There’s some poker in this blog, but not much.

As most of you are aware I decided fairly close to Christmas that I didn’t want to stay at home this year, and despite multiple friends offering to host me I opted to disappear to Vegas instead. I never thought I’d Christmas in Vegas and finishing joint 2nd at Walsall the week before reminded me I could still play poker. Poker is a time consuming activity and I knew it would be available on any day and at any time when I was there.  I was hoping that this would be a suitable distraction.

If I could name one place the opposite of my normal Christmas location it would be Vegas.  Helped by having been here before and knowing what to expect, and knowing that you can easily disappear into a crowd, and no one questions a lone traveler.

Poker is a mental distraction from my everyday struggle with grief.

Poker – tournaments and cash

Christmas Day: Bellagio – cash – $1/3 NLH buy in $400. Cashed out $405. 4 hours.

Christmas Day: Orleans deep stack $100. Finish 38/119. 1010 v AQ. Aipf level 10. Had 18bbs. 4 hours. Lost race.

Christmas Day: Orleans cash – $1/3 NLH buy-in $400, cash-out $463.  Cracked a set of aces with broadway on the river. 3 hours.

Boxing Day: Wynn $200 NLH. $10k guarantee. Didn’t win a hand. Exit hand was 77v88 in level 4. 2 hours.

Boxing Day: Wynn Cash $400 buy in. Left with $103 after KKvAA and straight v flush clashes. Lucky to leave with anything. 2 hours.

Boxing Day: ResortsWorld $160 NLH $3k gtd. level 9 aqv88. Finish 14/47, top 5 paid. 4 hours.  Didn’t win the final race. Played my best poker here and felt sure I’d final table given the opposition. Disappointing.

December 27th: Orleans deep stack $100. Finish 5/141 for $666. 9 hours. Level 19. I was the final table short stack, had been relentlessly stealing blinds with my one move and got my A5ss called by AK eventually.


It doesn’t matter how well you are playing, or how well you play your big pairs and suited connectors, there comes a point at the business end of a tournament when you have to win your races, be they 1010vAJ or AQvK10. You lose those and you head to the door disappointed.

As an example I make the final table at the Orleans as I treble up with a8 v 1010 v KK aipf. Gotta love an ace on the river! Without that I’m out 18th for a min cash. That was the loosest I’d been all day (I open raised all-in with 12bbs and got 2 callers).

I play too few hands in tournaments, and too many in cash.

Poker profit/loss

Tournament’s entered – 3 ($560)

Tournament cashes – 1 ($660)

Cash buy-ins – $1200

Cashed out – $972

Overall Profit/loss -$128.

Time spent at cash – 9 hours

Time spent at tournaments – 19 hours

Nice Americans I met

“Dallas” at Bellagio.  James from NYNY.  George the Barman at Ondori Asian kitchen in Orleans


Breakfast at the Excalibur food court on Christmas Day.  I’d liken it to prison food.

KKvAA in Wynn cash game.

Anti-vac taxi driver.


Mask wearing is strictly enforced everywhere, but no one is talking about “the Covid” (other than a misinformed taxi driver).

I chose the wrong hotel.  Excalibur is cheap for a reason – that reason is its location.  It has all the facilities you’d need and the rooms are clean – but it’s a dodgy walk to the main strip at night, or a taxi to anywhere you’d want to go and play poker. Restaurant options are fairly limited. You can walk to the Luxor and they have more food options. If I’d have had a car it wouldn’t have been so much of an issue. Also I’d have driven out to local diners for breakfast – but not doing that is no great hardship, and staying at the Excalibur didn’t ruin anything.

I’ve still never seen a cirque du soleil show.

They need to clean the chips at the Orleans.

The overhead walkways that cross over Las Vegas Boulevard have increased in the last 2 years – far fewer places to get run down now. However, I would estimate that 50% of the escalators are out of service.

I didn’t do any shopping and I didn’t get any souvenirs.

I didn’t see the Bellagio fountains in operation.

I didn’t really adjust to the time zone – I played the first game of the day (typically at 11am) and then played cash late night/early morning Vegas time after a decent sleep – it wasn’t a plan, it’s just how it worked out.  It’s not what I’d do if I was staying longer.  Made coming home much easier though, and I’ve suffered with very little jet-lag.

Vegas at Christmas is less busy than the summer, certainly during WSOP.  No queues at airports or taxi ranks is noticeable.

4 nights was long enough.

Numbers of beers drunk in 5 days – 7.

Number of beers paid for – 1.

Number of waters from cocktail waitresses at $1 each – 30.

Number of cocktail waitresses who hit on me – 0.


I’d normally hire a car – but that was prohibitively expensive (£560) so I recorded my taxi journeys for comparison:

Airport to Excalibur card $28

From Bellagio to Excalibur card $15

To Orleans cash $12

From Orleans cash $20

Excalibur to Wynn cash $20

ResortsWorld to Excalibur $20

Excalibur to Venetian $20

Venetian to Orleans $20

Orleans to Excalibur $13

Excalibur to Airport $25

Total $183 inc tips.

Note that taxis charge $3 to pay be card, so I started paying cash instead.

I tried Uber a few times but they were always 10 mins away, and the taxis were immediately available.


Heathrow coffee and Sanger £5

Burger at Bellagio $30

Awful Breakfast at Excalibur Food court $18

Pasta at Orleans $11

Breakfast at NYNY $20

Chicken curry and paratha at ResortsWorld $20

Breakfast at Big Burger at Venetian $20

Chinese noodles at Orleans $30

Breakfast at Tropicana $27

Lunch at airport $17

Various adhoc snacks $11+4+7.

I didn’t eat very well, had 2 meals a day rather than my usual 3 at home. Was fairly unstructured and snack based. Will need to improve meal frequency in future or it will mess up my diabetes medical regime.


Taxi drivers $3-$5.

America restaurant NYNY $20.

George the Barman at Orleans $10.

You can probably tell that I’m not a big tipper…

Irritating Americans I met

Anti-vac taxi driver from the airport


Excalibur:  Clientele at Excalibur is American/tex-max mainly, who have driven there. Plenty of families.  The day of LV Raiders v Dallas Broncos there was a large influx of sports fans and the bars were rammed.

I’ve stayed at Westgate, Ballys, The Linq and 4 Queens previously – I’m unlikely to stay at Excalibur again.

Wynn: The Wynn has a 4:1 ratio of international travellers:North Americans. Upmarket dining options. Card room is busy and well organised. I didn’t feel very comfortable here though as I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. Cash game tables need deep pockets.

Orleans: Orleans has a lot of local recreational players. This was the friendliest place I played. The average player age here is the oldest of the places I played – I’d guess 55+. I was a spring chicken in comparison to most of them. I guess older people don’t need the glitz/glamour of the more upmarket casinos. Plus it’s free parking that appeals to the locals. This is the place I would regularly play if I lived here. You wouldn’t want to wander around outside late at night I’m told (by Di).

ResortsWorld.  This is the first new hotel on the strip for 10 years and cost $4.3bn.  ResortsWorld has a large Asian contingent of gamblers. The card room is very modern and pleasant, but not very big. I doubt they will host big tourneys here. Each table has a screen built in the table for blinds so there’s no doubt what they are – dealers use it to notify the tournament director when players are eliminated – it replaces the seat draw cards. I’ve never seen that before. This is a hotel to try as an alternative if you stay at Caesers, Bellagio or Venetian usually. I imagine this is reflected in the cost.

Flights and Accommodation

Virgin LHR to LAS, return via LAX, and Excalibur for 4 nights – £828.  Esta visa $14.  Resort fees $159

Covid testing

Before flying out antigen £32.

In US antigen (walk in centre at Venetian) $129.

Day 2 at home PCR £46.

You’ll note the tests are the same irrespective of how long you stay… it adds £160 to your expenses and is a pain in the arse to organise.

You have to isolate on arrival back in England when you return until you get a negative day 2 test, which could be an issue for some.

What’s next?

Given the circumstances this year it was the best place for me to be at Christmas.

Christmas doesn’t seem to be as big a deal in Vegas as say the UK.  Some might say that’s a good thing, and I’m one of them.

All the card rooms downtown are closed, so I didn’t bother doing the Fremont Street experience. I didn’t pick up any souvenirs or Vegas tat. I assume they will reopen for the summer.

I’ve already looked at costs for June WSOP staying at the Flamingo, probably playing in the “Seniors”.

Would I do Vegas at Christmas again? Yes.

Current mental health? I’m so. so. sad.  But surviving.  One day at a time.




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