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Old 07-17-2018, 12:01 PM   #1
Rimlog
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Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

I have enjoyed a lot of trip reports here over the years, so I thought I would have a go.

This thread will tell the story of a visit to Vegas based around the 2018 WSOP Main Event. I will begin with a spoiler, which is that I fell early in the Main, but I went with a lot of fallback plans, based on the various series that run alongside WSOP. It might be interesting to anyone planning to have a go at the Main Event, and unsure of when to book flights, or what it is like to be in Vegas if you bust out. Another mini-spoiler (I’m home now as I write this) is that I did end up having some success in my fallback plans.

This will also be a disappointment for anyone looking for grisly details of the seedy side of Vegas. The trip was heavily poker-based, and if I did have some degen moments (which may or may not have happened), they won't appear here.

A little about me first – I am based in Ireland, and semi-retired from a career in software start-up companies. I had good fortune with a couple of them, which gives me quite a lot of freedom to combine voluntary work, travel and poker, so I am in the lucky position to be able to treat myself to a larger buy-in event from time to time.

I am a recreational player, but I take it reasonably seriously, and do a bit better than break even overall. I play mostly $215 to $1050 No Limit tournaments on PokerStars, and I have probably played about 50 multi-day live events, mostly at the PokerStars Festival level. I tried the Main once before, in 2016, without success. I have made a handful of final tables in large Sunday PokerStars tournaments (not the Million, unfortunately), and a few deep runs in live events, so I don’t panic if I find myself at a table with big names, live or on-line.


The previous time that I played the Main, I booked flights and hotel to cover the entire event (apart from the November bit), and felt afterwards that was not the best plan. This time, I booked a homeward flight to coincide with Day 7 of the Main, thinking that I will be more than happy to miss the flight if I am still there.

I decided to spoil myself this time, staying in the Aria, and flying business class, using air miles left over from my company days. When I went to book, the agent told me that there was a special offer on the day of my flight out, and for 10% more than business class (BA Club World), I could go First Class. I had never travelled First before, so snapped up that offer. I have always had a sort of idiotic superstition that if you behave like you have no money worries then you won’t have. Life has treated me well, and I have never had much reason to abandon that plan. (Another way in which I am lucky is that I have a great wife who indulges my poker passion, and was more than ok with me going. Vegas in the summer is her idea of hell, so I travelled alone).


I did a fairly sick amount of preparation for the Main this time around. Some of the things I would highlight as most valuable were:

- PokerGo live coverage of the 2017 Main Event.

- Hunter Cichy – Advanced Concepts in No-limit Holdem. This book focuses quite a lot on cash poker, but a lot of it seems applicable to deep-stack tournament play, and I found it really well-written. He thinks very clearly and explains his thoughts well, with nice insights on things like the sort of board where you should consider checking strong hands in position, and the sort of board where leading turn and bombing river as a bluff is most likely to work.

- Andrew Brokos – Thinking Poker Diaries. This is a series of 8 short books, each one covering his run in the Main Event for a particular year.

- Jonathan Little – Cashing the WSOP Main Event.

I found the Andrew Brokos series invaluable for getting into the right frame of mind, and they would be top of my recommendations for anyone making similar preparation.

The live coverage of previous Main Events is also a must. Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman led the commentary team, and as well as being entertaining I got a great deal from their observations on how hands were played. Watching live coverage from Day 1 right through gives you a great feel for the pace of the game, and the value of patience in that format.


My own playing style is fairly conservative, but certainly not old-school TAG. I understand that to have a chance in these large events you need to win your share of pots where you either start with nothing, or end up with nothing. I have a maths / software background, and while I am too lazy to put in deep mathematical study away from the table, I have some understanding of GTO play, of the need to balance ranges, and the need to have a reasonable number of bluffs in your range. As a sixty-ish man, usually smart-casually dressed, I am able to use my table image to get big bluffs through sometimes, and often get raised eyebrows when forced to show down a “funky” hand, or a failed bluff.

I’ll include a few hand examples in the report, but please be gentle with me – I am interested in comments, but I’m well aware that I’m an amateur and fall miles short of the standard of most on here.


I booked my outward flight for 1st July, and registered for Day 1B on 3rd, planning to take a rest day on the 2nd, looking over my preparation materials. (I registered by bank transfer. It is fairly well documented on the WSOP site, but PM me if anyone needs advice on how that all works).

That’s it for post number one.
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:19 PM   #2
Eri_manga
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Nice preview! Subbed and looking forward to reading the rest of your trip. I married into a mostly Irish family so I’m rooting for you.
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:46 PM   #3
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Looking forward to this!
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:42 AM   #4
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Ok, the day has finally arrived, probably seven months after I got management approval to go (Thanks love x), and I set off. My sick preparation included buying new suitcase, backpack and “man bag” for the trip, and planning pretty much what to wear each day – I’ll not go into some of my superstitions about those things, but I’m pretty sure I put more thought into them than most.

One of my concerns was getting cash safely there. I brought with me $9000 in cash to cover a worst case scenario of fallback tournaments. That is within the allowable limit, but I have heard stories of cash disappearing on the way through airport security. I divided my 90 “benjamins” into four piles, putting them in two wallets, a money belt and an envelope, thinking that those smaller piles should not be too conspicuous in the scanners. I tried to keep my backpack in sight as I went through each security check, and all went smoothly.


First Class was nice, although not the “wow” I was expecting. On my return I got a window seat in Club World, and I would not pay extra again for the upgrade. In First, you get pajamas, proper sheets and a duvet, but BA Club already gives you a flat bed that is easy to sleep in. Here are a couple of pictures. I followed my usual formula for long-haul – two scotch and gingers, two glasses of wine with dinner, and I am usually able to sleep after that. So it proved, and I arrived in Vegas feeling quite fresh.



One advantage of First, though, is that you move swiftly through the airports, so it was quite a short time from touchdown to arriving at the hotel.

As I walked in to the Aria room, the TV came on playing soft music, the blinds drew back slowly, revealing a view over the Rio and other resorts, and the lights came up slowly. Fairly simple technology really, but unexpected and I was impressed.



I knew it would be silly to play on the 2nd, and I had actually booked a Cirque de Soleil show to make sure that I would not end up getting tempted, but I realised that I had time to make the 10pm Deepstack game at the Rio (not bad, considering I left London at 5.30pm UK time). I thought that made sense, to get me used to the surroundings and the feel of the tables, and I certainly did not feel ready for bed.

Uber to Rio. Uber works really well here, with one caveat – most of the casinos seem to have chosen locations for Uber pick-up that are deep in parking garages or similar, where wifi and cellular networks have no signal. This means you have to book the car first, then hurry to the pick-up point and hope for the best. I suppose their concierges get more tips from regular cab passengers. Once I got used to this, Uber was easily the best option for me.

It took only a couple of minutes to pick up my Main Event seat at the FasTrac table, and then about three quarters of an hour of queuing to register for the Deepstack. Lots of people getting $10k counted, and there seemed to be quite a few problems with ID issues etc. I later found out that there is a separate dedicated desk for Deepstack registration that would probably have saved me time.

This Deepstack has 10k chips and 20 minute blinds, but it plays really badly. There are a couple of hours of re-entry, and there were a lot of people playing double-up or re-enter gambles, and generally splashing around. I went out quickly after getting it in twice with top pair against optimists with flopped flush draws and nothing else. I decided not to bother re-entering.

I later found out that the 1pm and the 10pm games play this way, and the other two, at 4pm and 7pm are much better. I think the 1pm game starts crazy because it ends up with the biggest prize pool, and people are prepared to gamble at the start to build a big stack.


I had planned to spend the 2nd by the pool, looking over my preparation, but when I walked out there I walked straight back in again – much too hot for me, even in the shade. I spent the afternoon in the room, getting organised and then watching PokerGo – 2017 coverage, and some of Day 1a this year.

I had an early dinner at PF Chang, a nice Chinese restaurant at the front of Planet Hollywood, before heading to my show. It was Zumanity, at New York, New York casino. I had not researched it – just picked it because it was nearby - and it turned out to be a poor choice. It is an “adult” show, and much less original than the other Cirque du Soleil shows I have seen – standard adult cabaret with beautiful dancers, stand-up comedians embarrassing those near the front (I used some of my poker skills to become invisible in my front row seat, and managed to avoid being picked on), and the usual aerial tumbling. There were a few world class acrobatic performances thrown in, and a memorable set involving two perfect women, a large goldfish bowl full of water, and no clothing, but overall it was just ok.

I had a couple of beers in a hotel bar, deflecting the usual offers of “company”, and was back in the room by 11pm starting to anticipate my 11am start.


Another thing I will mention that is prominent any time I play poker is our syndicate. Around ten years ago, a friend started a poker syndicate, six people in total, with the idea that we play a league of ten or twelve evening games, contributing some money each time, and the league winner gets to represent us in a big game. Most years the Irish Open has been our target tournament. There has been a bit of turnover of people over the years, and the rules have been refined a bit, but it has been a great success. We chose people who all take it quite seriously, and have a variety of playing styles, and there is no doubt that it has helped develop our games significantly.

Sadly, one member, who was our best player and a remarkable guy in many ways, succumbed to cancer a few years ago, after a long and brave fight. The syndicate now bears his name, and his place is now taken by his son. I will keep this report anonymous, so this is not the place to name him and pay tribute, but I always consider that he, and the rest of the syndicate, deserve a lot of credit for any poker successes that I have.

This tournament is out of the reach of the syndicate budget, but they always provide a great Whatsapp rail, and if I get a deep run in anything they will always have at least a small piece.

End of post two – more poker in the remaining posts, I promise!
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:23 AM   #5
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Ooooo, nice so far! Keep it up.
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Old 07-18-2018, 01:55 PM   #6
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Subbed.

Spoiler - I will be appropriately disappointed if(when) you bust out of the Main AND appropriately happy if you should have success in a fallback event.
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Old 07-18-2018, 03:10 PM   #7
Stu Ungar
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rimlog View Post

One of my concerns was getting cash safely there. I brought with me $9000 in cash to cover a worst case scenario of fallback tournaments. That is within the allowable limit, but I have heard stories of cash disappearing on the way through airport security. I divided my 90 “benjamins” into four piles, putting them in two wallets, a money belt and an envelope, thinking that those smaller piles should not be too conspicuous in the scanners. I tried to keep my backpack in sight as I went through each security check, and all went smoothly.
Very enjoyable trip report and photos..thanks, OP!

One question, though..is the above really any cause for concern?

I don't know what the problem would be if you simply had $9,000 in your pants pocket. You are going to Las Vegas, for chrissakes..that's what most people are walking around with..
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Old 07-18-2018, 03:28 PM   #8
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Ungar View Post

One question, though..is the above really any cause for concern?

I don't know what the problem would be if you simply had $9,000 in your pants pocket. You are going to Las Vegas, for chrissakes..that's what most people are walking around with..
Traveling domestically, it should not be a problem. But there are declaration issues with large sums of currency when going through Customs. I agree that $9K is not a large sum for some people, but there are no carve-outs in the laws for 'but I was going to Vegas...get with the program guys' sort of situation. And while the $9K is below the threshold requirements, I would be inclined to err on the side of caution...

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/det...-into-or-leave gives more detail.
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Old 07-18-2018, 07:04 PM   #9
Rimlog
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Ungar View Post
Very enjoyable trip report and photos..thanks, OP!

One question, though..is the above really any cause for concern?

I don't know what the problem would be if you simply had $9,000 in your pants pocket. You are going to Las Vegas, for chrissakes..that's what most people are walking around with..
I have seen a few posts on this site about security staff seeing a block of cash in luggage, separating people from their bag for long enough for it to disappear.

I think you would be unlucky to be a victim, but it seems an unnecessary risk to leave the notes in one pile, which would show up clearly in the scanner.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:02 PM   #10
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Keep up the good work!
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Old 07-19-2018, 03:22 AM   #11
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

i took 10k over and 31k usd back, no issues, just declare and keep in your man bag, do not put in luggage haha

gl
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Old 07-20-2018, 10:28 AM   #12
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Unsurprisingly, I woke up early, at around 8am, and I soon realised that I was not going to be able to get back to sleep. If you don’t have at least a wee bit of childish excitement going into the Main Event you probably shouldn’t be playing!

The Aria cafe has a good range of breakfast options, so I headed down, armed with a tablet to watch some of 2017’s live PokerGo coverage, to get in the right frame of mind. I also keep a small notebook where I have been noting down bits of last-minute advice to myself, for reading before the start. Most of the advice is about forcing myself to take time for any decision that could commit me to a big pot, and about choosing lower variance options in this tournament – obvious stuff, but most big poker decisions that I have regretted in the past have been made too quickly.

After double-checking that I have packed everything that I might need for the day, I headed down early, to get tuned to my surroundings, find the table, grab a water bottle and a Starbucks etc.

The last time I came over for the Main, I was disappointed that the tournament areas became quiet and lacking in atmosphere as the tournament moved on, leaving Main survivors playing in the corner of fairly empty rooms. This year, the schedule is better, with more side events coinciding with later stages of the Main. The atmosphere was great here throughout the entire trip. I hope the organisers agree that it is an improvement and stick with this approach.

Waiting for the doors to open:



I sat down at my table in good time, and started checking out my table-mates. About three seats stayed empty for the first half-hour. I decided this was not good news, as pros are more likely to sit down late, but the players that did turn up gave me no cause for alarm. Several of them looked to be in their fifties, fitting the stereotype of the wealthy small businessmen that make up the bulk of the amateurs playing the Main. There was a Japanese-looking lady of about 40, who looked a bit nervous. The youngest player was an athletic looking big man of about 35, wearing headphones – the most likely to be a pro so far.





Obligatory stack photo:



Loving the structure, as I knew I would. Slow structures suit my game in general, and I like having time to assess the table before getting too heavily involved.

After half an hour or so, I was feeling very comfortable. No one is playing particularly aggressive or crazy, and it is not too expensive to see flops. There are two players at the table that seem bad – the Japanese lady, and a serial limp-caller of about 55. The Japanese lady plays a tight starting range, but she does not seem to take account of how the board changes the strength of her hand. She has paid off a couple of times with big starting hands on raggy boards where she could never still be good. I have successfully punished the limp-caller a couple of times, raising his limp and c-betting to take the pot.

One quite lucky hand in the first level (75/150). The limp-caller limped in early position about three places to my right. I limped behind with 66, preferring to set-mine than try and punish this time. One other limper and the big blind checked his option. Flop was T45 rainbow. The first limper bet half pot, and I called. The other two folded. Turn was a 3. Check-check. River was an off-suit 7 – not bad! He bet 1k. I made it 3k and got the call. He had pocket fives – unlucky sir!

Played one hand of significance this level with the Japanese lady. I raised in early position to 350 with 6d5d. The Japanese lady made it 700 from the small blind, and I called. The flop came 975, with one diamond. She bet 800, and I called with a pair and a gutshot. Td on the turn gave me more outs, and I called her bet of 1200. The river was another 5, giving me trips. She bet 1200. I made it 3200. She called, and mucked – I’m guessing an overpair.

I finished level one on a very satisfactory 62k. Although I got lucky in those two hands, I played plenty of other more standard ones. I am feeling very comfortable at my table and “in the zone”.

The table has got a bit tougher, with two of the three empty places taken by sub-thirty players who seem quite strong, and the third by a guy in his early forties who is active and fairly aggressive. I have chatted a good bit with a young guy to my left. He is an Irish on-line pro, who has played the Main three times before with one deep run to three-hundred and somethingth. Likeable young lad, and he certainly seems to play well.

Level two did not go so well. Early on, I ran 88 into 99, and 99 into TT in successive hands with raggy boards, and paid off a bit in each case.

One key hand was against the forty-something player, whom I will call Splashy. He plays a lot of pots fairly recklessly, not counting bets but throwing in a handful of chips. He raised from the cutoff, and I decided to flat with AhKh in the small blind. I like to mix it occasionally, and slow-playing a hand that can hit big against a loose and aggressive player seemed like a good time to do so. The flop came JTx, with two hearts. We both checked (I was ready to check-raise, and was surprised when he checked behind). I led on a small black turn card. He called. The river was a black king – one of only a few outs that did not give me the nuts. I bet 2600. He made it 7500. I thought for a good while, and decided to call – my hand was under-represented, and I decided he had some worse holdings, and maybe some bluffs (given my image) in his raising range. He had KK – the hand could have gone a lot worse.

After that, I laid down two pots to the same player, in both cases when I checked decent bluff-catcher hands to him and he fired big overbets.

That player has dominated the table since he arrived, running like god and playing very aggressively. I am not the only player to give him chips – he has had unlikely winners each time he has been called.

I have some decisions to make in this spot. I came to the competition with a clear strategy of taking my time and playing small-ball, arrogant enough to think that I have an edge on the Day One field. With this guy on the table, your chips are on the line each time you enter a pot with him. He is prepared to put you all-in in a heartbeat, either with a strong draw, or with a bluff. I decided that I can’t just batten down the hatches and survive. Even if I folded my way to Day Two, I could easily find a similar table captain tomorrow. I decided to tighten up a good bit, but be prepared to go with it if I think I am in a strong spot.

I started level three at about 38k (starting stack was 50k) – still a huge stack in terms of BB. Splashy raised form the hijack to 800. I found black kings, and made it 2300, with him the only caller. The flop was a beautiful / ugly KJ8, all hearts. We both checked the flop. Turn was Qd, and I bet 2500, getting a call. The river was a small black card. He bet 3500. I made it 10k, and he folded.

At the start of level four, the Japanese lady has gone, and the other possibly bad player, the limp-caller is down to 9k. The table has become a lot harder.

I struggled badly in this level, all against Splashy. I paid him off with 77 on a TT632 board, when he had the unlikely ten (T6o), and a couple of other similar ones. He does not seem to miss, and is inflicting similar pain on the rest of the table.

I went into the last session of the night with 27k – still over 50bb.

Early in the level, he raised his button (my bb) as he had done every time. I had AQo, and made a standard 3-bet, which he called. The flop came ace high with three spades, but otherwise fairly safe (no spade in my hand). I made a standard-sized 3-bet, which he called. At this point, I am 100% sure of my read, that he has a junky hand with a single spade. I have just over a pot-sized bet. I decided to make a committing bet of about 90% of my chips. For some reason I feel he will call that but fold to a shove, and I want his chips in as a >80% dog. That is exactly what happens, and my heart sinks as the ugly spade comes. I don’t have the heart to try and spin up my remaining change into a playable hand, and throw it in. My read proves exactly right. Despite being a nightmare to play against, he is a nice guy, and graciously apologetic about busting me. I manage to exit fairly graciously myself, although it almost feels like someone else talking.

I walk up and down the corridors of the Rio, stunned and too tilted to even think straight for about half an hour. Eventually, after ranting to my syndicate friends for a bit, and registering for a $1500 no-limit side event two days later, I start to calm down.

I have thought a lot about it since then, and –painful and inevitable as it all was – I don’t think I have any regrets. I put my chips in with better odds than AA v KK pre-flop (not quite sure why I was so certain of my read, but it proved correct), and was rightly pleased to get the call. If the spade does not come, I more than double up on the hand.

I go through the rest of the night feeling fairly lost, without even enough enthusiasm to get drunk. One bright side of it, which makes me feel a bit better, is that I came with a programme of fallback tournaments in several different casinos. Although a deep run in the Main would have been very exciting, I would have ended up seeing only the Rio Convention Center, and I will now get a broader view of Vegas, which may be better fun overall.
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Old Yesterday, 05:18 PM   #13
Sheep86
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Re: Vegas Trip Report - around WSOP Main Event

Interesting read. I can hardly believe it's actually possible to have such a luxurious airplane seat! Anyway, looking forward to the next installment.
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