I really only had a few goals for my trip to Las Vegas this weekend:
(1) Play the Aria 1pm poker tournament on Saturday
(2) Put in some solid hours at the craps tables
(3) Have an enjoyable time doing (1) and (2) above
I’m happy to say that I achieved all of those goals. Las Vegas really is an awesome place in small doses. I don’t know if I could handle the gambling lifestyle for more than a couple of days, but a weekend is just about perfect.
I arrived at our hotel in Las Vegas around 9pm from the airport. We stayed at Vdara, so I dropped my bags off, got a quick bite to eat, and hit the craps tables next door at Aria for a bit.
The night was pretty uneventful for awhile, with me swiftly dusting off $300 in a matter of an hour or so, as nobody could really get anything going. I decided to fire another $300 bullet and ending up making my original money back, thanks to a woman who rolled for 40 minutes in one of the most incredible rolls I’ve ever been a part of. Not because of how much money it produced, but just the improbability of some of the rolls.
For example, a young guy to our left had bet $5 on the ‘All or Nothing at All’ bet, which would pay 176 to 1 if the roller could hit every number (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12) before rolling a 7.
Over the course of her roll, the shooter had hit every number except for 11, 12, and 9 (which was the original point). The guy to my left decided to bet $5 on a 12, which is a one time bet (either she rolls and 12 and he gets paid 31 to 1 or she doesn’t and he loses $5). Naturally, she rolled a 12 and my man collected $155 on the roll.
On the very next hand, needing only a 9 and 11 for the ‘All’, he bet $5 on the 11, which pays 16 to 1. Boom, the shooter nailed the 11 for an $80 payout.
Now, only a 9 was needed for him to collect another $880 dollars. Alas, it was not to be, but he did end up turning approximately $500 into almost $3,000 over the course of the woman’s roll. It was pretty remarkable. I was just happy to have recouped my losses, so I went back to the hotel room to get some sleep before the Aria poker tournament the next day.
For weeks I had been planning to play the $125 buy-in poker tournament at Aria, which starts at 1pm daily. My fiancée, Kasey, had to work, so I wanted something that I could do while I was by myself without risking potentially losing all my money on a big craps swing.
While walking through the casino on my way to the poker room, I noticed they had just opened up some $10 craps tables. As I was a bit wary that the poker tournament could potentially last deep into the night, and because I can’t resist an attractive craps situation, I almost just skipped it and played craps instead. Almost.
I’m really glad I didn’t.
Instead, I registered around 12:30 and took my seat at Table 3, Seat 4. The Aria poker room has several TVs that were showing college basketball, so at least I had something to do while I waited for the tournament to begin.
Each player started the tournament with 10,000 chips and blinds at 25-50. The large starting stacks, coupled with thirty minute blind levels, really made for a great structure to the tournament. I didn’t feel like I had to make a bunch of moves early on. Instead, I felt that I could be patient and look for good situations to commit chips to the pot.
A total of 144 players entered the tournament, building a prize pool of almost $14,000 (after adjusting for money withheld for tournament staff). As a result, the top 15 finishers would be paid at least $186. First prize was $4,300 while the top four finishers were guaranteed at least $1,100.
The tournament started off pretty slow. I wasn’t dealt many hands to begin with, so I just hung around the 10,000-chip starting stack for the first few levels.
I finally doubled up when I called a raise with Ace-Queen of hearts and saw a flop of Q-6-4 with two clubs. The original raiser bet, I moved all in, and he called with Jack-Ten of clubs. He missed his clubs and I was up to almost 25,000 in chips.
Eventually our table broke and I was moved to another table. Again, I sort of hung around 20,000 chips or so as the blind levels continued to get larger. Eventually, with approximately 50 or 60 players remaining, I was dealt Q-Q and ended up getting all-in against a short stack with 9-9 and another player who had A-A.
I was in terrible shape and it looked as though my tournament was about to come to an end. The first four cards on the board came off K-4-J-8, meaning I could only catch a queen to stay alive, a feat that only had an approximately 8% chance of happening. Luckily, I caught a queen on the river, propelling my stack to almost 50,000.
For the next few hours, the field dwindled from 50 players, down to 30, down to 20, and before I knew it, we were in the money. Nothing crazy or spectacular happened along the way. I just received a couple well-timed double ups (10-10 vs 5-5 and J-J vs A-K) to keep pace and was dealt some big hands (A-A, K-K, J-J again, A-K and A-Q a couple of times) that allowed me to steadily build my chip stack and keep pace with the leaders.
By the time we made the final table, there were a number of short stacks who had to make moves because the blinds were getting so high. We lost a few players pretty quickly and were down to six without me really playing any hands.
Once we were six-handed, I made a few raises to steal chips to maintain my stack size. I got lucky when I moved all in with A-3 in the small blind and was called by the big blind’s 7-7. I hit an ace on the flop and doubled to more than 200,000 chips. The big blind would go on to bust out in sixth place a few hands later and collect $684.
With five players left, two players with identical chip stacks got all in with A-J vs K-Q. The K-Q hand won and we were down to four players, with the A-J player finishing 5th place for $829. At this point, the chip stacks were as follows:
1st – Middle-aged gentleman from Chicago 512,000
2nd – Young kid from West Texas 492,000
3rd – Me 262,000
4th – Older gentleman from Las Vegas 166,000
With a little over $10,000 remaining in the prize pool, the four of us agreed to a chop based on chip counts, meaning we would each receive a portion of the prize pool correlated to our percentage of the remaining chips in play. Based on this calculation, we agreed to split up the prize pool and end the tournament.
I ultimately collected $2,097 for my efforts and tipped the tournament staff $100 because they really did a great job running this tournament and helped sort out any issues and answer any questions. The Aria poker room is incredibly well-run, and although I’ve only been there this one time, I will definitely go back in the future.
Here’s the proof of my first ever Las Vegas tournament cash:
The tournament lasted until after 10pm, and by the time I collected my winnings it was 10:30. I met up with Kasey and we grabbed some drinks with our friend Eric before heading back to Aria for some late-night craps action.
We started out pretty poorly at the craps table for the second consecutive night. The table was pretty cold, and every time someone started to get a semi-lengthy roll going a seven ended the action.
Around 2am, all of our luck changed. The player two to our right rolled for at least a half hour, which helped to dig us out of our deficit. When it was my turn, I rolled for a similar amount of time, including hitting a couple of ‘hard eights’ with $25 bets on the line, each paying out $225.
By the time we had cashed out and headed back to the room, we ended the night well into the black.
After all of the excitement from Friday and Saturday, I decided to just take it easy today. We ordered room service for breakfast and watched the NFL football games from our room. After all, I have to catch my flight back to San Francisco at 8:15 and feel pretty content with my winnings for the weekend.
Again, it was another successful trip to Las Vegas, and I can’t wait to return in the near future!
Until next time, Vegas. Until next time.