Friday, January 24, 2014

Nice Tournament Ride at The Bike

This past Saturday I went down to The Bike (in palatial Bell Gardens, CA) to play some poker.  Recently when I’ve gone down there, I’ve played the 2/3 No Limit game.  But this time I felt like playing in their daily noon tournament, which they conveniently call the “Nooner.”  You can fill in your own joke.

I’ve talked about this particular tournament a few times, most notable here.   For a brief time, it was always my first choice in games when heading to the Bike.  But for awhile there, every time I went down there, it seemed like it was cancelled because of some special tournament series and I had to play cash.  Or I got my ass moving too late to make the Noon starting time (it’s anywhere from a 35-60 minute drive for me to get there from my house).  So I fell out of the habit and just went to play the 2/3 game nearly all the time.

Another reason I started avoiding it was that it kind of became “too small” a tournament for me.  My favorite tournaments in Vegas are the $125 or so “deepstack” tournaments, with (mostly) 30 minute levels.  Dropping back down to a $40, $5,000 starting stack tournament with all 20 minute levels seemed like a waste of time.  How much could I even win?

But heading into the weekend, I started feeling differently.  With some of my recent tournament success, I felt more confident that I would have the right attitude about the tournament.  Play aggressive, not worry about busting out, and if I had a short run, no big deal, I could play cash then.  But I thought I’d be able to try harder and take more risks and give myself a decent chance to make a deep, profitable run.

The first thing I did was some research to make sure the tournament was running this weekend.  I had a vague notion that there was a big tournament series starting in L.A.  Turns out, that series is being held at Commerce, not the Bike.  Cool.  I doubled checked PokerAtlas, which happens to be my employer, and saw that the noon tournament was indeed running.

But they had changed the tournament a bit.  For one thing, I noticed it was now a $50 tournament, not $40.  But the difference was due to it now being a bounty tournament, with $10 bounties. 

Ok, another $10 and I had a chance to get some bounties even if I didn’t cash in the tournament.  But I don’t get the point of a $10 bounty tournament.  I mean, really, why bother?  I’m not sure how I feel about bounty tournaments but if you’re gonna have a bounty, shouldn’t you make it at least, say, $25, to make it (more-or-less) mean something?  I dunno why the Bike did this.  Although I have to assume that this is what their players wanted, or they wouldn’t have done it.

Another difference was the guarantee.  I don’t recall what it used to be.  I’m thinking it was $5,000, but that may be too much (they would need 166 players to meet that, and my recollection is that the usually had closer to 120).  I couldn’t find a blog post of mine where I mentioned what the guarantee was.  Damn.  Anyway, now the guarantee is a mere $2,000.  Disappointing.

Also, they’ve added a $5 dealer bonus for an additional $1,000 in chips, and they made it a re-entry tournament.  I’m pretty sure when I played it before there was no re-entry.

All these changes gave me some reservations.  But after thinking it over, I decided I still wanted to give it a shot.

I got to the Bike just in time for the start of it and took the $5 add-on.  And I was totally card dead for a good long time.  I made a couple of stupid moves early.  I limped in from late position with 2-3 diamonds in a hand with many limpers and no raise.  When I flopped the flush draw (and nothing else), and one guy bet and had two callers to me, I assumed one of them had a bigger flush draw and folded.  The turn would have completed my flush.  By the river a pair of Aces took and no one had the flush.  Missed opportunity.

I also called a small flop and a small river bet with unimproved pocket 3’s.  I had a feeling that it might be good, and I was wrong.

It wasn’t until late in level 4 that I dragged my first pot.  The guy to my right raised to $400 (blinds were ($100 & $200).  I bet $1500 with pocket Queens.  No callers.

I started level 5 (blinds 25/100/200) with $4,600.  In late position I had Q-10 of clubs, and with one limper in front of me, I raised to $700.  Two players called.  The flop was A-3-3, but two clubs.  It checked to me and I shoved.  I wouldn’t have minded a call there and a roll of the dice (assuming no one had a bigger flush draw—or a boat) but they both folded.

Start of level 6 (50/200/400) I had $5,350, which is actually less than an “M” of 5, so I was definitely in shove-or-fold mode.  That’s one of the reasons I shy away from small tournaments—getting to desperation mode so early.  I got pocket Queens again, under-the-gun.  I shoved.  One guy called, he had about 3 times my stack. He had K-Q.  Earlier I had seen him call a shove with J-4 suited (he lost).  He was a bit of an aggro, as you can imagine.  The board was scary, as he needed a Jack on the river to make his gut-shot.  But a Queen gave me a set instead (and him a worthless pair).  I had my double-up.

The very next hand, I was the big blind with Ace-Queen.  A few people limped in.  I was still stacking my chips.  I decided to just check and see the flop.  It was Queen high.  I bet out $3K and no one called.

At the start of level 7(75/300/600), our table broke and at my new table, I had Ace-Queen again in the big blind.  Again, many limpers.  This time I did indeed raise.  I put $3k on top of my $600 big blind.  No one called.  That brought my stack to about $14K

Then I got my favorite hand, the dreaded pocket Kings.   I was in late position.  Someone in early position bet out $2100.  That was about 1/3 of his stack, give or take.  Now with some chips to play with, I raised to $6,000.  The guy took a long time to decide what to do.  He was actually using his hands to think, like, “one the one hand….and on the other hand…..”  Finally he announced all in.  I snap-called.  He’s not taking forever to decide with pocket Aces, I was sure of that.

My snap-called unnerved him.  “How bad is it?  Oh that bad.”  The second sentence came out of his mouth when he saw my cowboys.  He had Queen-Jack unsuited.  Not sure I understand his play there.  It seemed to me he had made his aggressive raise small enough so he could get away from the hand, but I guess he weighed it otherwise.  He almost got lucky (although really, is anyone who cracks my Kings lucky or is it just the normal course of events?).  Ace-Jack-X on the flop.  The King on the turn gave me a set but left him with a gut-shot.  But instead of a 10 on the river, it was a Queen, giving him two pair that lost to my set of Kings.  And I had my first bounty.  So worst case scenario, the tournament would cost me $45, not $55.

I started level 8 (100/400/800) with $24K.  Average stack was $13K.  Maybe I could cash in this thing, I stated thinking.   I raised to $1600 with 10-9 diamonds.  I think I messed up there and meant to bet more.  I misread the blind levels.  I had one caller.  No diamonds but there was a Jack and 8 on the flop.  With my open-ender, I bet out $4K.  The other guy open folded King-Queen and muttered, “I should have re-raised preflop.”  How did he know I didn’t have Aces?

A bit later in early position I raised $2K with pocket 7’s and no one called.

Started level 9 (200/600/1200) with $25K.  I raised in late position to $2400 with King-8 of clubs (I was first in).  The big blind, who had a huge stack, called.  The flop was King high and had one club.  The big blind led out with a $3,500 bet. I thought long and hard.  With his stack, anything thing I did other than fold put my tournament life in danger.  I felt he likely had a King with a better kicker than my 8, or a better hand than just Kings.  So reluctantly, I folded. 

I raised to $3,500 with pocket 9’s and no one called.  I got a walk with Jack-2 of diamonds.  I was glad to take it.

At the start of level 10 (200/800/1600) we were down to two tables.  I think there were around 60-70 players.  The total prize pool was over $3,300.  They were paying 8.  First place was around $950 and the last couple of min-cashes were $75.  Not much more than the $55 buy-in.  I was determined not to play it safe just to get a min cash.  Now that’s the good thing about a low buy-in tournament.  You don’t have either the money or the hours invested that makes it so important (at least to me) to get any kind of a cash.

Then I got pocket Kings again.  I bet $4,500.  The sleeping Asian called.  I call him that because he kept dozing off at the table.  He said he had played 48 hours of poker without sleep, and was planning on staying there playing until Monday (this was Saturday afternoon).  The dealer or another player had to constantly wake him up when it was his turn to act.  He had me well covered, at least three times my stack.

The flop was King-9-x, two hearts.  He checked and I shoved.  I wasn’t interested in giving him good odds in case he had the flush draw.  But he snap called anyway, and showed Queen-Jack of hearts.  Uh oh.  He had a lot of outs. The flush and the gut-shot.  But he missed.  Phew.

Winning big twice with the dreaded hand twice in one tournament!  Amazing!

That brought me to $49K.  In the cut-off I was first in with Ace-2 off so I raised to $4,500.  No call.

Level 11 (300/1000/2000) found me with $54K.  So when it was folded to me in late position, I raised to $5,500 with 5-4 hearts.  But the big blind came over the top with a shove (less than me, but enough to really hurt).  I tanked for appearances sake but had no intention of calling.

Next hand I had pocket 9’s.  A guy made it $7K.   He had about $35-$40K.  I almost folded but I thought it through.  The guy had played with me for a long time at the other table.  He knew I wasn’t playing many hands and that whenever I had to show, I always had a big hand.  I figured he had a stack worth protecting.  Even though he was not an aggro and the raise could have meant he had a big, big hand, I decided to roll the dice.  I felt if he had a big Ace or just big cards (or a not so big pocket pair), he might not put all his chips in play.

So I shoved.  He thought long and hard.  And then he folded.  My read was right.

By this time, we were down to 11 players.  So we were still at two tables and the one I was at had only 5 players, so the blinds were killing us.  But I think I may have been the big stack at the table but a little bit.  The big stacks were all at the other table.  Still those blinds were eating me alive.  I tried to be aggressive whenever possible, as I’ve indicated.

I wasn’t playing too tight, I assure you.  I just didn’t have the cards or the right spot to do much.  Everyone else was playing tight, I guess because we went about an hour without busting out another player.

Level 12 (400/1200/2400) found me with $56K.  I raised with Ace-4 off and didn’t get a caller.  In the big blind I had the mighty deuce-four offsuit.  I just checked.   The flop was 5-3-x, two hearts (I did have the deuce of hearts).  So I bet with my open-ender.  No one called.

I had K-Q off in the big blind and it folded to the small blind, who limped in.  He was an older gentleman with about 1/3 my stack.  I hadn’t seen him shove yet.  I decided to take a chance and shove.  He thought long and long and long and even longer.  He counted his stack several times.  He looked at the clock.  He looked at the prize pool.  He finally folded.

This was right before the break and he came over to me during the break and asked what I had.  I said I didn’t want to tell him, but I asked him what he had.  He said it was pocket 9’s.  So I told him the truth about what I had.  “It would have been a race,” I said.  I guess he was ok with that.

After the break, at level 13 (500/1500/3000), I had $63K and the average stack was $45K.  The older gentleman from the previous hand limped in and I raised to $10K with J-9 off.  He tanked and folded.

In the small blind I had Ace-9 offsuit.  We were will still 5 handed, 2 tables at this point.  It folded to that same older gentleman on the button and he shoved with about $12K.  I look at the guy behind me. His stack is about 2/3’s of mine.  So I shoved.  The big blind folded  and we tabled our cards.  The older gentleman had Queen-7 offsuit.  I think I actually caught an Ace and he caught nothing.  I had my second bounty and we were down to 10 players—the final table.  At least the blinds would come around slower now.  But we still weren’t in the money since they were only paying 8 players.

Before we resumed play and as we were settling into our seats, the tournament director came over and said that someone had made a proposal to pay 9th and 10th place.  I was surprised because I hadn’t heard any of the players talk about it.  The proposal was to take $75 each off 1st and 2nd place and give it to 9th and 10th place.  Eighth place was to get $75 in the original prize distribution.

I was sure this wouldn’t fly.  It’s rare to pay two extra places.  Plus, with first place only $980 and second place only $570, I couldn’t imagine the chip leaders giving up that equity.  Frankly, I almost considered vetoing it myself, thinking I probably still had a chance to get up in the top 2 (although there were some pretty big stacks coming over from the other table).  But everyone agreed, to my surprise, and I went along.  I guess I’m just too used to the tournaments I usually play in Vegas, where first place is over $3K, at least.

So we were all in the money.  I didn’t play any differently after that, because I hadn’t been playing it safe before then.  As I said, I didn’t view the min cash there the same way I do as I invariably view it after playing 7 hours.

The tournament director took all our players cards so he would be ready to pay us out.  Oddly enough, it turned out that four of the 10 players at the final table all had the same first name.  “Robert.”

We were now at level 14 (500/2000/4000) and I had $83,500 chips, and there were at least 3, maybe 4 shorter stacks, but no one was that much shorter than mine.  There was one huge stack, he must have had close to $300K. 

The guy to my right shoved in front of me with about $25K.  This guy had been at my original table, but I hadn’t seen him in awhile.  While I was playing with him earlier, he was up and down, having built up a huge stack and then coming close to busting out (he went all in as an underdog and sucked out).  During his run upwards he had flopped a flush and rivered a straight flush.  He was a solid player, but his stack certainly made his shove look suspicious.  He could be doing that with a lot of hands.

I had Ace-King of clubs.  I didn’t hesitate for a second, I went all-in myself.  Everyone else folded.  He had Ace-6 offsuit.  I was happy about that.  But then there was a 6 on the flop.  For good measure, there was another 6 on the turn.  Ugh.

That really hurt, and I was just looking for another hand to shove with.

We lost a couple of players, and it got down to 8, then 7.  At this point, I was getting real hungry—it had been a long time since I’d eaten that sandwich I had in my car on the way down—and was actually considering just shoving with garbage so I could bust out and get something to eat.  But I held on.

I had $52K at the next level (500/3000/6000).  It folded to me in the small blind and I shoved with 10/9 offsuit.  Big blind folded.  Two limped in front of me in the small blind.  I had Ace-7 offsuit and I shoved.  No one called.  I was surprised because one of the limpers was that big stack I mentioned earlier.  But by now, he had called a few other smaller stacks’ all-ins without great cards and had gotten burned every time.  So he didn’t call me.

At the next break I had $62K, with the blinds 1000/4000/8000.  We were now down to 6 and one of the stacks in the middle suggested a chip-chop.  I figured the big stack I just mentioned would object, even tho his stack wasn’t nearly so big.  But before he had a chance, the guy to my right, the guy who had taken down my A-K with A-6, said no.  He said maybe when one more player busted out, he’d consider it. There was one pretty short stack, a couple like mine, and a few bigger ones.  But the distribution wasn’t that spread out any more.

So we played and sure enough, the short stack had to shove light, and lost to the guy to my right.  And then that guy said let’s do a chip-chop.  We all agreed to at least look at the numbers.  If we had played on, the next player to bust would have gotten $150.

We counted the chips and first and second were real close, and the last three places were real close.  The guy to my right was surprised that he had moved into first, he thought the former big stack still had him covered.  I was in fourth, but very close to both third and fifth.  The two big stacks would get over $500 each, and the rest of us were all in the $300’s.  We agreed without hesitation.  My take was $325.  I was quite satisfied with that.  The thought had occurred to me that if we did the chip-chop, we’d also all get $10 for our own bounties.  So with the other two bounties I’d collected, I would wind up with $355.  Three hundred bucks over my buy-in.  Not bad.

Waiting to get our money made me aware of one more thing that they changed about the tournaments at the Bike.  They no longer settle up with right in the tournament area.  We had to wait—quite a long time, actually—for them to print out vouchers for our winnings.  Then we had to take them to the main cage, and we had to sign for it, show our ID’s again, it was an overly long process.  

However, they did pay us for our bounties in the tournament room.  With $10 chips.  I don't think I've ever seen $10 chips before.  Anyone else?

The delay in getting our money was worth it for the $300, though.  Glad I decided to play in the tournament on this day.


  1. Nice score. Especially he A9, or as its called in our home game "the best damn hand in poker". I can easily say i've won more with that than with aces.

    1. Thanks, Ben. I've never had a lot lot with A9, but this time it worked out great.

  2. Wow ..... only YOU could come up, so to speak, with a pic of a hot chick on a bike in reference to The Bicycle Club. LOL

    1. Heh heh. There were tons of pics of hot chicks on motorcycles. Finding one on a bicycle was tougher.

  3. Congrats!

    btw -- Is it just me, or do other people have problems with your blog page loading? Not to mention the length of posts, of course. : o P

    1. Thanks.

      Not sure if your joking about the blog page loading. Haven't heard anyone mention that before. EXCEPT for spam comments, that's one of the favorite things they mention. Is that the joke?