Vegas: May 2012 Part III – Positive EV

If you missed Part I or Part II, you might want to get caught up.

Harrah’s is trying to kill blackjack.  Forgive me if I refer to the company as “Harrah’s,” by the way – I’m old school like that.   They have, of course, been taken private and then taken public again as Caesars ($CZR: no positions), but they’ll always be Harrah’s (remember HET?) to me.  Anyway, Harrah’s is taking full advantage of the stupidity of the average American and stuffing their casino floors with blackjack tables which pay 6-5 on blackjack instead of 3-2.  No – not just single deck tables – shoe games too.  Amazing.   I guess it’s kinda an interesting “game theory” question for the House:  they’d obviously rather offer 6-5 blackjack instead of 3-2 blackjack, and yet, if they are the only ones to do so, then in theory the 6-5 tables should get much less action as the players flock to the 3-2 tables.   What Harrah’s has going for it are a few things:  1) the gamblers don’t seem to know or care and 2) Harrah’s has such a massive presence on the Strip that the unaware gambler might not realize that it’s just Harrah’s properties that are offering the crappy odds, because there are so many Harrah’s properties!   Will the other casino operators band together with Harrah’s in a sort of blackjack “price fixing” scandal and switch the entire strip to 6-5 payouts?  We can only hope not…

Sunday we woke up and Big Show and Lou were departing in the early afternoon.   We decided to go dominate the “pop-a-shot” craps game at the Palazzo.  This thing is tremendous:  you may have seen the new model roulette games that are a standalone electronic setup where the player sits at his own little terminal, and the ball spins in the middle of the terminal bank?  Well they have the same thing for craps now too:  you sit around this little “cage” where there’s a big set of dice on a vibrating/bumping pad controlled by the “shooter.”  Here’ s a little screenshot I stole from Aruze’s website – they are the maker of the game:

Aruze's Shoot To Win Craps

So, look – I’m pretty good at math, but I get stressed by the action of making sure my craps bets are rounded for efficient payouts (ie, when a bet pays 7-6, you don’t want to bet $25, you want to bet $30) and keeping track of all my action and watching for dealer mistakes.   This “shoot-to-win” craps takes all the details out of it – you just get paid off  in odd number “cents” instead of worrying about dollar rounding.     So you have this little touch screen – you put in money like a vending machine – and you can place all of your bets with ease.  Then one person is the shooter, and they get to hit this little red plunger in front of them to make the platform jump and “shake” the dice.   The comparison to Press Your Luck is automatic – it’s guaranteed that within 10 minutes someone will be yelling NO WHAMMIES!   The biggest downside to the game is that there’s only one “voice” that I heard programmed into the machine, which gets annoying after a while.   We figured that there must be something odd with the payouts on this game – like maybe they were pulling a Harrah’s and paying you off with inferior odds – but no: we couldn’t find any discrepancies from the “brick and mortar” craps table.

Tubbs put on quite a display pounding the plunger and bouncing his significant girth out of his stool simultaneously, as if the plunger was plunging his chair as well.    The kid next to me turned $100 into $700 in a hurry by pounding the 30-1 snake-eyes bet… I booked a $200 win when Snake Eyes’ buddy rolled 18 times before 7’ing out.

We decided to make one final double deck blackjack assault before Big Show had to catch his plane, and we monopolized a table in the usual ex-Salon pit at Palazzo.  We had a veteran dealer, I’ll call her “Crystal,” who had just given her two week notice.  She was excited to have some engaging customers, but couldn’t handle my banter, as I managed to put her on supreme bajungi tilt.   When I tucked a blackjack facedown I thought she was going to have a stroke.  Then, having gotten her rambling about her side business teaching blackjack, we found some positive EV when she started making mistakes.   On one hand, she left my cards out there and paid off the other bets, sweeping all the other cards and her own off the table.   On another, she forgot to give Tubbs, who was sitting in the 3rd base seat, a second card.  I had QQ vs a dealer 4, and the pit boss came over and gave each player the OPTION to take their bet back!   Free look!  “Can I increase my wager?”  I inquired, but alas, there is a limit to the freeroll.   Tubbs was given a second card and THEN the free option.  Great stuff.

On another hand, I made the nuts (aka, 21), announcing “THE NUTTTTS”  proudly.   Lou interrupted sarcastically, “Please – it’s The NUT,” and I explained to the dealer, “Lou only has one testicle,”  as Tubbs again tried not to spit his drink on the table and Big Show cackled out loud. (note: true story – Lou beat nut cancer.  Attaboy, Lou!)

Big Show and Lou headed for the airport, and one seat was taken by a guy who turned out to be a member of the Korean National Water Polo team!  And I don’t mean just like “I tell people I’m on the Korean National Water Polo team to give them a sarcastic career when they ask me what I do,”  I mean, he was really on the team.   We had somewhat of a language barrier, but he said something about Matt Biondi and some silver medals.   Then the dealer asked him how old he was, and he said “33 USA, but 34 Korea” and made a motion over his belly of a pregnant lady, implying that in Korea they count from inception I guess?

This guy was awesome – a true “feel” player who would just slam his bets randomly: $25 one hand, $500 the next, stacking up his green chips.   He colored down some black chips for green, then pushed them all into the betting circle anyway – one of my favorite moves!  I ran into this guy on the casino floor late that night and greeted him, “Heyyy! Water polo!” and he snapped out of his drunken stupor enough to high five me and mutter something about whiskey.

I told Tubbs that we had to walk over to the Wynn and play some Pai Gow while enjoying Steve Wynn’s delicious high quality fresh squeezed fruit juices as quality alcohol mixers.   See, Venetian doesn’t even serve fresh OJ anymore, which put me on bajungi tilt, and made it impossible for me to order my standard Sunday morning “deconstructed mimosa” – a glass of champagne and a glass of fresh OJ.   So we walked over to the Wynn to find that – holy crap – even Stevie cut out the real fruit juices!  I was on BAJUNGI tilt, but our PaiGow dealer was on some even higher level of tilt, for unknown reasons.  One minute she was all friendly, then a new guy in the first base seat misplayed his hand – he didn’t play his hand illegally, he just played it sub-optimally:  he kept A-K-x-x-x on the bottom, and had J-T on the top.   The dealer was telling him it was illegal, and I said “no it’s not,” and she called the pit boss over who instantly said “it’s ok – protecting the ace.”   I told the guy in the first base seat, sarcastically, “see, just say you were protecting the ace,”  and he immediately started playing along, “yeah, that’s obviously what I was trying to do.”   He told us about his journey to Singapore Sands ($LVS – no positions) – and said it was indescribable.   The guy was in charge of online advertising for Toyota, but amazingly he hadn’t heard of my blog.  I offered him ad placements in exchange for a Corolla. “Why wouldn’t you ask for a Land Rover?”  He wondered.  “I didn’t want to push my luck,”  I laughed.

On the next hand, Mr. Singapore Sands actually mis-set his PaiGow hand in an illegal manner, and the dealer called the pit boss.  She was going nuts – WICKED combative for no good reason – and asked how many times they were going to let him get away with it.  “He says that last night they reset it for him twice,” she told the pit boss.  “Well then we’ll reset it for him THREE times,”  the pit boss replied, offering her no cover.   She said “starting with this one, or with the last one?”   “The last one wasn’t illegal,”  he replied.  And then this lady basically started YELLING at us!   Holy crap, Steve Wynn – WTF?   Definitely not conduct becoming of a $WYNN (no positions) dealer!   I told Tubbs “we are leaving,”  and we left, heading back to the Venetian for some dinner at Public House.

Public House hands you an Ipad which has their extensive beer list on it – a nice gimmick.   Tubbs and I got a little gourmet with the gastro-pub fare and then went to hit the poker room.

So I was in pretty rough shape at this point – dead tired, kinda drunk – and I realized as soon as I walked to my 1-2NL table (roughly midnight on Sunday, now) that I was in an interesting spot:  I was clearly The Sucker! (I mean, in THEIR minds, obviously.. DYKWTFIA?  I will never really be the sucker at the 1-2NL table!)   I could feel my tablemates drooling as I strolled up with my to-go beer cup from Public House, asking “is there a max buy-in at this table?”   I got myself some chips, and sat down in a less-than-active game.  I did, however, mange to get hit in the face with the deck a bit – flopping a set three times in the 3 1/2 hour session.   I’d won a few hands, and after I raised to $10 with QQ in middle position, I smooth called when a nitty old guy re-popped me from the button to $25.  The flop came Q high and I got sneaky and check-called a $40 bet.   He checked behind me on the turn, but called my $75 river bet when an ace peeled off.  My hand was good, of course.

Later, this Asian girl wearing flashing light-up cat ears sat down to my immediate left.  She ran into set-under-set on her first hand and didn’t even flinch.  I was impressed – she just shrugged and rebought.  She didn’t take it so well the second time against me 90 minutes later:  I made it $10 to go with TT.   She called, as did 2 others.  “ONE TIME!”  She said, leaning toward me.  “For ME? or for YOU?”  I joked.

The flop came T-8-5 and I fired out: $25.   She called.  The others folded.

Turn:  4.  I bet $60.  She went into this “counting” routine which she’d done about 2 orbits earlier, looking like she was counting outs on her fingers.  Last time she did this she folded.  This time, she announced “I raise… this much” and slid what I thought was her whole stack forward, but she had left about $65 behind.   I SNAP called – erroneously – I should have shoved of course – and her bet was $155 total.   The river was a 9 and I pushed my chips in – I had her covered.  “I have to call you” she shrugged and I turned over my hand.  She tables 8-8, and still wasn’t on full bajungi tilt, despite getting set-over-setted for the second time.   I went to the bathroom, and when I returned, she was getting raised with A-K on a king high flop, and was FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT.  This was the kinda game where if you got raised you were in trouble, and she knew it, but the tilt was flowing in her veins like the Dark Side of the Force through Darth Vader.   She managed to lay her hand down, and I picked up my chips – up $422 –  and went to bed.

Monday morning, we woke up, and Tubbs set a new land-speed record by making it from the Palazzo room to the Wynn Sports Book and back in under 28 minutes.   We had breakfast at Grand Luxe II, and then he had to head for the airport.  I spent the afternoon slumming in the 1-2 NLHE game again, and was again on the right side of a cold deck.  I’d built my $200 buy-in up to $350, and was about to rack up my chips and head for the airport when I looked down at AA.   A woman under the gun who hadn’t played a hand in 90 minutes opened for $15, and I made it $40.  She called.  The flop came ten high and she checked.

I bet $60.  She shook her head and called.   Over-pair, for sure.  How do I make sure I don’t lose her?   Turn was another brick, and she checked to me.

I fired $135.   She shrugged, shook her head, looked at her seat-neighbor, and called.

The river blanked off and she pushed her last $85 into the pot.  As I reached for my chips, she asked, “Aces?”   I nodded, and tabled my hand as she turned over kings.    I cashed out up almost $500 and headed for the airport.

“Airport – don’t take the highway please,”  I told my cabbie.

“Why you don’t like the highway?”  He inquired

“Cause I don’t like to drive an extra 5 miles all the way around the airport,” I explained

“Oh – someone got you with that one?  That’s like $10 extra,” he replied

“Yes, I know – they ALWAYS try that move,”  I answered

“There’s a better highway that comes out right on Tropicana,” he urged, and basically took me around behind MGM (EDIT:  not MGM: The Mirage) and Caesars instead of behind Venetian and Harrah’s.    Koval/Paradise are still a better route, but this “highway” wasn’t anything like the full circle bajungi-tilting highway route.

My flight home was uneventful, getting me back to my house around 1:30am where I met Benny for the first time on the night before his surgery.

Until next time…



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