The first Saturday I was in Vegas in October, I didn’t play in the Binion’s 2PM tournament that I really like. The reason was that there was a big event going on downtown, the “Life is Beautiful” concert. Maybe life is beautiful for those who attended the three-day event, but it wouldn’t have been very beautiful if I had gone downtown and fought the traffic to get there. Plus, parking would have been a nightmare. And expensive. And it may actually have been impossible.
So instead, I did the next best thing. I played in the Aria 1PM $125 tournament, which I also really like. I bought in and was assigned Table 7, Seat 7. Lucky 7! How could I lose? Well, I’m about to tell you.
One thing I’ve gotten used to lately is 9-handed tables. Binion’s went 9-handed on their tournaments over a year ago. Most 1/2 games in Vegas are now 9-handed. Aria’s tournament is still 10-handed and it makes a big difference in comfort (not so much in how it plays). People seem to be keep getting larger. I felt cramped the whole time.
Plus, the one problem I have with the Aria poker room is that the tables are all kind of jammed in fairly closely. And that 7 seat was in a corner so that people were constantly bumping into me walking behind me. All day long. It wouldn’t have been quite so annoying if even one person who bumped my chair said “Excuse me” or apologized in any way. Yet not one person did. Not once.
But enough whining. Let’s get to the poker where I can really whine. By the time registration closed there were 169 runners, top prize was almost $5K, 18 would get paid, and the min cash was $174.
The first hand I really played was pocket 4’s. It was the first level, so the blinds were 25/50. I still had most of my $10K starting stack. I limped in, then had to call a raise to $150. Four of us saw a flop of King-10-4, two clubs. I led out for $400. One person called, one folded, and then the player to my right went all-in. He had been very aggressive all this time, and had managed to lose close to half his starting stack.
Hmm….he hadn’t been the preflop raiser. He had limped in front of me. A set of Kings was therefore unlikely. A set of 10’s? No, I think he would have raised with pocket 10’s. King-10? possible. Aggressively playing a flush draw? Very possible.
Bottom line, I’m not folding a set there. If I bust with a set of 4’s on the first level, so be it. I called. The lady who had raised preflop and called my flop bet took a long time to fold. She said she had her “favorite hand.” It was a hard choice for her. But she folded. Later she said she had pocket 6’s. She almost called a bet of around $5500 with that on the flop? Wow..
But it was just the two of us and he showed 10-4. Offsuit. He had limped in with 10-4 offsuit in early position. I guess he found out why you don’t limp in with 10-4 offsuit. The board blanked out and I had won a nice pot and he was toast.
Started 2nd level (50/100) with $17,500. I raised to $400 with King-Jack of hearts (one person had limped in front of me). Just the limper called. Ace-high flop, I c-bet $650 and took it down.
I raised to $275 with King-10 of clubs from UTG, both blinds called. Flop was Queen-Queen-5, no clubs. It was checked to me, I bet $650 and no one called.
Level 3 (100/200), started with $18K. The new guy to my right, another aggro, raised to $650. I just called with Ace-King of spades. He was definitely a guy I should have considered three-betting with that hand. Bad play on my part. The flop was all low and I folded to his c-bet.
I got Ace-King again and after a limper, I made it $800. Two called, including the aggro on my right. The flop was low, I c-bet $1,600 and only the aggro called. I checked the last two streets, both blank. Couldn’t bring myself to fire another barrel with nothing. He didn’t bet either. He won the pot by catching a 6 on the river (I think he had Ace-6).
Started level 4 (25/100/200) with a little less than $17K. In the cut off seat, the guy to my right raised to $625. I had King-Queen of clubs and raised to $1500 (probably the first time ever I three-bet with that hand). I thought he was just trying to steal since it had been folded to him. He tanked for a bit and then folded face up—Ace-10.
After two players limped, I raised to $800 with King-10 of diamonds. Three players called. Flop was Ace-Jack-x. I c-bet $2,700 and no one called.
Level 5 (25/200/400). I started with around $18K. On this hand, which was late in the level, the key player was an attractive, not especially young woman who wanted to be somewhere else. Seriously, she kept looking at her watch and wondering if she was gonna bust in time to get over to the Wynn and play in the last satellite for the final of the Wynn Classic, the last flight of which was the next day. Here’s a question: If you want to play in a 5PM satellite at one poker room, why do you play in a Deepstack tournament that starts at 1PM in another poker room? Weird. I suppose if she won this tournament (or finished high enough), she’d have enough to buy herself into Wynn final directly—the entry fee was $1,600. But what if she busted out too late to enter the satellite without getting a big (or any) cash?
Well, no problem. I was only too happy to help her make it to the Wynn in time. In early position, she raised to $1,200. Three others called. I was in the small blind with 9-8 of clubs. With all that money in the pot, I thought it was worth a call, especially since I had some chips in there already. The flop was Ace-Jack-10, two clubs (the Ace was one of the clubs).
Great flop for me, draw-wise. But I checked to the preflop raiser. She shoved for around $5,500. It folded back to me, last to act. I called. She flipped over Ace-9, no clubs. The turn was a low club and It took down a very nice pot and sent the nice lady over to the Wynn for that satellite she was lusting after.
We move to level 7 (75/400/800), I started with almost $35K. I called a shove of $5,700 with Ace-King of hearts. He had pocket 7’s. I took it when a King fell on the turn.
Level 9 (200/800/1600), started with $38K. Down to 46 players left. First in with pocket Jacks, I raised to $3,500. One guy called—a player I usually see every time I play at Binion’s. The flop was King-King-9. I bet $6k, he stared me down and folded.
Before the level was over I got pocket Jacks again. I raised to $4,000. The guy on my left made it $10,000. He hadn’t been very aggressive. I probably should have just laid those Jacks down, but I did call. I had this guy covered, but not by very much. The flop was Queen-high, I checked, he shoved, I folded. He showed me two Aces. That hurt.
Level 10 (300/1000/2000), down to $34,600. Pretty close to fold-or-shove mode. Raised to $7K with Queen-10 of diamonds. Only that Binion’s guy called from the big blind. The flop was Ace-Jack-4. He checked, and I announced “all-in” firmly, quickly, definitively. I was sure this guy thought I was too tight a player to do that on a semi-bluff (all I had was a gutshot). And the way I announced it sold it. He folded. Phew.
I had gotten some chips that level with first-in bets that weren’t called, so I was up to $55K at level 11 (400/1500/3000). The last hand of this level was maybe the story of my tournament, where I blew my opportunity to get enough chips to get a nice score.
I had pocket Aces. I was actually thinking that I was almost to the point where I would take a shot with Aces and limp in, and see if I could pull off the limp/re-raise. But no, this time, I raised with them, to $8K. Only one player called, the table’s big stack, who had fairly recently moved to the table and had been attempting to bully us ever since. He was definitely being aggressive. He was in the big blind.
The flop was Ace-Queen-Queen. Yeah, pretty good flop for me. He led out for $1,200. And I thought about what to do, but not well enough. He had about 4-5 times as many chips as I did, and I was sure he’d call a shove. Of course if he had pocket Queens, my tournament is over. But if had had pocket Queens, he would have three-bet me preflop and then possibly called my shove. And if he had flopped quads, he wouldn’t have bet out.
He didn’t have pocket Queens. I figured he probably had Queen-something, maybe even Ace-Queen. I reasoned I was fine as long as he didn’t hit his one-outer. But I didn’t think long enough. He had been so aggressive that I figured he’d call me unless he was making a total bluff. I shoved.
He tanked forever. He asked for a count ($48K). He took more time than it takes to read one of my blog posts. But then he turned up one card—an Ace—and folded. Damn.
For the rest of the tournament, that haunted me. I should have just called. Of course, he was probably expecting me to fold, so maybe if I had called, he would have checked the turn and not called anything I bet. Who knows? Still, I couldn’t help thinking I didn’t get enough value for my monster hand.
That got me up to around $73K but I was still short stacked. For the next few levels I couldn’t steal enough with preflop raises to keep ahead of what the blinds and antes were costing me. One hand, I raised with King-10 on the button and was disappointed when both blinds called me. The flop was Ace-high and I couldn’t continue.
But I was surviving. We got down to 20 players, two away from the bubble. At this point, I didn’t note my stack because I could do nothing but fold or shove. When they did the redraw for the final two tables, there were too huge stacks at the table that were both very aggressive. On virtually every hand, at least one of those two stacks raised before it got to me. I didn’t get any hand close to being playable against a raise. The few times I had a chance to get in first I had hands not even remotely worth gambling with.
I swear I wasn’t tightening up just to get that puny min cash; I just didn’t have any chance to take a chance.
A player busted and we were about to go hand-for-hand. Someone proposed paying the bubble…..each of us would give $10. I pointed out that in that case, the bubble would get more than the min cash ($180 vs $174). Someone said it didn’t matter, but before we got into a discussion of that, it became moot as someone refused to pay the bubble.
My stack was really getting small, but there were a couple smaller ones. I looked for any opportunity, but Aces, other broadway cards, pocket pairs, were just not coming my way. True, one time I had pocket 9’s. But someone raised in front of me and one of the big stacks called. My shove would not have been enough to get anyone to fold. It didn’t make sense to me to keep them. If I had been first in, I would have gladly shoved with that hand.
Finally a player busted and we were down to 18 and we were all in the money. And I was still looking for a hand.
I was probably down to 5-7 big blinds. A few hands after the bubble broke, I was in late position with King-10 of clubs. A monster compared to my recent hands. Astonishingly, it folded to me—both of the two big stacks had folded. Of course I shoved.
Unfortunately, the guy to my immediate to my left shoved over me—he was the third or fourth biggest stack at the table. A lady who had been the shorty at the table before the bubble broke—but had gotten a lucky double up when she had shoved light earlier—shoved from the big blind.
She turned over pocket 6’s. The guy to my left had Ace-King. Ugh. I need a 10 or a bunch of clubs. The flop was all blanks, no clubs. A King came on the turn, not what I needed. No 10 on the river and I was out, as was the lady. We both got the min cash for $174.
I had played for 7-1/2 hours and had less than $50 profit to show for it. I’m gonna talk about “min cashes” in tournaments another time. (And in fact, I now have, in the follow up post here) But I had fun and I could have played 10 minutes less and lost $125, so I couldn’t be too displeased. Wished I’d just called that bet when I flopped Aces full, though.