A Vegas Trip With Nate McNiterson
After cashing in five pounds of aluminum cans he collected from his workplace, Nate McNiterson went home to find quite a treat waiting for him in the mail. Sahara, the pride of Vegas in Nate's humble opinion, sent him a voucher for two free nights hotel stay if he logs twelve hours at their poker tables.
Immediately, Nate did what any sensible nit would do. He sat down with a pad of paper and a calculator and started crunching his expected value. Nate figured that if he played $2/$4 limit hold'em, which is a little higher than he's normally comfortable with, for thirty hours (fifteen hours per day), at 1.5 big bets per hour, he could make $180 from poker. This was slightly less than the cost of a direct flight, which was $204. However, Nate checked with an airfare comparison website and discovered a four-stop fare for only $165. Nate didn't need a Ph.D. in math to know that he's staring down a juicy weekend getaway with $15 in expected profit (not to mention comps!)
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Additionally, Nate remembered that his favorite steak dinner in Vegas only costs $5.50 (well... $6 with tip). The same meal in his hometown costs $7.50. With a total of four meals on the trip, Nate's food savings will be $6, which assumes he doesn't get comped at all. Thus, Nate estimates his expected value of this Vegas trip to be somewhere between $21 and $60, depending on how generous the Sahara is feeling. Now, Nate is no sucker. When he sees a spot for a weekend in Vegas with a minimum of $21 in expectation, he books a flight.
On the morning of his flight, Nate woke up at 4 a.m. and waited outside his apartment for his mother to pick him up. With plenty of water and snacks in his luggage (no chance Nate will ever pay for overpriced airport food or tip those pesky cocktail waitresses), they departed for the airport, three and a half hours before his flight just to play it safe. After actively listening to several stern warnings from his mother about the dangers of venereal diseases and gambling addiction, Nate kissed her goodbye.
Although his trip was only for two days, Nate had to check-in his luggage due to security restrictions that prevent him from carrying liquids and gels (such as his acne cream and petroleum jelly) on the flight.
Nate arrives in Vegas at 7 p.m., early enough to log three hours at the tables before bedtime, provided the Sahara airport shuttle wasn't running late. After patiently railbirding the $2/$4 table for thirty minutes before getting a seat, Nate picks up pocket cowboys on his very first hand. Clearly, the poker gods are looking out for him on this trip. Nate three-bets a drunk when, to his surprise, an elderly lady insta four-bets from the big blind. The drunk calls, but Nate is no fool. He knows when he's beat, and folds the cowboys in order to wait for a better spot.
Much to Nate's chagrin, the drunk wins the hand with Eight-Five offsuit when he makes trip eights on the river. Nate pulled out his starting hand requirements sheet which he printed from the internet and lectured the drunk player on his faulty decision from early position.
While hovering around even, an apparently single woman begins showing interest in Nate. Although he still hasn't fully recovered from getting dumped three years ago by the girl with whom he lost his virginity to in grad school. Nate decides it won't hurt to engage in conversation... especially if it's about hold'em.
The dialogue proceeds amicably for a while, and the woman invites Nate to get some cocktails while playing blackjack. Bells and whistles go off in Nate's head, "negative EV, negative EV!!," he tells himself, and promptly lectures the woman on blackjack's 0.47% house edge. As Nate retires to his room, he's pleased with how he handled the situation and is confident the woman was impressed with his knowledge of gambling mathematics. Although the $9.99 24-hour pay-per-view porn-a-thon seemed tempting for a while, Nate remembered his mother's warnings and went to bed.
Before catching his triple-connection red-eye flight home, Nate decided to live on the edge a little and treat himself to a pina colada at the airport bar. While reflecting on his trip, Nate was full of satisfaction. He won $240 from poker, for an unprecedented hourly rate of $8, and also received $20 worth of food comps from the lovely people at Sahara. With $95 profit in hand (minus $5 for the pina colada), Nate grinned and couldn't help but ponder what it would feel like to have cleared three figures.