The Long Road to Vegas
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Hi everyone, and welcome to my Vegas blog.
This is my first post, and it’s so avant-garde that it’s starting before I’ve arrived. That’s because even before my first trash hand gets dealt and goes straight into the muck, I’ve got something I want to share.
I decided this year to do something a bit different. Rather than flying straight in to Vegas, playing poker for ten days and then flying straight out again, I took the overland route. Fair play, I didn’t swim to the East Coast, but after flying there and visiting a few mates, I took the train to Chicago and then hired a car in Denver to drive over the Rocky Mountains, through Utah and into the City of Sin.
I’ll spare you the descriptions because whatever I write, I won’t be able to do it justice. Suffice to say, there’s a stretch of the Interstate route 70 for about 300 miles west of Denver which must rate as one of the best drives in the world. Snow-capped peaks along side the road, deep gorges, stunning views; for about five hours of driving time, the action comes faster than a super turbo satellite to a Sunday major. No wonder they call this area God’s country.
In the past I’ve made the odd jaunt off the Strip, and I’ve never regretted it. If you’re intending to spend anything more than a week at the WSOP I recommend one day away for your sanity. In fact, I recommend it for your poker prowess too. The bottom line is that after a few days of grinding the tables for twelve hours, your game can suffer a little bit. The best poker players know to vary their game and keep fresh – to approach every hand and every situation with a sharp and invigorated mind. As the hours stretch into days at the table, this becomes ever more difficult to do. Not only does your brain grow tired but the repetitiveness of the game can cause stagnation in playing style too. Having a decent break really will do your game some good.
I hope I’m not going all public school matron on you. God knows the WSOP is Xanadu for the regular poker player – you really will not find as many cash games, tournaments, high profile players, fish with lots of money to donk off, and general poker-ness happening anywhere on the planet than Vegas in June. But to fly 5,000 miles just to get your poker fix and come back again would be a shame, even if your destination was a particularly flat and featureless field in Belgium. Given that Vegas is on the doorstep of some world class scenery, to fly that far just to stay cooped up in a windowless world is a travesty. Rather than tilt off another $500 when you don’t catch a break for the fourth day in a row, get out there and see it!
Here are my top tips for the Vegas surrounds:
Even within 30-45 minutes’ drive from the Strip, there are three places worth a mention: the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead (for watersports) and Red Rock Canyon. Although about an hour further away, the Valley of Fire is worth a day trip as it is spectacular at sunset. If you want to make a night of it, within five hours drive you have some truly world class wonders: the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Death Valley and the largely unknown but gobsmacking Bryce Canyon.