On Sunday (2nd of June 2013), I’ve returned from my two week vacation in London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Since I’ve spent most of the time in Las Vegas, I’ll focus on that part of the trip in this blog post. As I have used up most of my holiday time and entertainment budget during those weeks, there probably won’t be a vacation entry for a while. Instead, I can concentrate on the novel-writing, game design and gaming side of the blog again. Yay!
By the way, thank you all so much for reading the blog! Before the vacation, the viewer numbers were declining: 224 February, 381 March, 129 April and a measly 100 in May. During the trip, the numbers for May have jumped to 435. What’s more, my previous best day with 94 views on the 20th of February was topped by the 28th of May with 135 views. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Below you can see a few screenshots of the blog stats.
I probably should have split this up into several posts, as it turned out to be my longest blog entry to date. There did not seem to be a good cutting point, so instead I’ve divided it into topics, so that people can skip the parts that don’t interest them. I even ended up removing the parts about burger places, the Terrahertz scanner at the airport, “the range” and sightseeing at the Hoover Dam and the Red Rock Canyon. It still wound up being a really long blog post.
Welcome to America
When I arrived in Las Vegas, the border control office asked the usual question “Why are you visiting the USA?” to which I replied “To win a lot of money, obviously!” The funny part was that the guy was there two weeks later, as I was leaving for London. He asked me whether I did win a lot of money, so – spoiler alert – I told him that while I did not end up winning, I still had a great time.
After leaving London, I’ve spent most of the time in Vegas playing poker tournaments. Before going, I was slightly worried about my performance, but my best friend quoted the movie Mystery Men: “If you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” In all the four tournaments I played, I did well. I played my absolute best and always finished well above average, turning a profit by Thursday. From the places I went to (Wynn, Harrah’s and Venetian) I liked the poker room at the Venetian the best.
Perhaps I have to take back what I wrote in my previous blog entry: Vegas isn’t just about playing cards, the shows are amazing, too. That second week, we mostly focussed on sight seeing, testing burger places and seeing shows. We managed to see one almost every day, starting with Penn & Teller at the Rio on Monday. The mixture of magic and comedy worked really well, but as with most shows in Vegas, it’s important to get good seats. After the show Penn and Teller stuck around to take pictures with the audience, but since we couldn’t be bothered to wait, I snapped some photos with random people (that I have pixeled out, just in case) instead.
Tuesday evening we headed to the V theater at Planet Hollywood to see the 80s show. This one had the highest audience participation of all the shows, was decently priced and was in a small venue, so that we could sit very close to the stage. Overall, I did like this show the best and I’ll be sure to check out more shows at the V theater next time I’m in town. As you can see on the picture with the cast, I’m wearing a “guest star” button, which I got for volunteering as a back ground dancer on the penultimate song.
On Wednesday we decided to see Shania Twain at Caesar’s Palace. My friend suggested it, but he was kidding when he did. I quite like Shania’s music, which made me happily agree. In fact, I insisted. Despite not getting the VIP tickets, we ended up with really good seats. The old scrooge in me did not like the show as much at first, considering that it ended up being the most expensive one. However, objectively it was a stunning performance that was well worth it.
We didn’t see a show on Thursday, because I was busy playing in the World Series of Poker (WSOP). There is a separate section on that further down.
Unfortunately by Friday my WSOP experience had come to an end, leaving the evenings free for more shows. That night we saw Matt Goss at Cleopatra’s Barge within Caesar’s Palace. At some point he was gauging the make-up of the audience by asking “How many Americans are in the house tonight?” The “How many Brits?” question yielded even more cheers. This was followed by Australians, Canadians and Germans, which only prompted me and my friend to cheer. We turned some heads with that. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting anyone to cheer at that, because he followed it up with: “How many Mongolians are in the house?”
This time we did have VIP seats, which included a hand shake and a photo opportunity with Matt Goss after the show. My buddy flat out told him: “We didn’t know who you were.” If I recall correctly, Matt Goss responded with something like “Oh that’s quite all right.” After the provocation, my friend added a compliment: “But we were sure you would deliver. And you did deliver.”
The last show I saw, right before heading for the airport on Saturday, was the ridiculous, but at the same time amazing Tournament of Kings at Excalibur. It’s fake jousting with Merlin instructing the audience to yell “Huzzah!” and “Hear, hear!” at appropriate times. In the end the new king was crowned. We chanted “Long live the king!”, which wasn’t in the script and sadly the rest of the audience didn’t join in. It was a worthy end of the Vegas trip and I’d overall rank it #2 behind the 80s show.
There wasn’t much time to go to clubs, but we did have a look at the Voodoo Lounge at the Rio. It’s a roof top bar / club, with – obviously – an amazing view. Since we were there on a weekday, it wasn’t as busy, but the Americans know how to create atmosphere. They cordoned off some areas in order to keep people packed together, keeping the dance floor occupied.
Sadly we missed deadmau5, who is apparently a resident DJ in Las Vegas at Hakkasan (that only means he’s there once a month).
On the flight back to London, some 29 year old lads from Manchester sat next to me: Adam and Craig and their six buddies had been in Vegas for a week and unlike our sight seeing / poker / burger vacation, they explored the club scene a bit more. I took the opportunity to ask them which one is best in their opinion. They told me that the Wynn has a good night club and that the Cosmopolitan is also good.
The sign up procedure for the World Series of Poker was a bit problematic. First of all, there were long queues. This by itself isn’t so much a problem. However, after waiting in line for about half an hour, I overhear the conversation of the people in front of me: “Can you imagine going through this line and then not having a total rewards card?” to which I said: “Wait, do you need a total rewards card to sign up?” Up to that point, the total rewards card was entirely optional and looked like any other loyalty scheme. The man in front of me turned around and said “Don’t tell me you’re that guy.” Merriment ensued as I left the line to get the total rewards card. Of course there was another queue at that counter. I falsely informed some Germans that their national ID card would be sufficient to sign up, as it had been sufficient at every other place in Vegas. Of course total rewards is “special” again and they wouldn’t accept ID cards. Oops.
Finally I get the card, but by now the line at the tournament registration is twice as long. One and a half hours later I make it to the counter, only to be informed that they do not accept credit cards. Say what? At least this time I negotiated that I could jump the queue and I did not have to wait yet again. All of that aggravation could have been avoided with a sign stating that you absolutely need a total rewards card to sign up (they had a sign that looked like an ad, which just said “do you have a total rewards card?”) and that they only accept cash.
I ended up playing the WSOP event #3, day 1a on Thursday the 30th of May 2013 at 11 a.m. The Brasilia room was divided into different section and I sat on table 6 in the gold section. We had an interesting mix of seasoned old school poker guys and the young internet prodigies. I do not fit into either category, so I told them that I was a tourist. Of course tourist doesn’t always go together with bad player. In fact, we didn’t really have any bad players at the table, but I did not feel outclassed either. Everybody kept 3x-ing during the first level of 25-25 and everyone was super focussed, hardly making any small talk. It was only when I started talking to a chatty dealer that some of them thawed out. What I found particularly interesting was that the hyper-aggressive style of the younger players completely bombed as they shipped their stacks with top pair against one of the old guys two pair.
While I was sitting there, I did see a few poker celebrities. Jason Mercier walked by. I thought I heard Daniel Negreanu‘s laugh. The day before I saw Scotty Nguyen walk around the corridors near registration. Towards the end of the day I noticed that Xuan Liu sat at table gold #10, but I wasn’t sure it was her, so I had to double or triple take. This is particularly embarrassing as I am following her blog.
I did manage to get through the day and increase my chip stack. However, I merely increased it by a fraction: starting stack was 3000 chips, my high point was around 12k and I ended the day with 3725. Only 543 of 3146 people made it to day 2, 324 of which would be paid. If you google “Kai Herbertz WSOP” these three poker sites mentioned me. Still, I was happy to have made it to day two. Since I’d start the day with merely 6 big blinds, I called the best tournament player I know, who happened to be in the middle of a poker game at the time, to confirm that my push / fold range is correct. Apparently I was a bit too tight, but it was a moot point as I was pretty card dead the next day: the hands I got were K10o in the small blind (could have gone all in against a 3x raise, but decided to wait), followed by J6o, 26s, 510o, 46s, 75s and finally I shipped with A5o UTG+1. With all the money in the middle from blinds and antes, it would have been a trivial call for the big blind, no matter what he held, but to add insult to injury he woke up with a pair of kings. I finished 500something, which is pretty respectable. However, despite my jack of all trades philosophy, it turned out once again that it doesn’t matter if one is well above average – you have to be within the top 10% for anyone to notice. Ah well, live and learn, it certainly was a good experience and fun.
Las Vegas is basically one gigantic amusement park for adults. There is always something to do and I’ll most likely return (as soon as I accrue enough holiday time and spare cash). It does not have the special place status for me that London occupies and it is a bit far away, so I’ll give it a solid “B”.
Nowadays, whenever there is a general purpose computer with free internet, I always set up my blog as the browser’s default page. For example, I did this in Los Angeles when I stayed at the Raddison at USC. So, if anyone wants to help me out, please join my little advertising campaign and change the browser’s default page to http://kaiherbertz.com/ on any general access computer you can find (tools=>options=>general=>homepage in Firefox). Oh and while you are at it, please also subscribe to my blog :) Again, thanks for smashing the view count in May.
The next blog post will be up this week (probably on Friday). Catch you all later.