Aria Post-Christmas Tournament, Part 1
This is the write up of my second Vegas tournament from December. The first one was the weekend before, at Binion’s (see here). As noted in that write up, the next day I was swearing to never play in another tournament, but that vow lasted only a week, and the Saturday after Christmas I was a ready to get back on the horse (though it was not HORSE tournament, you see).
This time I played for about the same length of time as the one the prior week, but with a better result (how much better is kind of open to debate, at least for me, as you will see). This time it was the Aria 1PM. The details are these, $125 buy-in $10K starting stack, 30-minute levels. No guarantee but they almost get over 100 players for this, especially on a weekend, so it would be a nice prize pool.
In fact, let’s get the bookkeeping out of the way first. When the tournament started, there were 64 players but by end of registration there were 124 players. I guess poker players aren’t very good at being on time. And now you know why tournaments have re-entry and also allow two hours of late registration, as this one does. The total prize pool was over $12K, and twelve spots were to be paid. The bottom three would get the min-cash, which was $204.
Let that sink in, because this may be my grudge-of-a-lifetime. Even more so than someone stealing my half-empty glass of diet coke, even more so than a baseball cap being worn backwards (but not anywhere near as bad as the Designated Hitter rule, which is worse than the Spanish Inquisition). I’ve railed about this several times, most notably here, that the min cash in a tournament of this size is not enough. And here it is. If you play 7 hours or so and make the min cash, your reward is a measly $79 profit for your efforts. That’s for a buy-in of $125. You don’t get paid even money—not even close, in this case. And that $79 assumes you don’t tip the dealers a penny when you get paid. If you’re a decent human being who tips, it will be even less.
The rest of the pay scale seemed a little questionable to me as well. First place was a nice $3,900 or so, second place dropped all the way to $2,500. Third was $1,600 and you had to come in fourth to get over $1K, and then just barely, at $1,022. Fifth place was $710 and so on. All I can say is that, as I was watching the pay outs adjust with each entrant through the first four levels, I kept asking myself over and over again, “Why didn’t I keep my vow to stop playing tournaments again?”
The decision to play at Aria this time instead of Binion’s was partially a business one. The previous weekend I wanted to play at Binion’s to talk to the new person running the room. As I mentioned in this post, Paul, the TD at Binion’s had left for the Aria. So I wanted to make sure I had a contact at Binion’s still. That was easily resolved. This time, I wanted to go to Aria and see Paul in his new surroundings and wish him well.
My tournament experience this day got off to a shaky start, and it looked like I might be in need of some mid-afternoon plans. First level (25/50) in the big blind I called $150 with Ace-3 of diamonds. It was heads up. No bet on a blank flop, I bet $200 on an Ace turn, he called. I bet $400 on a blank river and was called by Ace-10.
The very next hand, I was the small blind with Ace-9 off. I called a small raise (my notes are unclear). The flop was Queen-10-9, two clubs—my Ace was a club. It was heads up, no betting. I called a small bet on the turn which was a King, giving me a gut shot. I folded on the river when the board paired a Queen, the player showed Queen-10 for the boat.
I raised to $225 with pocket 10’s, one player called. The flop was King-Queen-Jack. I c-bet $300 and took it down.
Last hand of level 1, I called $200 on the button with Ace-10 offsuit, it was three-way. The flop was Ace-8-3 and it checked to me, I bet $400. The pre-flopp raiser called, the other folded. I bet $1K on a King turn, he called. The river was a 10, and this time he led out for $2K. Did he really have Queen-Jack for runner-runner straight? I didn’t think so. I tanked a bit and then called. He showed a set of 8’s he’d been slow-playing. Ugh.
That got me to level 2 (50/100) with $5,675, almost half my starting stack gone. After a limper, I raised to $350 with pocket Queens. One player called and my $350 c-bet on a Jack-high flop took it.
I got pocket Queens again a few hands later. I made it $250 and it was three-way. I bet $600 on a low flop. The turn was an Ace and I bet $1,600, he called. The river was another low card putting four to a straight on the board. He bet $2,700 and I folded.
Level 3 (100/200) I was down to $3,225. Not good. On the button, I made it $1K with Queen-Jack of diamonds after two limpers and took it.
In early position I raised to $500 with Ace-7 of hearts, two players called. The flop was Jack-high, nothing for me, but I made a $1K c-bet and took it.
In the big blind I woke up with pocket Aces. There were many limpers so I made it $1,100. Only one player called. The flop was Queen-high, I c-bet $1,300 and didn’t get a call.
I had eked my way up to $6,125 to start level 4 (25/100/200). In the small blind, I had Ace-King off. There were a bunch of limpers. I made it $1,100 and the big blind, who had me covered, made it $2,400. It folded back to me and I had to decide whether this was the time to shove with Ace-King. It was early in the tournament but with my stack size I felt it was the right move, so I shoved. He tanked for quite a bit. I had enough to hurt him but he’d still have a playable stack if he lost. He finally called and showed Ace-Queen. The trouble was that the flop was all diamonds and he had the Ace of diamonds, so he suddenly had all kinds of outs. But he missed all of them, and I had the double up I so desperately needed. The commentary after the hand was interesting. One player said she folded King-Queen of diamonds and would have flopped the flush. But another player lamented folding pocket deuces since there was deuce on the flop and another one on the river. That’s why you raise, folks.
Even with that hand, I started level 5 (25/200/400) with only a bit above starting stack, $10,425. I stole the blinds and maybe a limper or two by raising with King-Queen of spades and Ace-King off.
After a bunch of limpers, I made it $2,400 with Ace-King of spades on the button. One of the limpers shoved for $8,400. I called. He had pocket 8’s. A King on the flop was all I need to bust him out.
I limped in with pocket 4’s and it was heads up with the big blind. There was a 4 on the flop, along with two clubs. After he checked, I bet $700 and the other player shoved, around $5K. I called and he had Queen-2 of clubs. Lucky for me, he missed his flush.
I opened to $1,100 with Jack-9 offsuit in the cutoff. One player called. I c-bet $1,600 on a blank flop and he called. There was no betting on a blank turn. I caught a 9 on the river and he bet $2K. I thought for a bit and figured he might just be taking a stab there since I had checked the turn. I called and he showed pocket 6’s, lucky river for me.
Level 6 (50/300/600) $36,800. I opened to $1,600 with pocket Kings and had one caller. The flop was 7-7-4, two clubs. I bet $3K and took it down.
In the big blind I had pocket Jacks and called $2,200 from the player who had the pocket 6’s few hands earlier. It was heads up. There was no betting on an Ace-high flop that had two clubs. One of my Jacks was a club. No betting on a club turn. But another club hit the river so I bet $2,500. The other player said, “If one of these is a club, I have to call you.” He looked at his hand and said no. He showed two Queens, a red one and a spade.
I opened to $1,600 with Queen-10 of clubs. I had to fold to a shove and a call. One of the others showed Ace-Jack of clubs and the other player had two Kings, including the King of clubs. Between the three of us, we had the Royal.
Level 7 (75/400/800) $37K. I open to $2,100 with Ace-6 offsuit, heads up. Low flop, two diamonds. I bet $3K and he called. An Ace hit the turn, I bet $4,500 and took it.
After one limper I made it $3K on the button with Ace-10 off. Three of us saw a flop of Ace-King-4, two spades (my 10 was a spade). I bet $7.500 and dragged the pot.
Level 8 (100/600/1200) $50,500. I opened to $3,100 with Ace-Queen off, one caller. Totally bricked the flop. I c-bet $5,500. My opponent folded face up—Ace-King. Heh heh. She muttered something about never being able to hit with Ace-King.
Opened to $3K with Ace-10 off. Same lady as in the last hand was the only caller. The flop was Queen-high, nothing for me. I c-bet $4,500 and she folded face up again. This time she had a pocket pair (7’s or 8’s, I think) and of course had me beat again but didn’t know it.
This next hand, I didn’t write down all the details at the time and was struggling to remember them the next day when I did my voice notes. I didn’t write them down because I folded right away but you’ll see why I couldn’t easily forget it.
I had pocket 6’s and the guy in front of me raised to $3,300 under-the-gun. He had been pretty aggro but I didn’t think 6’s was the spot to challenge him, especially with all those players behind me, so I folded. Two players, both with smaller stacks than mine but not super short, called the raise. The flop made me a bit ill—It was Queen-6-x. There were two spades on it. The preflop raiser checked, the next player checked, the last player made a bet, the preflop raiser folded and the other guy called. All I could think of was, “Please let the spades get there.”
Somehow, they got it all in on the turn, which was not a spade, and they flipped their hands. They both had Ace-Queen, neither of them had the flush draw. I got even more ill when I saw the river card….the case 6!
I have to admit, that took me off my game for awhile, thinking I would have won both of those stacks (which together were bigger than mine) if I had only called. Of course, I knew I had made the right play folding there (I did, didn’t I?), but it was hard not to be using results-oriented thinking at that moment. I mean, yeah, I was thinking that would have made me the chip leader at the table and possibly in the tournament if I had stayed in.
But then the next day, I reasoned that I might not have won all those chips. I probably would have bet out on the flop, what with the spade draw out there. Would both of those players been willing to put all their chips in play with TPTK if there was another player in the pot, with a bigger stack than both of them? It probably doesn’t get to be a three-way all-in if I was in there with my set. But you never know. I would have gotten a bunch of chips for sure.
At the time, all I could think of was the hand that got away. It took me a few orbits to get over it, and I had to keep telling myself that I made the right play. But later, whenever I got into a chip crunch, I couldn’t help thinking about the chips that slipped out of my hand there.
Note: The pic below really has nothing to do with this post, but writing about the quads I tossed away was kind of a downer, and when I came across this pic, it kind of cheered me up.