In Vegas Showdown players bid for and place basic and specialty rooms in an effort to build the best Hotel/Casino on the Las Vegas strip. In the preliminary heats, 4-player games were the preference; with 5-player games used only if necessary. Although there was some fear of reduced turnout due to the new venue, there was little sign of it for Vegas Showdown, which broke the 90 participant barrier for the second year in a row and matched last years' total of 39 preliminary games played.
There were seven double winners, breaking the record of five set last year. Rob Kircher managed it for the second year in a row and was joined by former champions Michael Kaltman and Redie Smith. Andrew (leisure suit) Drummond, fellow Dice Lovin' Canuck, Sky Roy, Greenspieler Patrick McGavisk, and Doug Covell also managed a double this year.
Nick Henning emerged victorious in the closest game recorded yet in the tournament's history with a top to bottom margin of just two points. He prevailed over a tough field with a score of 61 over fellow 2016 semifinalist Kate Fractal (60), 2015 Finalist Ben Scholl (60) and Devin Smith (59). Another close game was just three points from top to bottom and considering the higher scores in the game was just as impressive. Brian Hixon (78) edged Sara VanderWal (77), former champion Redie Smith (76), and Rod Spade (75).
David Barton accomplished the highest score in the tournament with 87 points fueled by an incredible 14 diamond points. However, his 24-point victory was dwarfed by Eugene Yee’s who pulled off a crushing 36-point win! With a total of 85 points, Eugene had a Theatre (expected), a Five Star Steakhouse (yeah, that's good), AND a Space Age Sport Book (totally criminal).
Sky Roy won the lowest scoring game of the tournament, where his 30 points were enough to win a 5-player game by two points over Max Jamelli.
Over the last couple years, Randy Buehler, established himself as the “Lounge King” with winning boards including six lounges (4-player) and five lounges (5-player). This year, no winning boards, including Randy's, had a similar abundance of lounges. 2016 victors with a more modest level of four lounges were Aran Warszawski and Eric Freeman.
Last year, Steve LeWinter pulled off a heretofore never seen feat by winning games (in both the heats and the Final) without any restaurant tiles. This year we saw two others by Doug Covell and Alex Bove in the preliminaries. Diamond points and a Theatre were key for both of them.
"Low" income styles that rely on Green rooms has certainly been a trend over the last several years. In the preliminaries, in addition to the "no restaurant" games, three players won games without any points for Population or Revenue; Ben Scholl, Patrick McGavisk (with 13 diamond points in a 5-player game), and Nicole Yuhase (both Nightclubs). If we expand to winners who only scored one point between Population and Revenue, the roster includes a Who's Who of former champions and finalists; Doug Faust, Redie Smith, Mike Kaltman, Andrew Drummond, Patrick McGavisk (a second time for him), and Doug Covell (another two Nightclub board).
Last year the “dominating income” game lost favor with only one win securing the full ten points for having the lead in both population and revenue. This year, in the preliminaries, three players pulled off the income double on their way to victory: Ian Streeb, Kate Fractal, and Sky Roy.
Defending champion Steve LeWinter ran into the fickle winds of random table seating in his first heat with a pairing against two former champs, Eric Freeman and Redie Smith plus 2015 semifinalist Haim Hochboim. Redie pulled off a 2-point victory over Eric with eight points in Rev/Pop points showing he can win with both low and big income styles. A third place finish (with only one heat left) effectively ended Steve's run at a third straight Final table and title defense.
Like Redie, Mike Kaltman also showed the ability to win with both high and low income routes with an 8-point Rev/Pop victory fueled by two Sports Books.
Highlights of the semifinals
The three heats generated 31 qualifiers, so for the second year in a row, some winners could not advance to the semifinal. The top 27 qualifiers consisted of those with two wins, a win and a second, a win and a third in a 5-player game or who won their only game. Two of the 27 opted out. David Borton, Aran Warszawski, Brian Hixon, and Ian Streeb were the unfortunate winners on the wrong side of the tiebreakers and were denied advancement.
Andrew Drummond can always be counted on to reinforce the theme and came with a new blue suede leisure suit this year. After a dominating run in the preliminaries (two wins and a second in a 5-player game), Andrew's run ended in the semis for the second straight year. 2010 champion Randy Buehler beat Andrew with a "big income" board (the full ten points for most Population and Revenue) and 70 points. That topped Andrew with 62 points, Nicole Yuhase (52), Kate Fractal (50), and Eugene Hourany (44).
Micah McCormick avenged being one of the few winners in 2015 to not qualify for the semifinals by winning the most "stacked" game of the 2016 version. He managed a 1-point victory (61 to 60) over Sceadeau D'Tela. Rob Kircher (55), 2014 champ Mike Kaltman (54) and Eugene Yee (52) followed in a closely spaced bunch. Micah won with a low income strategy fueled by two Nightclubs.
After just making the semis with a narrow preliminary win, Nick Henning smashed his way into the Final with the most dominating win of the round. He enjoyed a comfortable 16-point margin over 2012 champ Redie Smith (56) with Alex Bove (54), Ben Scholl (52), and Patrick McGavisk (41) further behind. Nick's victory was fueled by big income (nine points between Population and Revenue) that enabled purchases of both the Dragon Room and Five Star Steakhouse.
Lexi Shea emerged as the survivor in a quick ending low scoring game, where her 36 points were enough to edge Anthony Bosca (33), Brian Schott (32), Michael Brazinski (30), and Doug Covell (30).
WBC newcomer Sky Roy showed his dual wins in the preliminaries were no fluke with a comfortable 13-point margin over 2013 champion Doug Faust (54), 2009 champ Eric Freeman (53), Adam Hurd (47), and Jim Garvey (44).
I was unable to attend the Final, so I'm very grateful to Nick Henning for recording notes while playing at the same time.
Highlights of the Final
In previous Finals, slots fell in price fairly quickly. Not so, this year. Slots went for $9 through Turn 5. After the slot surplus event in Turn 7, all were gone. None were bought for less than $7.
Turn 2 – With expensive slots, Nick's $18 for a Sports Book looked like a solid value.
Turn 4 – Sky grabbed a Fancy Lounge for $18.
Turn 6 – Randy bought a Nightclub for $18.
Turn 7 – The "bargain" round. Lexi got a Fancy Slot for $7, Nick, a Fancy Restaurant for $12, and Randy, a Buffet for $12
Turn 8 – The bargains of the previous round drained money, so only Micah traded $10 for five points from the Ad Campaign.
Turn 14 – Nick secured the Space Age Sports Book for $33
Turn 15 – The Thanksgiving event boosted everyone’s cash reserves, so some big buying occurred. Randy acquired his second Nightclub for $33, whereas Lexi bought a Fancy Lounge for $29 and Sky a Fancy Restaurant for $25.
Turn 16 – The Theater flopped.
Turn 18 – Three events to occur and the room count was one big room, one small room, and three medium rooms.
- The first event was Pull Strings and Micah looked to end the game this turn and chose a big room.
- The second event was ALSO Pull Strings and Micah, unable to choose an empty stack to end the game, chose a small room.
- If the third event called for a small or big room the game was over. The third event was......Pull Strings. There are three Pull Strings events in the deck and all three came in the same round. As a result Micah was forced to choose a medium room so the game continued.
Sky bought the Theatre for $42. The last small tile was the Dragon Room which Nick secured for $42. Randy renovated which filled a side and connected for him.
Turn 19 – With two events to draw and only one room left, the game ended.
Final Fame on the board: Micah 30, Randy 28, Sky 28, Nick 26, Lexi 21.
Nick finished with the highest Population (17) for five points and Micah and Sky tied for second (15) for two points each. Randy and Lexi had 13 Population each.
Nick finished with the highest revenue (21) for five points. Lexi finished second (16) for three points. Sky finished third (13) for one point. Micah and Randy finished with 12 and 11 revenue, respectively.
Randy and Sky filled both sides and connected for 13 points. Nick and Lexi completed both sides for ten points, while Micah completed one side and connected for eight points.
Nick scored six in diamond points, with Sky at four points and Lexi with two.
Randy and Micah both scored a point for leftover cash.
Final scores: Nick 52, Sky 48, Randy 42, Micah 41 and Lexi 36.
The last turn that Micah desperately tried to prevent moved Sky from fifth to second and also moved Randy past Micah. However, even if the game had ended that turn, Nick had the win secured.
Nick’s tableau at the end contained a Lounge, a Fancy Lounge, a Sports Book, a Space Age Sports Book, three Slots, a Fancy Slot, a Dragon Room, one Table Games, a Restaurant, one Fancy Restaurant, and a Buffet.
Clearly taking notes of the Final while playing were not enough of a handicap to distract Nick in any meaningful way. The Caesar candidate won his third title of the week - a feat he has accomplished in each of his last three WBC campaigns.
So after a general trend of "low income" strategies winning in advanced rounds, Nick powered his wins in the advanced rounds with fully flexed economic engines.
Has a new equilibrium with the low income strategies been reached? It seems that it doesn't really matter which strategy you choose to take, just that you get good bargains on your rooms and a little luck on your path to pursuing it.