Surly Joe’s Saloon

During the lockdown of 2020 I spent a lot of time studying poker. I joined a lot of forums; one had a poker study group section and I saw that there was a group that met twice a week. This was my introduction to the Surly Joe’s Saloon. I have been a part of this study group since before the blog had started. On the first evening that I joined the group I had a newborn with me. We all join a zoom call while playing in a private poker club. To this day members of this group try to meet online at least once a week. Often, we just find ourselves catching up and swapping stories of our poker adventures that we had during the past week. I have often wondered how different things would have been had we not all found ourselves looking for something to do during the lockdown. We all wanted to improve our skill in poker, but we got more than we bargained for; we became a group of good friends.

Over the past few years, I have slowly met some members of the group. First, I met Craig, who lives in Las Vegas. He happened to be buddies with Ralph who had come to visit. They met my wife and children, most importantly they finally met my little newborn who was now a terrorizing toddler. Then I met Joe, once travel restrictions had started to loosen up, he became a frequent Las Vegas visitor. His first trip out he planned it with Paul, a buddy of his from our group. We celebrated his “birthday” to score a very delicious but hard to find lava cake for dessert. It was around this time that I was introduced to Persuadeo who had recently moved to Las Vegas. Early on when I had joined the forums, he would leave cryptic responses to my posts that made me think about my strategy. We would usually meetup when someone came to town that we all knew, but this weekend was different. This weekend took some effort and coordination for it to happen.

Conversations had happened about doing a big meetup in Las Vegas, but things weren’t the same anymore now that we all had gone back to our respective lives. Occasionally, Ralph or Joe would post about their trips, but nothing ever came of it. Then one day Eon posted something in Discord. He was going to be in Las Vegas and wanted to know if anyone else would be there. One by one we started to join the conversation.  Plans were made, calendars cleared, and flights were booked.  The Surly Joe’s Saloon poker study group was having a meetup!


Day 1 of Meetup

A small group of us started the weekend out by meeting up for dinner. This would be my first-time meeting Ethan. We had tried to meet up before, but our schedules always seemed to conflict. I had warned them that I would most likely be arriving a little late since I had to wait for my wife to get home from work. They had waited at the bar for a little while but had been seated by the time I arrived. I had only been inside the Park MGM two or three times, so I wasn’t sure where to look for Bavette’s. Luckily it was easy to find. As I walked up to the table there was another face I recognized but didn’t know. The odd thing about meeting over zoom is that people still look a little different once you see the rest of their body. It was Eon! He had come by to have a quick drink and say “Hello”.

What can I say about dinner? It was a Las Vegas steakhouse and I have never been disappointed by one, yet. The bread was huge! One slice felt like I was eating two. We shared some baked goat cheese, followed by salads. Craig beat me to ordering the Bacon Roasted Tomato salad. I went with my backup choice, the Crab Stuffed Avocado. I have to go back to try the Bacon Roasted Tomato, I hear it’s a good salad. Ethan avoided salad and ordered the steak tartare instead.  Craig and Ethan both ordered steaks, I had the pork chops and Ralph went for the salmon. There was a brief silence as the salmon was set in front of Ralph before Ethan asked, “You come to a steak house, and you don’t order a steak?” I guess he didn’t notice my “not a steak” porkchops. We all laughed as Ralph told us to “you guys do you”. After more jokes and a delicious dinner, we all agreed to walk over to the Aria and play some poker.

As I sat there watching the players make enormous bets, I received a text from a friend who had wanted to talk about some hand histories. I racked up my chips and went to meet him. We went over to MGM as we discussed some hand histories. We put ourselves on the list and waited to hop into a $1/$2 game. As we kept talking, I learned that MGM would be going to start another rake back promotion. I had never tried to go to MGM to grind the rake back promotion, mainly because I don’t think the games would be good. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should try it once just to be able to say I did it. Eventually our names were called, and we took our seats at the table. We changed tables a couple times but as usual, I did not find the games there very interesting. The action was OK, but every table just felt like everyone was just waiting for premiums before they got their money in.

Day 1 Profits: -$63.49

Day 2 of Meetup

The next afternoon the plan was to meetup with the Surly Joe’s Saloon poker study group at the Horseshoe. Two more members would be arriving on this day. By the time I was able to head to the strip some of the group had started to gather in the poker room. I had not played at the Horseshoe since they had rebranded from Bally’s. The poker room had been remodeled; they added more tables, and everything looked more inviting. There were already 4 of the guys there when I found them and there happened to be an empty seat. After saying hello to everyone, I went to go check if I could be sat at the same table. Skipping the line is the most useful perk of being a Diamond level reward member. When I asked the floor at the front desk, he took one look at my reward card and gave me the table card so I could go sit down.

We sounded like the fun splashy table but really, we were all just enjoying the rare opportunity to play live poker together. We were conversating about how we needed to get our table on the board for the high hand. The Horseshoe has a high hand promotion that gives out $200 to the high hand every twenty minutes. The way we were playing it didn’t seem like we were going to make it. Someone would bet and everyone else would fold. Someone one bet, get one caller, a c-bet would be made, and the other player would fold. This kept happening until I woke up AKs in the CO. The action started with an open from Craig in the +1 to $10. There was a 3-bet from Eon who was the MP to $25 and then I cold 4-bet to $75. Eon was the only player to call. The flop was JsAs3d, not the best flop but also not the worst. My opponent should be able to continue if I bet. He checked and I made a small bet of $40, and he called. The turn was a 5 of spades. There are not very many suited combos of spades that he could have here. I decided to double barrel and check back the river if he called and checked again. I made a bet of $120. Eon raised his eyebrows at me as he tanked. He eventually folded and after a few jokes we agreed I would post this hand so he could see what I had. For some reason I think he will have conveniently forgotten what he had in that hand.

As the session continued the table shifted a little. One of the random players would leave and then be replaced by another random. Only one other significant hand happened. Paul had made the high hand with Aces full of Queens! We were on the board! He had a full 20 minutes to go before he could collect his payment. Craig offered to buy him out and I made a small side bet that it would hold. For some reason Paul did not think it would hold and he took my action on the bet. Soon it was time for me to go, but the clock had not run out yet. I had to pick up Joe from the airport. I took him to his hotel so that he could check in and take care of a few things before we headed back to hang out. When we made it back to the Horseshoe; everyone was cashing out. This is when I met Andrew who had come after I had left. He walked up to me and said, “You must be Bizzy? Paul said to make sure you got this.” He handed me some chips. I had won my side bet!

Day 2 Profits: $57

Day 3 of Meetup

The next day we had planned an afternoon of poker at the Sahara, followed by dinner at Oscar’s Steakhouse, and then more poker! The game was supposed to start at noon. By the time I arrived they had been playing for about an hour. I took my seat and settled in for a long day of poker. What made this game a little different than your typical game is that we all had basically spent that past 3 years playing each other in an online home game. Each of us knew what the others would be capable of, and we all had pretty good ideas of what our ranges would be. We are thinking players who at the very least understood some basic principles of GTO. Sure, you could still profile us, but there was never a limped pot or some wacky over bet where it didn’t belong.

After the game we made our way to Oscar’s Steakhouse. Joe had arranged the dinner reservation for us. It is right above the main entrance of the Plaza. There is a round room surrounded by windows that overlooks the start to the Fremont Street experience. We arrived for happy hour and had some drinks and appetizers before getting seated at our table. We had a great view right next to the window. The conversations and drinks continued to flow endlessly. Once we all figured out what we wanted for our entrees we began to discuss sides. We quickly agreed that we should just order a bunch for the entire table to share. The food was delicious! The appetizers were tasty, the sides were flavorful, and my steak was perfect. Even though I was stuffed I still found myself picking at a couple of the sides as we waited for our table to be cleared.

We gathered outside after dinner and discussed what to do next. Ethan had to leave early the next morning, so he called it a night and we all said our good-byes to him. The rest of us decided to go over to the Golden Nugget. This time we would sit at different tables. We had already spent the afternoon pushing chips backs and forth between each other, it was time to take some money from other people. When we arrived, I was very surprised to find that they had seats for all of us. My experience has usually been a short wait before I could sit at a game.

It didn’t take very long but I was the first one to start sharing what was going on at my table. We all started sharing hand histories and player profiles at our respective games. Ralph bragged that the crazy guy at his table already doubled him up. Eon commented that his table was uber passive and he needed to wake them up. Andrew had made friends with some Eastern Europeans. Persuadeo had 3-bet with AK, on the flop some young kid jams on a 10 high board and shows KQo. Joe quickly looked for a seat changed as he realized the table was full of crazies. It was pointed out to Joe that everyone in the room was probably crazy.

I found myself in an all-in situation and lost. On my second bullet I was confident that I could stack most of the players at the table, I just needed to pick my spots to play. I patiently sat there and folded my garbage. Soon I was dealt pocket Aces. UTG player opened to $12 and when it gets to me I 3-bet to $50. UTG calls me without even realizing that I only had a pot sized bet left behind. The board was all low and after he checked I ripped it in. He took a moment to think about it and called. I was back in the game and had managed to double back up. Shortly after, I had KJ against the same player, and called down to win another pot. Around midnight the last of us that were still at the Golden Nugget decided to leave. We went back to the Sahara and had a nightcap before we all called it a night.

Day 3 Profits: $226

Day 4 of Meetup

The guys wanted someplace to watch the games and I had suggested that they could probably go to the Westgate Sportsbook. Unfortunately, I was not going to be able to make the noon game. I had hoped to get the chance to check out the poker room there. Instead, I had to stay home and watch my toddler while my wife went to run some errands. When she got home, we had a light snack and I got ready to go meet up with the guys for the afternoon game.

Everyone had decided to move from Westgate and head over to the Resorts World for the afternoon game. When I arrived, Craig, Ralph, and Paul were playing together at one table. Eon was at another table waiting to move and Joe had gone to play some high limit video poker. A new game happened to be starting and I took a seat in that game while I waited to join the other guys. The last time I had been there was a few months ago when I had set up a draw mix game.

The new game appeared like it was going to be very slow. Boy, was I wrong, there was a player there that was making big raises and triple barreling. He called my 4-bet preflop and then on low board he jammed. I assume its because his stack to pot ratio was less than 1 but it could have been for another reason. Either way there was no reason for me to find a fold. I managed to stack him with AA. I picked off a few other hands from the same player but after that first hand it felt like he didn’t want to get to much money in the pot with me again. He kept folding to most of my continuation bets, so I tried a delayed continuation bet. That didn’t work either and eventually he moved to the $2/$5.

Joe had been using his drink comps from the high limit room. Each of us had a nice drink to sip on while we played poker. By the time I moved tables it looked like Eon had amassed a large amount of chips. Ralph was getting a massage, but he soon ran up a stack of chips too. He hit quad nines and his opponent had paid him off on the river. Everyone seemed to be more active than the day before. There was a lot more 3-betting and action in general. I found myself in a couple of spots where Paul put in the squeeze. Both times he found me at the bottom of my range where I had to fold. There was one hand where he had put in a could 4-bet and there was a tank fold and then I tank folded. I knew the player who had folded had a tight UTG range. It was possible that they had folded an Ace and I had an Ace too. Paul had shown earlier that he had it in him to raise with hands like A5 suited from late position. I had AJ off suit. Would this be a good spot to try and play post flop? Eventually I decided to fold. Paul tried to claim that he had Aces! Then the UTG player said she had folded AQ… Something didn’t sound right. Then after the Ace of club had been accounted for, Paul tried to tell us he had the Ace of clubs. I may never find out what he really had, but it doesn’t matter because my hand is supposed to be a fold anyways.

The game was tied 20-20 but Craig needed 9 more points to win. He had placed a wager on the over/under for the game. It was getting close to dinner time and I had promised my wife I would be home for dinner. The Chiefs got to the Bengals 27-yard line to score a field goal to break the tie. There were only 3 seconds left on the clock. There was no way the Bengals could tie the game again. I had just paid the blinds, so I decided to stay another orbit. Nothing excited happened. Everyone was getting hungry and looking for something to eat. The blinds had come back around, and I racked up. I said my good-byes to everyone. It had been a fun weekend indeed. Paul asked me what my wife was cooking for dinner. I didn’t know but I invited him to come over. He missed out on some delicious pulled pork and pepperjack cheese empanadas.

Day 4 Profits: $64

Bizzy’s 2023 Gains: $444.64

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