So, early in my tournament “career” I would have been horrified at busting out in the first round and would have been happy to play several hours and still have busted out before cashing (truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have ever risked busting out in the first round back in those days). Nowadays, it’s totally different. I’d rather bust out on the first hand than play 6 hours and get nothing to show for it. In fact, even a min cash would be a bad experience for me, if it was a deep stack tournament.
Before I won that Bally’s tourn (see here) I think the last time I cashed was taking 6th place at the Aria tournament (see here). That wasn’t exactly a min cash, it was $371, but when you take away the $125 entry fee, a net profit of $246 (before tip) isn’t a big pay day for seven hours of poker.
Point being that I’ve been trying to be more aggressive earlier in the tournaments, in the hopes of securing enough chips to increase my odds of winning one of the top prizes—or going home early and doing something else with the day, like play a cash game.
So I found it very interesting when the Tournament Director at the Venetian called me in late November to tell me about their new Survivor tournament. He contacted me because he knew I’d want to update AVP with the new tournament structure. Because it’s my job to do that. Also, he thought I might be able to mention it in my next Ante Up column. And I did (here). I hoped my readers found it interesting. I sure did. The unique feature of it is that as soon as the tournament is down to 10% of the field, the tournament ends and the remaining players split the prize pool evenly. For a $200 entry fee, everyone in that final 10% gets $1,600. There will be some money left over to pay a few spots beyond the 10%. The idea is that rather than a top-heavy prize pool distribution where only the top few spots make a nice cash, almost everyone who cashes will take home a respectable piece of change. It’s basically a guaranteed chop.
Aside from wondering how that format would affect play, especially once the bubble neared, I thought it might be just the kind of tournament I was looking for, greatly reducing the chances of a min cash and increasing the chances of a nice payout. Also, unlike the other Venetian tournaments, which have the levels switching from 20 to 30 minutes after three levels, the levels would stay at 20 minutes all tournament. This was done purposely to make it so the tournament wouldn’t last deep into the wee hours of the next morning.
I knew I wanted to give this a try, and last month, I did. I played in the second one they had (it’s only offered on Friday evenings).
The night I showed up, a few days before Christmas, I discovered that, as a result of the remodeling project at the Venetian (note: is there a Vegas hotel that is currently not undergoing a remodel?), the restrooms closest to the poker room were closed. If you know the Venetian, you know that even the restrooms closest to the poker room aren’t really very close to it. So the restrooms next closest are not even in the same zip code (the Venetian is a big place). I’m pretty sure the nearest restrooms across the street at the Mirage are closer to the Venetian poker room than these restrooms are. Good thing the tournament’s breaks are 15 minutes, 10 minutes would not do.
I had my ups and downs. I had a near double up when I raised preflop with AA and had one caller. On a 10-8-6 rainbow board, the guy check-raised all in. I just didn’t smell a set or even two pair. I thought I was good. I called and I was right. He had a two Queens. I raised in late position with K-9 suited and caught 2 Kings on the flop. A guy thought about calling (or raising?) my flop raise but he folded instead.
One disaster was when I raised with K-J suited, and the board came K-J-8. We both got it all in on the flop. He had a set of 8’s. That left me crippled but alive. I was desperate enough to shove with 5/4 suited and a lady called me with AK. I caught a 5 and doubled up.I made it to one of the two last tables, but with a small stack. There were only 8 going to get paid the $1600 so I still need a lot of help to make it into the money. This put me with a disgruntled older gentleman who I heard complaining during the break. He was obviously a local and a regular who was really bitching about the fact that all levels were 20 minutes. He said he was going to speak to the T.D. personally about it. I know that, in general, that was the one thing everyone was a bit uncomfortable with, the lack of 30 minute levels. In fact, due to customer feedback, by the next week they had changed it and they now switch the levels to 30 minutes starting with the 4th level (but they now start the blinds at 50/100 instead of 25/50).
Anyway, disgruntled guy was, well, disgruntled. He wasn’t afraid to make comments, usually under his breath, but audible to many players near him, about the play. He was particularly upset whenever anyone took too long to make a decision, always relating back to the 20 minute levels (“it’s only 20 minute levels, and he’s taking half the level to make a decision!”)
So when a table broke—reducing the tables from 3 to 2—he got really pissed when a couple of the players from the broken table took their time to join us. Since one was going to be the big blind, the dealer held up the action, but the clock was still running and the other table was rolling. The disgruntled guy really kind of lost it when he saw the two “slowpokes” were both women, both long past qualifying for Social Security. “Come on ladies, come on,” he muttered, no so softly. The problem was that one of them was in the middle of getting a massage and the other one had a lot of belongings to gather. Then he said, “Old ladies playing poker? What the hell are old ladies playing poker for? What are they gonna do with $1600? Get face lifts?”
The one getting the massage seemed to be delaying the game (once she got there) because she was enjoying the massage. Of course, I hadn’t seen her play before she started getting the massage so I can’t for sure that wasn’t her normal pace.
I was in shove or fold mode and I therefore had to shove with a pair of 6’s. The guy to my left shoved immediately. Two hands before, he had taken a nice three way pot with a set of Kings. It folded to a guy with a decent stack who had limped in. He took his time. He asked for time. Disgruntled guy started complaining, loudly. “You’re gonna call two all in’s. Sure. Come on.”
The other guy said he had a good hand and was thinking about it. The other guy just kinda of went “Hmmph.” The guy thinking it over said, “This guy’s been complaining all night, he’s out of control.” But since he wasn’t really talking to the dealer, nothing came of it. He finally folded.
So the two of us flipped over our cards. I showed my 6’s and he showed his….pocket kings. Yeah, the guy had pocket Kings in two of the last three hands. This time he didn’t hit a set but didn’t need to because I didn’t hit mine. And I was done. So this guy next to me won with pocket Kings twice in three hands. Tell me, is that even possible?
I had played about 4 hours and sadly, didn’t last long enough to see if or how play was affected “guaranteed chop.” I haven’t been back to play it again but I’m sure I will give it another try soon.
Since that hadn’t kept me out too late, I decided to play in the 2PM tourn at Binions the next day. I was determined to either make a short day of it or get a significant payout. But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?
The early part of the tourn was memorable for two things. One was for the third time in 4 days, I flopped a set only to run into a straight. The first two were in cash games and in both those cases the straight was flopped (as was my set). This time the guy turned his straight. But only because he called my flop bet with nothing but a gut-shot and hit it.
The other thing that was memorable was a comment I heard from the next table. There was a lot of talking and laughing at that table. Suddenly, and very loudly, I heard a guy proclaim, “She has the greatest ass of all time.” He repeated it at least twice. Someone else said that she—whoever she was—had a map of the Hawaiian Islands tattooed on said ass.
I have no idea who he was talking about, whether it was someone famous or just someone the guy knew (maybe his ex-wife?). But if there is a famous woman known for having a great ass that has the Hawaiian Islands tattooed on it, please let me know.
I was being aggressive, but a lot of the time all that did was cost me chips. Then it would pay off and I’d be back with a mediocre stack. I guess if I want to insure either an early exit or a big payday, I should never raise anything less than all-in, even when I don’t have to.
I did go through a streak where my pocket pairs hit sets like 5 times in a row. But I never got a flop bet called on any of those hands. I was just glad not to keep running them up against straights.
Down to desperation mode after a couple of hours, I shoved with Ace Jack and it looked like I would get my wish of a (fairly) early exit when the guy who called (and had me covered) showed Ace King. I stood up and started to put on my jacket. But no. I hit a Jack on the flop to double up.
That gave me some money to play some poker with for awhile, and again, my aggression had mostly negative results. So I was back to shove-or-fold mode when I was dealt K-10. Definitely good enough to shove with in my situation. A woman who had me covered called with Ace-rag. I caught a 10 on the turn for a double up, leaving the lady crippled. I finished her off a few hands later when she shoved with a very small stack when I was on the big blind with Jack 9. I don’t remember her hand, but neither of us hit anything and my Jack high was good.
Now I had been there for quite awhile and it was no longer possible to “leave early.” So I was just going to have to cash in this thing. And not a min cash either.
I tried to steal a pot with a late position raise with 2/3 off when no one had entered the pot. Unfortunately the big blind made a big re-raise and I had to let it go. Later I raised with KJ and got a caller. The flop missed me and I hoped my continuation bet would take the pot. Nope, it was check-raised. I let it go.
Now we were down to 14 players, they were going to pay 10. I was short stacked. Tenth place, which looked likely for me if I cashed at all, was around $150. In the old days, I would go into shut down mode at this point, hoping to hang on for any kind of cash. Not this time. I was determined to stay aggressive and try to get a couple of double ups which would give me a shot at the upper end of the prize pool.
So in late position, with nobody having entered the pot, I saw K-7 of hearts and figured I had a good chance to take the blinds and the antes with a shove. And it wasn’t a terrible hand to make that move with anyway. I mean, it was sooooted. Unfortunately, the guy on the button insta-called with less chips than I had, and the big stacked big blind called two. Shit. I didn’t think I’d be able to beat both of them.
The short stack had a couple of 10’s and the big stack had AK. Worse, his Ace was the heart. In the absence of two 7’s hitting the board, my only real shot was exactly three hearts hitting. Definitely not 4. There were 2 Queens and a meaningless card on the flop (one heart). A King hit the turn, locking me out. A 7 now would be worthless, the best hand would be Kings and Queens and the guy with AK had me outkicked, obviously. A worthless, too little, too late heart hit the river. The guy with pocket 10’s and I were both out. Somehow, this made the counter on the “player’s remaining” drop from 14 to 11. I guess while we were playing that hand, someone from the other table busted out. So now it was down to 11 and as they were about to go hand for hand—and as I was putting on my jacket, this time for real—I heard someone suggest they pay the bubble, $100 off the 1st place money. They all agreed. I should point out that the tourn buy in was $105, so the 11th player would still be getting $5 less than his or her tourn entry fee. But it’s better to lose five bucks than $105, isn’t it?
Anyway, that made me the official bubble boy, because I had more chips than the other guy who busted out with me had at the start of the hand.
So, despite the fact that this was exactly the situation I was trying so hard to avoid, I ended up playing poker for seven hours with absolute nothing to show for it.