that you can be mid-tournament when your table gets broken and you have to walk all the way from Bally’s to Paris to rejoin the game.

The usual WSOP problems still exist – long (and really slow) lines to register, and even longer lines for the bathrooms on breaks. Contrast this to the Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event I played at the Venetian last week. They offered five windows to register, with an additional employee working the line to make sure everyone had their player’s card, waiver, and cash in hand. The line was long but it moved quickly. Not sure why the WSOP can’t get this right after all these years.

Additionally, the WSOP cash out process requires stops at three stations. I have no idea why. It doesn’t seem like it should require waiting in three different lines to cash out.

Best New Cardroom in Las Vegas

That would definitely be the new Resorts World Las Vegas cardroom. The medium-sized room currently features $4 max-rake, $1.50 per hour in comps (and lots of food options), and some great dealers.  I played there for two days, probably about 15 hours total, and never once had a dealer who wasn’t a pro. Contrast this to the WSOP where they need so many dealers that they’ll hire just about anyone.

(As a quick side note: I hope my griping about the WSOP doesn’t give anyone the wrong idea. There is, and will never be, any event like the World Series of Poker. It is the greatest festival of poker players in the world. I am just offering some constructive criticism.)

In addition to being a beautiful room with excellent dealers, Resorts World offers automatic shufflers, even in tournaments. Some purists still seem to resist these. You get a more consistent shuffle and it speeds up the game. What’s not to love?

On Wednesday I won Resorts World Las Vegas’ nightly tournament ($160 buyin) for $1,762. There were two of us left by midnight, and we played heads-up for over 2 hours! That’s got to be a first for a turbo daily tournament. Shortly after 2AM, my opponent (an off-duty WSOP dealer from New Hampshire) and I agreed to play a blind all-in to end it. A small crowd gathered to watch my 3h-2h make a 6-high straight to win.

Worst Bad Beat of the Trip

That would be losing my last-longer bet with APT member Lee Van Voorhis. We played WSOP Event #25 ($800 NL Hold’em Deep Stack) together, and although the amount of the proposed side bet seemed excessive, I agreed, figuring a pro like me wouldn’t have a hard time outlasting Lee, who is a lawyer from Washington DC.

Over 4,000 people entered the tournament, and when I took 249th (which paid $1,975) I was sure I had the last-longer bet locked up. But no, I scanned the room and found Lee still going strong (he went out 162nd). Being a man of my word, I paid the bet immediately. It still stings to talk about, but here’s Lee gloating with his winnings.

Best Food of the Trip

Why is this even a category? Everybody knows my answer is always Del Taco. It’s tough to get Del Taco in Florida, so I spend a lot of time there in Las Vegas. They love me so much they even gave me a t-shirt.

But seriously, if you’re looking for WSOP food on a dinner break, you have a few options. Burger Brasserie has always been my favorite restaurant in Paris, and it’s right near the conference center. Get the Champagne burger, which has a fried egg on it. Trust me. Alternately, make your way (quickly) to the Bally’s food court before the lines get too long. They have Nathan’s hot dogs, Sbarro, Subway, and a Pan-Asian place.

Best Show I Saw in Las Vegas

I had heard good reviews of Purple Reign, the Prince tribute show at Tropicana, and wasn’t disappointed. And while nobody can really duplicate the late Prince Rogers Nelson, or The Artist, or whatever you choose to call him, the show is high energy, and you can get up and dance and have a great time as the band performs all of his biggest hits. The show also features Morris Day and the Time, and Vanity, other Motown acts you might remember from the 80s (again, not the real artists, but tributes).

The Most Fun I Had the Whole Trip

So you want to learn how to play Mixed Games? You have two choices. You could buy a book on mixed game strategy and dip your feet in by playing a HORSE tournament or something like that. Or, you could bump into Robbie Strazynski from Cardplayer Lifestyle, who invites you to sit down in his mixed game festival featuring 40 different games.

Yes, you read that right. 40 different games. The game switches every orbit. Don’t believe me? See the picture below of us playing Razzdugi (which plays like Razz, but the best Badugi gets ½ the pot).

Or how about this hand, where I made the absolute double-nuts in Drawmaha Zero, to scoop the entire pot. (What, you’ve never played Drawmaha Zero? Plays like Big-O but you also get to draw cards once to try to get closest to zero points in your hand – and face cards count as zero.)

This four-day event was so much fun. All games were played $4/$8 limit so you couldn’t lose your shirt. Everyone was having fun and no-one was out for blood. Robbie had several poker celebrities stop by to play including Greg Raymer, Norman Chad, and even Eli Elezra. Can you imagine Eli Elezra (who plays in the biggest games in town) playing $4/$8 limit? Unheard of. It was interesting trying to apply general poker principles to figure out a decent strategy for games I’d never played before. Robbie is planning to offer this event at least annually, and I don’t plan to miss it.

To Sum Up

Vegas never disappoints during the WSOP. Nearly every poker player on earth is out there, and in addition to the WSOP there are summer tournament series going on at several other cardrooms (Venetian, Wynn, Orleans, South Point, MGM Grand, and Golden Nugget, just to name a few).

I hope you enjoyed this report, and maybe next summer I’ll challenge YOU to a last-longer bet. Double the stakes!

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