Road trip to Las Vegas

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you would probably guess traveling is one of my favorite hobbies.

So after a few short breaks it was time for a longer trip and sneaking in Las Vegas!

A quick brainstorm over a glass of wine with my sister & friends and my big trip for 2011 settled upon St. Lucia – San Francisco- Yosemite National Park and ending with a week in Vegas. Needless to say I was especially excited about the final part:)!

I haven’t been to any of the Caribbean islands before, so I was looking forward to exploring St Lucia’s tropical surroundings as well as tasting its Caribbean cuisine.

St. Lucia
St Lucia

The 6 hour flight to a tropical paradise didn’t really feel too long or too tiring, especially once we were greeted by the sunshine and a 37C gust of heat stepping off the plane.

Apart from sunbathing & snorkeling in the Caribbean sea, we got on a boat trip one of the days discovering the hidden gems of the island.

We had a fantastic day, not only visiting a few fishing villages and being surrounded by breathtaking coastal views but also sampling a mud bath in the dead volcano area, bathing in the Waterfalls and having a meal overlooking the famous pitons.

Next stop was San Francisco, where we spend a couple of day wandering around the city sightseeing & enjoying some of the best Chinese cuisine outside China in San Francisco’s world famous Chinatown for dinner.

We hired a car and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge towards Napa Valley (wine producing region) and stopped at one of the prettiest little villages I have ever seen- called Yountville located right in the heart of the wine fields for lunch.

It was a beautiful location, with stunning French style buildings & gardens and lots of roses everywhere. We were spoilt for choice with a number of world class restaurants there, including The French Laundry (needless to say we couldn’t get a table).

We ended up having a gorgeous meal outside in the garden of one of the restaurants, accompanied by locally produced wine, which I loved so much, I even had to get a bottle to take away myself:)

After a few hours of driving towards Yosemite we decided to have a break and stay overnight at one of the random motels – just like in the movies:) We enjoyed having dinner at the traditional American Diner and then having a game of pool with the locals at a local cowboy themed Saloon before heading to bed. A packed day!
Yosemite Park

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

The next day was Yosemite and it surpassed my expectations.

Seriously, only a few places in the world rival Yosemite’s natural beauty where forests teem with wildlife and spectacular waterfalls take the breath away.

The highest point we were driving at was 9,000 feet, but the scariest part was that the roads were not only super high but very windy too and the signs “mind the bears” didn’t help either…

I just was happy I didn’t need to drive and tried to keep everyone entertained by singing along to tunes on the radio. It was a fun road trip although we didn’t find any bears in Yosemite.

The next day after another motel stop in the ominously named Lone Pine we set out to drive through Death Valley to Las Vegas. You could feel the searing desert heat, but the air-con was more than a match.

Quite a few hours later we were greeted by the famous Las Vegas strip- it was good to be back!

The plan for a week in the sin city was not to play as much poker as I would normally do, but be in charge of showing around my sister instead, as it was her first time on the strip.

We were pretty lucky with the weather at this time of the year and it was nice being able to sunbathe & relax by the pool on a daily basis whilst sipping a drink and not being surrounded by the loud crowds you get at peak season.
Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas
Las Vegas

After a few days settling into our hotel, getting on Vegas timing and after doing a bit of touristy sightseeing, we finally were ready for some poker action.

As my sister wanted to play, I kept the stakes reasonably small and we decided to play $125 re-entry tourney at the Aria, which attracted around 60 buy-ins and around 55 runners on a midweek evening.

I haven’t played in this poker room before, so was looking forward to checking out the quality of games there and if they were as soft as some other games I’d played previously at this level in Vegas.

I found the game pretty straightforward, and was never put in a tough spot where I had to make a difficult decision for my tournament life.

I adopted a tight aggressive strategy for this game as there were lots of inexperienced poker players on my table who were either playing too tight or too loose.

I didn’t make many hands or got many premium starting hands, so was playing the players instead and was trying to pick up uncontested pots and I managed to get very lucky once too which always helps:

With 25 or so players left my tournament life was at risk for the first time when re-shoving all in on a K 10,10 rainbow flop against a super aggressive/loose player on my left. Of course he had a 10 this time (9,10), but I managed to bink a K on the river with my KJ to sweep the pot:)

From there I continued slowly chipping up without any showdowns and cards and although I had a pretty aggressive table image, I didn’t get too many people playing back at me.

I made the final table in ok shape and was 4th in chips, however with 30 minute levels and the average stack at around 20bb the action at the table was fast and furious.

We played for another hour or so, losing a few players (and some of my chips!) and then my tournament came to an end too. We were 5 handed and it was folded round to the chip leader on the table who was the SB.

He raised it up x 3 (which was his standard raise size) and I looked down at my hand to find AJ off-suit. It was no brainer with 14bb stack and I quickly re-shoved all in. He snap called with Aces! Game over.
Aria poker room

The Poker Room at Aria
The Poker Room at Aria

Although I cashed in this game, I am not sure I really enjoyed it. I thought the venue was lacking a good ambience and the players seemed not so friendly compared to the other poker rooms I played at. Or maybe it was just simply bad timing….

I am very proud of my sister, she seems to be picking up poker very well and managed to finished in 11th. Not a bad result for her first live tourney!

Next up for us was a nice dinner at the Bellagio restaurant overlooking the fountains the next day and a quick browse at the Fashion Show Mall. Is there any better way to spend your winnings- well at least if you are a girl anyhow.

Poker wise, we managed to fit in another game in our busy “leisure” schedule and played another $125 freeze-out tourney at the Orleans poker room a couple of days later.

Apparently it is one of the best attended games in Vegas on a Friday night, and attracts between 250-300 runners.

Once we got there, the venue was buzzing; there were quite a few cash games running and a long but lively queue at the registration desk for the tourney. Everyone seemed happy & chatty, it was a very different atmosphere to the Aria poker room.

I quickly settled in and had some good value co-players at my starting table. The level of poker was pretty average; from the very first level of the night till when I was knocked out there was lots of limping & calling raises with any 2 cards and it seemed that majority of players, including regulars in this game were there for the fun factor.

I enjoyed the banter and a couple of glasses of wine but when down to 50/250 it was exit time.

I ended going out in style too, when raising with AK x4 (for a reason) and still getting called by BB, who had 5,7 off-suit and hit a set on the king high flop.

It was a fun game, shame about the exit, and will be back there next time for some value:)

That was pretty much the end of my trip, and back in the UK I’ve got the Palm Beach Big Game next up. I can’t help but think the standard may be somewhat higher there!!!