Forum Archive : Tournaments

Vegas trip report (fall 2004)

From:   Gregg Cattanach
Date:   18 November 2004
Subject:   Vegas Trip report Nov. 11-15, (long)
Google:   kJ3nd.30030$

Vegas Trip Report Nov. 10-15 (Long with BG, BJ, Craps and Vegas stuff).

Flew from Atlanta on Wednesday morning.  It was an uneventful flight on
Delta and I got the ticket for free with frequent flyer miles. Delta is
nice because it's always a non-stop on a 767, but the older style 767
still has a pretty tight seat, and I was cramping up on my left side in
the window seat. Got up twice (4.5 hour flight) for a walk down the
aisle and that helped a lot.  The newer 767s model-300 with the fancy
remote control and little LCD video screens are a lot roomier it seems.
I think I get one of those planes on the red-eye back to Atlanta on
Monday night. I always get a window seat because but I wouldn't want to
miss the Grand Canyon views (sit on the right side.)  It was clouded up
over the Rockies; sometimes that's quite breathtaking as well.

I got to the Riviera via the $5 shuttle and I was the 2nd stop, so I
lucked out there.  Check-in at noon had about a 30 minute line, but I
got the best location room I've ever had.  I used the video kiosk check-
in but it only offered me 3 different smoking rooms, so I complained to
the clerk and in the same breath told her that the Monaco Tower facing
the pool (and the Strip) would be best.  She pushed some buttons and I
got a 19th floor room overlooking the Strip, no smoking, king bed.  No
$20 trick necessary.

I got signed up for the backgammon tournament about 1:30 and the
director gave me a hard time about entering the Limited Jackpot event.
There are two Jackpots, the Limited ($400 EF for round of 64) and the
Super ($1000 EF for round of 64).  The Limited is also restricted by
skill level (no 'top-championship level players' allowed), but it's
always a judgment call by the director whether he thinks you are 'too
good' to enter.  I appealed to one of the other staff members, and they
went ahead and let me in.  I probably was in the top 10% of the draw,
but not the best player in this event.  I suppose I should consider it a
compliment :) The dice, however, were not informed of this and I got
gammoned twice in the first three games and lost my first match 14-3.
There's $400 of fun :)  The funny part is after my loss the director
found me right away and try to cajole me into reentering the event!  I
told him that if I had $800 I would have entered the Super Jackpot to
start with.

Went downstairs and charted out all the video poker machines in the
Riviera. A web site said they have 10/7 Double Bonus but I couldn't find
it.  There was some 9/7 which isn't bad.  There are a lot of the multi-
game machines so you have to push some buttons to get the whole set of
games.  I'll check out the Stardust across the street today; they are
supposed to have a bank of 9/6 Jacks or Better which is probably my VP
game of choice right now. Deuces Wild is just too high-variance for me
with the payback loaded so highly in the top hands.  Later on someone
showed me where tech 10/7 Double Bonus machines are. There are 4 of them
and have a Green backdrop.  They're behind the wall across from the
cashier cage.

Shot craps for 20 minutes, played the 3-point molly pretty consistently
and only the don't on one shooter.  Lost $16.  I wanted to eat quick and
then go 'out' so I got some cheap Chinese food at the food court Panda
Express.  It was pretty good and quick.

I went downtown and played blackjack for about 4 hours at the Plaza. The
rules were really good: a 2-deck pitch game with S17, DOA, DAS, RSA.  I
didn't do well mainly because the dealer was red-hot and her bust rate
was astronomically low the whole time, probably around 10% or something.
Everyone was losing. It was lots of fun still and I was only about 9
bets down after it was all over.  I've done a lot worse and staying put
for 4 hours on my original buy-in was pretty good.

Downtown was fun, as I took a series of 20 minute breaks waiting for my
favorite dealer to come back from her break, (she was cute and a really
quite funny, very attractive woman from Ethiopia).  Wandered around the
Las Vegas Club. They have some SuperFun21 variant with double after any
number of cards, surrender, split to any number of hands including Aces.
They pay even money on blackjacks but pay 2:1 if your blackjack is
suited.  I think it was a shoe game, not positive.  Might be fun with
double on any number of cards as you'll get to do more stuff and it
might still have a low HA, but I'm guessing it's not really 'the most
Liberal 21 in Las Vegas'. I'm pretty sure the game at the Plaza is
better. Got the 99c shrimp cocktail at Golden Gate which was fine, and
entered the no-cover strip club 'Glitter Gulch' for about 2 minutes
until I found they wanted a $17 2-drink minimum.  I don't drink so I
left :)   Girls looked tight as a drum, but it's just a topless joint
where it's not a full-contact sport. There are other places near the
strip with the full lap-dance experience available, several of which the
taxi driver recommended, (not that I'm really interested in all of that,
nudge, nudge.)

Got some free MardiGras beads at two different places and the Fremont
Street Experience patriotic USA show was great with a lot gorgeous
scenery from around the country.  I also dropped $110 at the craps table
in 10 minutes playing the don't; the shooter never rolled a 7 the entire
time and picked off every one of my DP/DC/odds bets.  Going back to the
BJ table I got panhandled inside the casino by some guy: his story was
he wanted me to play a $10 hand for him at the table because he needed
to fix his broken tail-light that costs $17.  At least he was creative!

Jet-lagged to hell on Thursday morning. I didn't get to bed until 2:30
and at 4:30 I'm wide awake, (7:30 home time).  I can never sleep
decently while I'm in Vegas, I just don't stay tired; my mind is wound
up tight thinking about the backgammon action and the various casino
choices.  It's just part of the Vegas experience for me.  Lots of
action, no sleep!  I did get to get a nice mile swim in the pool; even
though it's getting down to 45F every night, the pool was still the
perfect temperature. The are closing it on Nov. 15, so that worked out
perfect for me.

Thursday the main backgammon tournament started.  They gave away $10,000
free money at the Calcutta action with random draws of the players,
5-$200, 5-$500 and 5-$1000 prizes and one other $1500 prize for the
buyers in the auction.  Pretty good equity for a total of about 275
players.  Play for the main event starts at 2:00, so hopefully I'll keep
winning and be busy with that and not have a huge amount of down-time.
But there is still lots of craps and blackjack on my itinerary and VP as

I didn't win any of the free money at the Calcutta, but they did one
nice addition to the tournament.  In the Championship division there
were 101 entries (at $450/each).  What they did was allow any of the
first round losers to re-enter the tournament for $315 and thus fill out
the tournament grid to a full 128 players.  Everyone that lost was ready
to do this, so losing quickly was actually helpful.  This also adds
$8505 to the prize pool which the winners will certainly appreciate.  It
really didn't take much longer, and it makes the consolation brackets
run much better when they're aren't any byes.

I completely lucked out in round 1 as my opponent never appeared.  I
never found out what the problem was, but I ended up with a first round
forfeit win.  I started playing my 2nd round match about 4:30PM against
one of those top-championship players, and really got the better dice
and won 15-8 after we resumed playing after dinner.  Round 3 is Friday
morning against another one those top players.  So the draw has been
bad, but getting a free win in round 1 was worth a lot.

My father and stepmother had planned to visit Las Vegas this same week
so we could visit and they could have some fun in Vegas.  He's having
his 81st birthday next month and is doing really great.  They both
looked good and we had dinner at Tony Roma's at the Stardust.  This
turned out to be a big disappointment as we had a 40 minute wait to get
seated (which isn't awful) but then it took them another 35 minutes to
bring the food.  The chicken and ribs were both dried out.  Too bad,
because all my other trips I got a really good meal each time and never
had to wait.  This is one of the negatives about staying at the Riviera:
there really isn't a great choice of good places to eat in walking
distance.  Maybe we'll try the Peppermill or the Korean BBQ on another

I played some more VideoPoker but am pretty sure that's not my game.
It's just such a slow grind and it feels like it's nearly a cinch to end
up behind unless you hit something big.  Pretty much the tables for me
from now on.

After finishing my match a buddy and I headed back downtown again.  We
toyed with the Las Vegas Club's weird variant, but decided to hit the
Plaza's 2-deck game again.  This time the cards really fell well, and we
played for 2 hours and I ended up 20 bets.  The dealer was again lots of
fun and the players at our table were yucking it up.  It's way more fun
to win, of course, but it really was one of my better Blackjack session
in a while, I really had a great time.

The tournament continued on Friday at 10:00AM, so it's breakfast, a swim
in the pool which was a perfect temperature even this late in November.
then focus on backgammon again.  I'm in the round of 32 but have a real
difficult draw coming up.

Friday turned out to be a big bust luck-wise.  I lost my round 3 match,
but it was to one of the world-best players, Malcolm Davis, so there was
no shame there.  He hit quite a few very important shots and one
sequence with a 8 cube that I had to drop was pretty much the match.  I
doubled, rolled one of my worst, his best, my worst, his best and I'd
lost 4 points.  My consolation match was no better as I got backgammoned
on a 2-cube at 6-away, 4-away,  Yeouch.  My tormenter in this match was
also an excellent player, one of the young guns from Japan.

So I was free until Sunday's Last Chance tournament.  Friday the cards
were very unkind the rest of the night, and I dropped a lot more playing
blackjack and Spanish 21.  However, I got a partial comp to 3 free meals
at the Center Stage restaurant in the Plaza, and I had the most
outrageously wonderful prime rib of my life. I got the small cut and the
thing was still 3-1/2 inches thing and just wonderfully tender.
Absolutely fabulous and my parents were raving about their filets as
well.  My Dad played BJ with me at various places downtown and did OK,
and we did get to play a lot, even though I ended up down a lot.  We
stumbled on a 1-deck game at the 4-Queens with 3:2 blackjacks, and the
only rule they took back was no double after split.  The dealer was
really excellent in his skills as far as chip and card handling, and it
was a pleasure to watch him do it all so well.  I was up quite a bit at
one point, but ended up a small loser after a long session at that game.
I then made the mistake of going to Fitzgerald's to play Spanish 21.  I
wasn't really keeping track, but I think she busted me at least 90% of
the time when I hit my 12s and 13s.  (Basic Strategy on this game says
you hit all the 12s and every 13 except against 6.  It was pretty
grim, but I loved the action :) I also had to rescue 75% of my double-
downs. There was a rain-cloud over my spot at that table, for sure.

Saturday there were couple side-events left to enter in the tournament
(the Blitz and Mini-Match), so I was hoping to put a string of good dice
together somewhere in there.  I tried to stay away from the card tables
and give craps a good solid run.

I did manage to string together 5 2-point match wins, so I'm in the
semifinals of the Mini-Match.  We got the 4 semifinalists together and
we agreed to each take $500 of the prize pool and play off for the
trophy and the remaining $176.  Probably a good idea as a 2-point match
is really just a dice flip as far as the luck goes.

Saturday night full blown insomnia took hold (I got 1 hour of sleep) so
there was some very odd hours gambling.  Got up a few dollars at craps
but no one could really string together much of a roll and the 3-point
molly got chewed down slowly but surely.  Killed about 2 hours playing
PaiGow Poker, which I find really amusing and fun to play. There really
isn't much of a way to win or lose much because so many hands end in a
push. I played the Fortune Bonus side bet every hand, got paid quite
often with a straight or flush, but nobody at the table every hit
anything big like 4 of a kind or above.

The last stop in the wee hours was to play a couple hours of SuperFun21
at the Stardust.  I finally had a winning session at a card table and
ended up $150.  It was quite a comeback as I was down $170 at one point.
The last 45 minutes I played heads up with the dealer, and for one
stretch in 3 decks (single deck game) I lost probably 4 hands total.  I
progress my bet by adding a nickel on each win, so I had a couple $45
and $50 bets in those sequences.  Now I remember again why I like the
card games, (the rest of the trip previously I've basically lost every
time.) A good win but still way down for the week.

Last Chance tournament started at 10:30 on Sunday.  I got another
forfeit (but this is common in the Last Chance, but lost the first match
I played. I also lost in the Mini-Match semifinal, so the $500 hedge
looked really good.

My and my parents splurged for another fabulous dinner at the top
restaurant at Monte Carlo (Blackstone's).  It was another wickedly good
meal, I had a flaky salmon almandine that was to die for, Dad had
another filet that looked like a completely perfect piece of meat and
Wendy had a halibut dish.

We then walked over to Bellagio to see 'O'.  It was really great, the
stage with the giant pool was amazing (dry stage parts would
periodically rise up out of the pool and lots of the acts were on this
different dry land stages as well.  It was always changing.  Our seats
were a little too far away, but the sight likes were fine.  Great
acrobatics, and the various trapeze like things were great when you add
the option of diving into the pool at the end.  There were some dives
that looked like they easily were coming 70-80 feet, sometimes they just
dropped out of the rafters with some incredible dive.  There was lots of
synchronized swimming as well.  The comedy aspect wasn't nearly as funny
as Mystere, but a great show.  Mystere is still my favorite.

We were all really tired, but we did see two fountain shows and stopped
in Paris for a bit, (I won $61 at craps).  Then we went home and said
goodbye. I was exhausted, (Friday night I effectively didn't get any
sleep), so I crashed immediately without going to the casino at 11:30.
Slept all the way to 5:30 today!

Monday I was free as a bird, so a friend and I went downtown and pretty
much walked into every place.  Even saw the Lady Luck and El Cortez.  We
played just a little BJ but had a couple good hits and walked away up
for the day. Downtown is still lots of fun and I like the 1 and 2 deck
games that you can find down there, (Plaza, El Cortez, 4 Queens to name
a few).

Vegas met all expectations.  I was pretty unlucky at the tables and the
backgammon, but it really was a memorably trip.  I'll be back in late
April 2005 for the next backgammon tournament.

Hope the report was interesting!

Gregg C.
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