Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shamus in Vegas: Episode 6 -- The Place That Made Poker Famous

Binion's Gambling Hall and CasinoTook the shuttle Friday morning back up to the strip, then caught the Deuce (the crosstown bus, so named ’cos it’s two bucks a ride) to Fremont Street. Arrived about 11 a.m. and spent a good while just wandering around the “Fremont Street Experience,” those five blocks covered by the barrel canopy where one finds historic places like the Golden Nugget, the Four Queens, and -- my intended destination here -- Binion’s Gambling Hall and Casino.

Took my time, walking all of the way around the perimeter of Binion’s, then finally walked through one of the many entrances. Moved quickly through the standard array of slots and blackjack tables to find the “World Famous Poker Room” -- probably the largest space devoted to poker of any of the places I played or visited during the week. Not a lot was happening, but there were a few tables running, including one full table of 2/4 limit. I actually hadn’t specifically intended to play at Binion’s, but seeing the opportunity went ahead and put my name on the list. I had a few other items on my schedule for the afternoon -- including visiting the Gambler’s Bookshop (located a few blocks away from Binion’s) -- and so knew I wouldn’t necessarily be playing more than a couple of hours.

Binion's entranceEventually enough of us gathered for a new table to be opened, and I took my seat along with four others at a table near the back of the room. As had happened at the MGM, the game began short-handed, but it didn’t take very long for the empty seats to get filled with players. I sat down in seat 3, and from my vantage point could see the Hold ’em Radio booth where a man in a red-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt and black baseball cap was stationed behind a couple of computers and a microphone. Made a mental note to stop over there when I was done.

Binion’s was probably my favorite of all the rooms I played last week. The staff was friendly, the dealers solid (and in a couple of cases, highly entertaining), and most of the other players were fun to be around. Also worth noting -- while Binion’s also takes the standard 10% or $4 maximum rake, they give players a break when you’re shorthanded, only charging $1 max. when five-handed, and $2 max. when six-handed. They also allow new players to be dealt into a hand right away without posting.

People came and went, but here’s an idea of what the table looked like for most of the time I was there:



A dealer early on asked where everyone was from, which explains some of those names. Heineken Harry had worried me a bit when he first sat down to my left, but he turned out to be a so-so player who would eventually lose his whole buy-in chasing hands while ordering beer after beer. (When he finally busted, he scurried away quickly before the waitress could return with yet another.) Sammy Sideburns probably won the most while I was there, sucking out on multiple occasions (though essentially playing solid poker). Hawaiian Hothead did throw his cards once after an unfortunate beat and had to be reprimanded by the dealer for his language. My toughest opponent turned out to be Tricky Teacher -- a young woman with whom I ended up chatting a bit. Learned that she taught reading to dyslexic ten-year-olds. Also learned she was a successful NL player who’d played at Binion’s before. I’d end up tangling with her a couple of times (see below).

I again bought in for $100 and started out folding a lot of hands (my usual modus operandi, I was discovering). Had trickled down to $85 or so when I picked up pocket rockets in late position and got everybody to fold after a ragged flop. Back to even. If you can believe it, I would get aces two more times at Binion’s -- meaning I had AA in the pocket a total of five times during the 7-8 total hours I played in Vegas. Saw maybe 220-230 hands total, so I ended up getting way more than my fair share of aces last week.

Looking at my notes, I see six hands worth relating. Here they are (in the order they occurred):

(1) After the Nebraska Newlywed raises from UTG, I decide not to call the two bets with 6c5c. A couple of other players call and the flop comes K65-rainbow. Gentle Jim ends up winning the hand with two pair. His holding? 65-offsuit.

(2) Get AsAc on the button. Two players limp, including Tough Luck Tommy. I raise and both call. Flop comes K32 and I bet. Only Tommy calls. The turn is a trey and Tommy bets out. I hesitate a moment, then raise. He just calls. The river is another ace, giving me aces full. Tommy check-calls me, then mucks. I ask him if he had the trey and he nods.

(3) Get aces yet again, this time in the SB. After raising preflop I am left with two opponents, Gentle Jim and Scottish Shannon. The flop comes J75-rainbow. I bet and both call fairly quickly. The turn is another 5, and as the card comes off I actually see Shannon across the table reaching for chips. I check, Jim bets, and Shannon just calls. I debate with myself for a moment whether or not I actually spotted a tell, then decide to let the hand go. The river is a 4. Jim bets, Shannon calls, and Jim shows 86 for a rivered straight. I don’t get to find out what Shannon had, although afterwards I doubted the significance of her having reached for chips. She probably just had a jack and the early reach just meant she was sticking around (and not that the 5 was anything special). Either way, my fold saved me some chips.

(4) I call in late position with a pair of sevens. About five players see a flop of Q22-rainbow. It checks to me and I bet. Only Vocal Vietnamese sticks around. I call him that because of his running commentary on every hand in which he was involved. The turn is a 4, and as he check-calls I think I hear him saying something about high cards (?). The river is a trey. We both check and he waits for me to show first. I go ahead and turn over my sevens, and he mucks. (I have no idea what he was drawing to -- probably had KJ or something.)

I’m sitting right around even when these last two hands occur, both of which see me heads-up against the Tricky Teacher.

(5) I’m UTG and get AT-offsuit. I call and three other players limp in, including Tricky. The flop comes A76 and I bet out. She raises, two other players call, and while I am fairly certain Tricky has me, I stubbornly call as well. The turn is a K and I check. She bets, one player calls, and I stay in. The river I don’t recall, but we check-call Tricky to see her turn over a pair of sixes for a flopped set. I lose $14 on the hand as she takes a nice-sized pot.

(6) The very next hand I’m in the BB and get 4s3h. Tricky limps in, as does most of the table. The flop comes 6c4d2s and I bet. Tricky calls, and (incredibly) the rest of the table folds. The turn is the 4c and I bet again only for Tricky to raise me. “Sixes again?” I ask. She responds with her best Mona Lisa. I call her raise. The river brings the 5d, giving me my gutshot straight. I bet out, and she calls and shows Ad4h. I turn over my hand, nudging the trey out so the dealer can see it. I sheepishly tell Tricky I got lucky, and she doesn’t seem all that put out by it. I profit $16 on that hand.

I leave shortly afterwards, exactly $9 ahead. Up $90.50 overall for the trip.

Walk over to the cage and cash my chips, then stroll over to the Hold ’em Radio booth to see if that guy in the shirt is who I think he is.

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