Friday, January 31, 2014

Caesars Properties Make Promo Changes

My new column for Ante Up is now online and can be found here.

The issue should be in poker rooms around the country soon if it's not already there.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Calling Time on the Minister

When I told the story about the Stoner Guy who took forever to make  decision and couldn’t remember whether three-of-a-kind beat a straight (see here), I made a few cryptic comments that I promised would be explained later.  Now is later.

The hand I described in that prior post happened almost immediately after I had gotten to the table.  After that hand, Stoner Guy kept taking forever to make a decision, and continued to have his head buried in his celphone whenever he wasn’t in a hand.

Suddenly, in a rather slow, deliberate fashion, he mentioned he was in the process of moving to Vegas (oh joy!) and wanted to know what neighborhoods he should be looking at for an apartment.  The dealer gave me some suggestions (this was the next dealer after the hand I described earlier).  After the dealer was done giving some suggestions, he went back to his phone.  What he was doing on it then was researching apartments for rent.

The reason I know that is he asked me for help.  He asked if I knew how to make a screen capture from his phone.  I asked what kind of phone he had.  He had the newer version of the same phone I have, so I assumed it would be the same.  He gave me his phone and I tried what I thought would work, and indeed it did.  I noticed that the screen he wanted a capture of had a list of apartments for rent.

I handed him back the phone and we kept playing.  And, a little while later, while we were both in the middle of the hand, Stoner Guy asked if I could show him how I made that screen capture.  I said I would tell him when we weren’t both in a hand.

Now, while that hand was going on, seat 1, next to the dealer opened up. I was sitting in seat 7.  Did I mention this was a Saturday night, meaning the nightclub was operating?  In other words, attractive young girls wearing dresses that covered considerably less than half their bodies were about to start parading by the poker room.  I was sitting at table near the coming parade, but facing the wrong way.  Seat 1 would be facing the right way.  So moving to Seat 1 would have been a two-fer.  1) Getting away from Stoner Guy and 2) Getting a much better view.

When the hand was over, before attempting to move, I tried to get Stoner Guy’s attention so I could show him how to make a screen capture.  I should have just moved, but that would have been rude.  Why I felt I owed this clown any courtesy, I dunno.  Anyway, I couldn’t get this guy’s attention, and I was about to give up and was just about to ask the dealer if I could take the open seat when I saw someone take it.

Now, there was probably still time for me to ask for the seat, but the new player was my pal Abe.  Damn, I didn’t want to take the seat right from out under him.  I had seen him earlier, he was playing at another table and apparently had asked for a table change.  If I hadn’t been distracted by the Stoner Guy, I would have already been settled in to that seat before Abe had even made it over there. 

This is actually critical to the big hand of the night, which I’ll get to momentarily.  Before that, I limped in with Queen-Jack of spades (as explained previously, I’m playing more suited cards, trying to get a flush for the cash drawing).  Four of us saw the flop.  It was Jack high, one club (no spades).  The club is important.  I bet $8, only the guy on my immediate left (not the Stoner Guy, he was on my right) called.  The turn card was the Jack of clubs.  I bet $20, he called.  The river was a third club.  Damn, did he hit a back-door flush?

He bet $31 after I checked and I made the crying call.  He turned over Ace-King of clubs.


So only two questions, really.  Who doesn’t raise preflop with Ace-King suited?  And why did he call on the flop with nothing?  Sometimes I forget to consider how badly people can play poker.

I didn’t say anything of course, but he must have read my mind, at least the second question.  He said, “Yeah, sometimes it pays to stay in.”  Yeah, yeah, that’s a good strategy.  Note:  he built up a decent stack but eventually lost it all.  But not to me.

For awhile after Abe took my seat 1, the table got very tight and no one seemed to play a hand, or call a raise.  The definitely weren’t calling Abe’s raises.  So on this particular hand, when he raised to $10 in early position, I’m sure he expected to just take the blinds.

Not quite.  Everyone at the table called.  I think even the dealer called.  The cocktail waitress, who was at the table taking orders, called.  By the time it got to me in the big blind, there were so many callers I almost had to call with just about anything.  In fact, I had 3-4 hearts, so it was definitely worth ten bucks to become one of the seven of us who saw the flop.  Yeah seven.  I felt like I was back playing 2/4!

So of course I flopped the nuts.  2-5-6. No hearts, but two diamonds.  Nice, but vulnerable.  Abe led out with $40, and another guy called.  I had about $140-$150 in front of me, and at that point I realized I was going to have to shove, no raise I could make less than a shove would be enough.

But before it got to me, the next player shoved first.

Well, that was interesting. I recognized he guy who shoved.  Oddly enough, he was the father of the kid from England I mentioned in this post here about the bubble bitch.  That story had taken place the week before.  I had recognized his son playing at another table, and I had run into the two of them the day after the tournament cash right there at BSC.  So this was the third time within a week I’d seen this father and son team.

He had me covered, but I was going to shove anyway.  I thought he might be aggressive enough to make that move with a flush draw.  He was British, after all.  Of course I put all my chips into the pot.

It folded to Abe who insta-folded.  Then it was back on the guy who had called Abe’s $40 bet.  BTW, he was the guy who had won the hand earlier when Stoner Guy thought, erroneously, he had a straight and actually showed his pair of 10’s. 

He went into to the tank for a long, long time.  I really wanted him to call.  At least I thought I did.  I figured he had the flush draw as well.  My thought there was that “Dad” had the flush draw and this guy probably did as well.  With his hesitancy, I was thinking he probably had a draw to a small flush and was wondering if, even if he hit his flush, he’d still lose.  He had a bigger stack than mine, but less than the Englishman had (I think the Brit’s stack was a bit over $200).

So I figured his calling wouldn’t affect my chances of winning the pot and would mean a triple-up rather than a double-up if my straight held.  I figured wrong.

He took as much time to decide as the Stoner Guy did with every decision.  But he eventually called.  I dunno why, but I decided to turn over my cards and I announced, “Well, I’ve got the nuts right now.”

The Brit turned over 5-2 of hearts for two pair.  And the guy who took forever to call turned over Ace-4 of diamonds.


What took him so long to call?  He not only had the draw to the nut flush but a gut-shot as well.  True, the straight he was drawing to was smaller than my straight, but he didn’t know that.  With all that money in the pot, drawing to the nuts, it should have been an easy call.  My assumption when he took so long was that he had the flush draw but it wasn’t to the nut flush.  He might have figured the one of us already all-in had a bigger flush draw and he was drawing dead.  But with the Ace, I don’t see how he didn’t insta-call.

Whatever, I knew I had a lot of bullets to dodge. The turn was a black Ace, giving the guy with the flush draw a pair of Aces but that didn’t really help him.  Only a diamond would help him.

As we waited for the river, I was praying for a big, black card.  Any black card, 6 or better, would be just fine.  But no, it was indeed a diamond.  I think a 9.  Didn’t matter, any diamond was equally bad.  The guy who hesitated took the main pot and the side pot.  I was left with nothing.  The Brit had some money left, but soon left.

Ugh.  That was painful.  But hey, that’s poker, right?  I really hadn’t lost that much.  It was just that it would have been such a nice pot to have taken down.  And did I mention that I flopped the nuts?

I also kind of wondered what anyone of us was doing in that hand.  Ace-4 suited, call an early position raise?  Five-deuce suited?  Four-three suited?  Well, I had an excuse.  By the time it came to me, I had the odds to call with 7-2 offsuit.  What was their excuse?

When it was over, Abe said, “This would make a great blog post if you were sitting here.  I had your hand!”

Well, I knew what that meant.  He had the dreaded pocket Kings.  Of course, with three all-ins in front of him, that was an easy fold for him.  But wait a minute,,,,,,wait a minute.  I should have been in that seat, right?  If that idiot Stoner Guy hadn’t distracted me, I would have been in that seat.  I would have had those damn Kings.  I would have folded just as Abe did.  I would have only lost $50 instead of nearly three times that!

Damn stoner guy.

It would have made a better blog post from my perspective…..losing less money and still having a great story about how I lost with the dreaded KK.  Instead I have a story of how I lost after flopping the nut straight.  Ugh.

I rebought.  When the Brit left, Stoner Guy moved over one seat to take his place.  And Abe moved into his seat right next to me.  So he was between the Stoner Guy and me.

The Stoner Guy continued to take forever to make all his decisions.  And Abe was glancing over as he was looking at his phone, which his face was constantly buried in.  According to Abe, he was no longer looking up apartments.  He thought Stoner Guy was trying to arrange buying and/or selling drugs!

A couple of times, the guy was taking so excessively long to make a decision that Abe called “time” on him.  I couldn’t blame him.  He was really slowing up the game, and other than that one hand I described in my prior post, hadn’t really demonstrated a propensity for donking off large stacks of chips.  So after the second time, Stoner Guy, in a near catatonic state, expressed some concern over having time called on him.  He didn’t understand it, I guess.  I was impressed he was actually aware of it.

Anyway, the dealer was our pal Mike, and he called the floor over.  The floor happened to be Jane.  Mike whispered something to her and then Jane called the Stoner Guy away for a little chat.  We had no idea what that was all about but when they came back, Jane was helping the guy pick up his chips.  We thought they were kicking him out for being too stoned to play.  But no, Jane was merely escorting him to another table. 

When Jane was done moving the guy, she then pulled Abe away from the table for a little chat with him.  Was Abe in trouble?  Jane sees Abe in there nearly every night and knows him well.  She certainly knows he is no trouble-maker.

When Abe returned to the table, he told me what Jane had said to him.  Apparently Stoner Guy was moved based on his own request.  But the weird thing was, the guy had told Jane that Abe was only complaining about him because he (Stoner Guy) was a Christian Minister and that Abe was anti-Christian!

I can assure you, the “fact” that Stoner Guy was a Christian Minister—or even a Christian—had never been discussed at the table.  And frankly, the idea that this guy was a Minister was incredibly funny.  In what church is it ok for the Minister to partake in massive quantities of devil weed?

We were chuckling at that all night.  In fact, that was so funny I had to text my pal Prudence about it.  Her reply was great:  “Huh?  Is Abe some famous stone cold atheist activist leader?  WTF?”

For the record, I have never seen Abe rip anyone’s cross off and stamp it into the grown.

By the way, the next day, when I checked into the room with Jane, I asked about the guy and she told me that he had said the same thing about me.  He was actually conscious enough to realize Abe and I were friends and had determined that I too was upset with him for being a Christian Minister.

And he also had accused Abe and I of colluding!  Of course Jane knew how preposterous that was.

He also told Jane that all his winnings from poker were donated to his church. 

Yeah, sure.

There’s only more hand I’ll mention, mostly because of a comment from a kibitzer and a dealer.  We’re going to call the kibitzer Paul.  Paul is a regular in the room and I guess it would be fair to call him a professional grinder.  He is good friends with Prudence and he and I have become quite friendly the past few months.  He’s also quite friendly with Abe.   At one point, while he was waiting to get called to a game, he saw us and came over to chat with us.

So he witnessed the hand I’m about to describe.  I had Ace-King on the button.  Abe, immediately in front of me, raised to $10.  I’ve talked about Ace-King before (see here, for example).  I don’t think it’s a three-bet hand, usually.  Maybe I undervalue that hand.  But usually, unless it’s a raise from a super-aggro, I usually just call with it.  So I called.   The small blind behind me also called.

The flop was Ace-2-2.  The small blind (who was the same guy who went runner-runner flush on me in the first hand I described) led out with a $10 bet.  Abe folded.  I made it $25 and the small blind called.  The turn was a Queen and the small blind went all in for about $80.  I dunno.  I figured he very well could have a deuce, but for the size of the pot, and the fact that they’d be no more action on the river, I went ahead and called.

The river was meaningless and of course he had a deuce. I don’t remember the other card, but it was just part of some garbage hand he had no business calling a raise with. 

It was at this point, as the guy was dragging in the pot, that Paul leaned into me and said, “Way to three-bet before the flop there, Rob.”

Way to rub it in, Paul.

I didn’t bother to explain to him why I didn’t.  Obviously in this scenario, I should have.

Meanwhile, the dealer was George.  George has only dealt me approximately 789,123 hands of poker.  George heard Paul’s comment.  And so he said, “He doesn’t know how to say ‘three-bet.’”

That got a laugh from Paul and Abe.  And from me, it got this response:  “I’ll remember that next time I need to tip you.”

George said, “I deserve that.  That’s fair.  But it had to be said.”

You know, I didn’t come into that poker room to be insulted. 

I usually go to singles bars for that.

Since my luck obviously hadn’t changed after Abe and I chased away Stoner Guy—or should I say, “Reverend Stoner Guy”—I left not long after that.  With less money in my wallet and a couple of expensive blog posts rolling around in my head.

Monday, January 27, 2014

“The Only One of Us Who Writes About Poker Any More is Rob.”

Last month, for the second straight year, I played in the WPBT Winter Classic.  The story of my first WPBT event can be found here.  I already knew going in that this one wouldn’t be quite as sensational as my first time, as I had read on Twitter or on Facebook that Michelle (MrsChako) wouldn’t be in attendance.  Meaning that there would be little chance of any girl-on-girl action this time.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should read the prior post I just linked to.

It was a close call as to whether or not I’d make it this time.  I had decided to be in Vegas for Thanksgiving, and hanging around Vegas until the December 7 tournament was a bit of a stretch.  Then too, I was concerned with the starting time.  Last year it started at the respectable hour of 2PM.  This year, they were starting it at 11AM.  Yikes.  I have to say, 11AM is really early for me when I’m in Vegas.  Some days I barely wake up by then.

But with only three hours of sleep in the bank, I managed to make it over to the Aria in time for the tournament.  Some of my pals who were there last year were missing.  I couldn’t drag Prudence with me this time.  And for some reason, Poker Grump didn’t drop in all the way from North Carolina.  Lightning was a no show as well.  And no one associated with poker has seen grrouchie since the last days of the first Bush administration.

My memory ain’t what it used to be and so, although I saw some familiar faces—people I met for the first time last year—I couldn’t quite put a name with a face in many instances.  I did recognize and say hi to both CK & PokerVixen of course.  They were actually organizing the event this year, and they did a great job.  And I did see my pals Donna & Jeanne.  And who was assigned to my table, directly on my right?  None other than Grange himself, the man who is responsible for the title of last year’s report on this event.

At my starting table, across the way, was a fellow who looked a little familiar. Before I had a chance to rack my brain for his name, he introduced himself to me.  “You’re Rob, right?”  He said he was NumbBono and reminded me that I had blogged about a hand I was in with him last year.  I had an excuse for not recognizing him.  Last year his hair had been a lot blonder.

Anyway, he said, “Yeah, we met last year but I didn’t introduce myself, sorry.”  I said that’s ok, he didn’t know who I was probably until he read my report on the tournament.  But no, that wasn’t it. He told me,  “No, I knew who you were.  I read your blog.  I read it before then.  Everyone reads your blog.”

That was nice to hear.  I thanked him and we chatted a bit before the tournament started.  Then, early in the tournament, one of the Aria dealers we had asked us what the WPBT was.  NumbBono explained that we’re poker bloggers, but that “The only one of us who really writes about poker any more is Rob.”  I just laughed and then he continued, “Yeah, your posts are great, but they’re ‘Hoy’-like.  Very long posts.”  I somehow figured out that he was referring to a famous blogger, likely retired.  I said, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”  Someone near me said, “He might not have meant it as a compliment.”  I agreed but said I would take it as one anyway.

When I returned home, I direct-messaged NumbBono for more information.  My curiosity was piqued.  He was kind enough to explain.  He was referring to Hoyazo (whose old blog can be found here).  Hoy’s blog posts were so long that another blogger started a blog called “Synopsis of Hoy.”  And even those weren’t brief enough, so someone else started a blog, “Synopsis of Synopsis of Hoy.”  Now that’s really funny.

I guess my posts aren’t long enough to inspire someone to do a blog devoted to publishing synopses of my blog.  Hmmm… that I think of it, if you read my comment section, you may be familiar with the occasional comment by Poker Grump that he calls the “Grump’s Notes” version of my post.  Now I know where he got the idea!

Also at my table was the defending champion, TheLuckbox.  On level 2 I had my first good hand against him.  He raised to $325 (blinds were 50/100) and I called with pocket 8’s (I was the big blind).  I hit my set on the flop and checked.   He bet $700 and I check-raised to $2,000.  He thought a long time and then called.  Turn was a blank and I led out with a $3,500 bet.  He tanked and folded.

On the third level, it was raised in front of me to $425 and I call with Ace-King and the guy behind me called as well.  He was an older gentleman who I don’t think was a blogger, he just was some guy who wanted to play in a tournament.  The flop was Queen high and the preflop raiser checked, so I bet $600 and the older gentleman called, the original raiser folded.  The turn was either a 10 or a Jack giving me a gut shot.  I bet out $1,200 and the older guy tanked for a bit, then folded and said, “I guess King-Queen’s no good there.”  I of course said nothing.  I just laughed to myself and thought, “Unless I was about to hit my gutshot, King-Queen was plenty good there.”

Same level and a bunch of us limped in.  I had pocket 9’s.  The flop was Queen-high, all hearts, but included a 9.  I led out with $600 and the preflop raiser from the last hand made it $1,200.  Sorry, I know this fellow was part of the bloggers group, but I don’t know who he was.  That’s real tricky for me there, I could already be losing to a flush.  I just called.  A non-heart on the turn and I checked and called his bet ($2,000 or so).  But the river card was a second Queen so I didn’t have to worry about the flush—only a bigger boat.  I still checked, thinking about check-raising.  He bet $3,500.  He had me covered by a decent amount, and I couldn’t raise without shoving.  So I shoved. He called. 

I showed my boat, and he was not at all happy.  He showed one card, a Queen, and then mucked.  I was happy with the pot, to be sure, but then started thinking about it.  Since this was a tournament and I was all in and he had called, the dealer should have insisted that he turn up his hand.  I guess I should have insisted on that as well.  But it was too late.

I pointed this out later to Grange and he agreed that it was a dealer error.  In the meantime, the player’s friends were asking him what he had to go along with that Queen.  He said, “umm…ummm, let’s just say it was an Ace…..was there an Ace on the board?”  When told there was not, he said, “Yeah, then I had an Ace-Queen.”

A bit later I was in the big blind and Grange was small blind.  It folded to him.  He raised three times the big blind and I had to call. I just had to.  The flop totally missed me and when Grange bet I folded face up.  I said, “I had to play this against you, I just had to.”  When he saw my hand, he agreed.  It would have been too good a story if only I could have beaten him with that hand.  You see, I had 6-3, Grange’s favorite hand.  Or, as he calls it, “The Spanish Inquisition.”

It’s lucky I missed though.  My 6-3 were both hearts.  But his hand, Queen high I believe, was also suited hearts. 

At the start of level 4, I had $24,000 ($10K was the starting stack).  But at the start of level 6, I was still at $24K, not having seen many pots (but no big losses, either).    Grange was much shorter stacked and was open-shoving a bit.  Recently he had done that with I had Ace-Queen of hearts, and I decided to fold.  A few hands later he did it again and this time I had Ace-King.  I was still a bit unhappy about folding the Ace-Queen hand so I wasn’t about to fold again.  He had around $7K in chips, give or take.  I thought about calling but there were players behind me so I thought it would be best to shove myself in order to isolate.  But a new player had just come to the table with a big stack.  He had me covered by a lot.  We’ll call this player Rich because that’s what everyone was calling him and that’s his name.  He thought a long time about what to do.

Of course, I was hoping he’d fold.  Grange couldn’t knock me out of the tournament but Rich could have.  But finally Rich did indeed call.  Ooops.  We tabled our cards.  Up against my A-K was Grange’s pocket Queens and Rich’s pocket 9’s.  Since it was a race, but since there were two pocket pairs against me, it was more like a three-legged race.

I sure did like the flop.  It was King high.  The turn was a blank, but the river was a damn Queen. Grange won the main pot—a nice triple up for him.  But I won the side pot and I ended up winning more than I lost.  I went from around $24K to $33K.  So it turned out to be a very good thing that Rich had called after all.  Now if only that damn Queen hadn’t hit on the river, I’d be swimming in chips.  Of course, if had been a 9 instead, I would have been done for the day.

It was at this level that our table broke and we were down to the final two tables.  There had only been 4 to start, around 40 players total.  PokerVixen was at my table and she limped in (blinds were 400/800).  I raised to $2200 with Ace-10 off suit on the button.  The flop was a total miss, but when she checked I bet $3,500 and she kindly folded. 

That took me to level 7 with $36K, a bit under an “M” of 20).  I raised with pocket 5’s and didn’t get a call.  I raised with Ace-Queen, had one caller, hit my Queen on the flop and my bet was called.  I checked the turn.  I bet the river and took it down without a call.

The last hand I wrote down was a bad hand.  I raised with Ace-Jack.  Rich, still with a big stack, re-raised and another guy four-bet. I quickly folded.  It turned out to be a nice pick up for Rich as he actually won with the dreaded pocket Kings.  We made it down to 10 players and from that point on, I never faced an all-in showdown.  As my stack dwindled, I just shoved instead of calling or raising, but I was never called when I shoved.  Not once.  I was getting pretty bad cards but shoved when the spot was right and never had a call.  There were very few times when I had a decent enough hand where I wanted a call, however.

One time when I would have wanted a call I got a walk instead.  I was the in the big blind with Ace-King and I figured this was either my double up or my bust-out.  But everyone folded, including the small blind.  I showed my Ace-King.  A few orbits later I got another walk, this time with a garbage hand.  Someone said, “Ace-King” again?  I laughed and shook my head. 

Only five were to be paid, with the last place prize being around $170 and 1st place being around $1,600 (it was a $125 buy-in).  Once we got to the final table I was one of the bottom feeders and I couldn’t chip up.  I was just hanging in there with my shoves that weren’t called. Without any double ups, I was just hanging by a thread.

But we got down to 7.  It looked like one other player and I were neck and neck for short-stack.  To my surprise, the guy next to me, who was definitely part of the blogger’s group but I can’t recall his name, suggested we do a chip-chop for the entire prize pool.

We had been playing for about 5 hours or so.  I don’t think there’s any way in a regular tournament this would have been considered at that point, but I guess because we were all friends, we discussed it.

So we stopped and counted our chips and Aaron, the TD at the Aria, did the math.  Rich was in first place and a guy I’ll call “The Intruder” was a close second.  The Intruder was the only one at the table who wasn’t part of the bloggers group; no one knew him.  He wasn’t especially friendly and was a fairly aggressive player. 

I think at this count, I was in last place, just barely.  This was actually my first experience with a “chip-chop” and I learned how they do it.  They start out making sure that everyone left is going to get last place money and take that off the table. Then, they chop up the rest of the prize pool as a percentage of their stack.  That meant that all of us would have gotten considerably more than the last place money, even the short stacks.  I would have gotten more than $300, and remember, last place money was supposed to be $170  And there was no guarantee of me getting anything.  It also meant that no one would get close to the 1st place price money, especially since we would be creating not one but two extra prize slots.

Rich heard the amount he’d get and balked a little.  He felt he should be getting a “little” more than that.  I think the rest of us would have agreed to that, but The Intruder didn’t like that.  He felt since he and Rich were so close together at this point, he and Rich should split a big first place prize and the rest of us should split the rest of the money equally.  He actually named a figure what he and Rich should both get, and I don’t recall what it was.  But it was even less for Rich than the chip-chop, and when he questioned it, The Intruder just said, “OK, let’s just play it out.”

A few grumbled but there was nothing we could do.  We would have had to agree unanimously and we couldn’t.  Since I was in last place, I certainly didn’t feel like I should really say anything.  Of course I wanted to make a deal.  So, after having taken a long break for us to count our chips and for Aaron to go to the office to do the math, we ended up resuming play.  Since I was closest to being knocked out, I was quite disappointed, as were most of the players, even the ones with much bigger stacks.  As I said, I was sure we could have made an agreement that would have made Rich, as well as the rest of us, happy, but The Intruder prevented it.

So we went on and played for another hour or so.  And no one busted out.  I actually stole more chips than I lost—or least I stole more chips than other people did, and I actually got to the point where I was in fifth place, not far from fourth.  All without a single showdown hand.

But at some point, The Intruder lost a bunch of chips.  Suddenly he wasn’t in undisputed second place.  And he wasn’t close to Rich, who now had chips galore.  So when we came back from the break, he said, “Why don’t we do a chop?”  But he didn’t mean a chip-chop.  He announced some figure for Rich, a slightly lesser figure for himself, and then said the rest of us would split the rest of the money.

The problem was that the guy to my left (again, don’t recall who he was) said no way, he had more chips than The Intruder.  So this time The Intruder agreed to having us count all our chips—again—and see what a chip chop would be.  I was in much better position now, in fifth place.  I don’t recall the numbers but the figure given to me as my payout was $447.  I was thrilled with any number that started with a “4”, I can assure you.
We all heard the numbers and, yes, yes, we all agreed. Even The Intruder was happy with his 3rd place (I think) money.  Of course, since it was still possible for me to bust out with nothing, I was very, very happy.  I think we all were.

There was one woman at our final table, a delightful mature woman who suggested we all put in $20 of our winnings for the dealers.  Her name was Linda and I actually wasn’t sure how she fit into our group.  But as we were waiting to collect our winnings, I asked her name and she told me that she was in fact, the very first poker blogger.  You can find her site, Pokerworks, here.

That’s about it.  It was fun playing with the bloggers again and I sure didn’t mind taking away some cash.  Thanks to CK & PokerVixen for organizing another great gathering.

I hope I can make it next year.  Or this year, really.

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.