The Aria WPT 500 2016
(Part 2 of 3)
(Part 2 of 3)
Continuing where we left off (you can find Part 1 here.)….
Two more items before I get to my own tournament hands. First, during the first or second level, they announced that they were giving away “Aria WPT 500” t-shirts. I definitely wanted one. Last year they had given me one when I registered, and then, in my funk after busting out so unceremoniously, I had somehow managed to drop it somewhere getting back to my car, never to be found again. So I definitely wanted to get one (and keep it) this time.
They had a table where several women were handing out the t-shirts, you just needed to show up there with your tournament receipt to claim one. I didn’t want to wait to the break, I wasn’t sure they’d last that long. So I tried to make a mad dash over there between hands. The trouble was that the tournament area was really crowded and the tables were rather jammed together. I snaked my way through the tables, having to say “excuse me” on more than one occasion to people I bumped into, and then just as I got to the table, I noticed a man just standing there, seemingly blocking my way, not doing anything, not talking to anyone, just there doing nothing as far as I could tell. He was wearing a suit but I only saw him from the back. I needed to get around him to get my shirt, and I was in a hurry so I wouldn’t miss any hands. So I said, loudly enough to get his attention, “Excuse me.”
He still had his back to me and I heard him say, “I’m sorry, am I blocking you?” Gulp, even before he turned around, I realized the voice sounded extremely familiar. Was it…oh damn, yes it was. And as I got a good look at him as he starting facing me, I realized I had just been rude to the legendary Mike Sexton. Damn.
I was rather flummoxed and so all I could say was, “Oh, Mr. Sexton, I’m very sorry. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” And I stuck out my hand and he shook it. I’m sure he said something polite back to me, but I was too embarrassed to remember. But he wasn’t at all annoyed with my asking him to move and for that brief nano-second, he seemed like a really nice guy. And he did move out of my way. He had done the “Shuffle up and deal” to get things underway and I recalled that he had played in Day 1A the day before. I got my shirt and squeezed my way back to my seat. Spoiler warning: This time I didn’t lose my shirt (so-to-speak) and I was able to bring it back home with me. A small victory.
The other thing was, during that first level, I heard a player ask if he could order food and he was told they weren’t serving food in the tournament area. Of course, in the Aria poker room, they serve food and have beverage trays for use. But it wasn’t surprising they weren’t serving food in the tournament area, since as I just mentioned, the tables were crammed together pretty good and there was no room for food carts—or beverage trays. So let’s see, a tournament that started at 10AM and there was basically no way to get food (like breakfast and/or lunch) without missing a lot of time during the actual tournament play. There is no way you can get and eat food sold at the Aria during just a 10-minute break. And if you got food and brought it back to the tournament area, there wasn’t really any place to put the food to eat! Of course, I was prepared with my sandwich from home which I managed to stuff down my throat during the first break of the tournament.
So, on to the poker. The starting stack was $15K, the levels were 30 minutes (increased to 40-minutes starting with level 9) and the starting blinds to start were 25/50.
I limped in with pocket 6’s and then called a raise to $200. It was heads up with one of the blinds. The flop was King-Queen-x. He bet $250. It was early, I had my full stack, and I decided to just float one street to see if maybe he’d give up if after the flop. So I called. I folded on the turn, an Ace, to a big bet.
I called $125 on the button with Queen-Jack, it was four-way. I flopped a gut-shot and it checked around. I hit my straight on the turn, bet $300 and took it.
I completed from the small blind with King-6 of hearts. It was four-way. The flop was King-high, I bet $150, one caller. I bet $300 on a blank turn and didn’t get a call.
That got me to the second level (50/100) with about the starting stack.
It folded to me on the button and I raised to $250 with King-Jack of spades. Both blinds called. The flop was Queen-Jack-4, two hearts, one spade. I bet $500 and had one caller—the Bastard who busted Lacey. The turn was the second spade and I bet $2K, he called. The river was a third heart.
My thought was that my Jack probably wasn’t good—he had at least a Queen—but that if I bet, it would look like I caught my flush. He might have caught a bigger flush, sure, but if he didn’t, he’d probably have to fold, fearing the flush. By this time he’d seen that I wasn’t playing many hands—as opposed to him, who had played most hands and also played them aggressively. He had certainly used the stack he’d gotten from Lacey to attempt to bully us, but I could tell aggression was his style anyway. Even before he’d busted her, he was showing signs of being the biggest aggro at the table.
But he was definitely the kind of player who would have a read on me—and have read me as a nit. Is a nit betting there with a weak or marginal hand? I was thinking he would not think so. So, I confidently put out $3,500. He tanked for a long time. I was starting to think my play had worked, but then he finally said, “Call.” Damn. It turned out he had flopped a set of 4’s.
I tried to figure out where I went wrong there—if indeed I had. I didn’t realize he was so strong, but even so, with his big stack, is he folding any hand he has with showdown value to a $3,500 bet (he had over $30K to start the hand). Maybe I should have bet more? Or maybe I shouldn’t have gotten cute at all and just checked? Maybe my play was ok and I just got unlucky because the flop hit him so hard?
That was a significant hit to my stack. By this time I had seen how all these “TV pros” had played and I was starting to feel a little intimidated. There was lots of aggression at the table, a lot more than I’m used to at my regular $125 tournaments. Last year at this event, I didn’t really feel anyone was better than the usual players I see at the tournaments I usually play. Now I was suddenly feeling that everyone there was a whole lot better than I was. I suppose the comment the guy on my right had made about everyone being some kind of pro was affecting my thinking too. I was starting to feel like I had thrown nearly $600 away and that I was in way over my head.
I raised to $250 with Queen-10 clubs, it was four-way. It was a low flop and when it checked to me, I decided to c-bet, I made it $750. The bastard called and then another guy made it $4,300. I folded and only felt worse about my chances. What the hell was I doing there? Why was I c-betting a flop when it was four-way? I almost never do that. Ugh.
I limped into level 3 (25/75/150) with $7,700. I felt so short-stacked I folded pocket 4’s to a raise to $350. In fact, I wasn’t really all that short-stacked yet, I guess I was just mentally in a bad place right then. Naturally, if I had called I would have flopped a set. That didn’t make me feel any better, obviously. In my mind I was already thinking I wasn’t going to make it to the first break—I had packed a lunch for nothing.
I tightened my range. Only hand I played in that level was Ace-Queen. I opened to $550 from under-the-gun and didn’t get a call.
Down to $7,400 at level 4 (25/100/200). I looked down at pocket Aces. It was raised to $550 in front of me. I made it $1,300. It folded to the original raiser who called. The flop was Jack-high, he checked, and I just shoved. I just had no confidence in my ability to play the hand if I had bet smaller and gotten a call. And he instantly mucked.
During the break, while I was gobbling up my lunch, I tried to give myself a pep talk to build my confidence. It worked somewhat. The trouble was I was heading back to level 5 (50/150/300) with only $8.600, which I felt did not leave me any margin for error.
On the button with Ace-King, there was a raise to $700 and a call. I went all-in and took it down.
That hand seemed to help me out mentally quite a bit, I’m not sure why. With King-Jack of clubs on the button, I made it $1,100 after one limper. Only the limper called. The flop was Jack-high, two spades. I bet $1,600, he called. The turn was a third spade and I bet $2,500. He called. The river was a blank and this time I checked behind him. He mucked when he saw my Jack.
Level 6 (50/200/400), $16K. I opened to $1,100 with Ace-10, there were two callers. The flop was 9-9-2, two clubs. I c-bet $2K and took it.
Level 7 (75/250/500), $17K. In the big blind, I had 8-4 off. It was raised to $1,200. There were a few callers so I decided to call there and try for the miracle flop. It didn’t happen and I folded on the flop.
After a limper, I made it $1,700 with Queen-Jack. Only the limper called. The flop was Ace-Jack-x. I bet $2,500 and he called. I checked a blank turn. The river was also a blank and I folded to a big bet.
That got me to level 8 (75/300/600) with just $10,600. I opened to $1,600 with pocket 8’s and had two callers. The flop was Queen-high. I shoved. No call.
From middle position I opened to $1,600 with Jack-9 off. Two callers. The flop was 9-high and I bet $3K. No call.
Back to around $16k for level 9 (100/400/800). I opened to $2K with pocket 7’s, and folded to a three-bet from the Bastard ($5,500). Then I opened to $2K again with Queen-9 and same guy three-bet me again and I folded again. Grr.
Figuring that I was down to just one move, I open shoved from the cut-off with King-10 and took it.
Level 10 (100/500/1000), $9,400. I open-shoved from the cutoff with 9-8 of clubs, no call.
Then, the second most aggressive player at the table (after the Bastard) raised to $2,500. I had Ace-Jack of diamonds. I shoved. He called, we flipped over our cards. He had pocket 6’s. Of course he had me covered by a ton. As precariously as I had been hanging on all this time, this was the first time I was actually in an all-in situation for my tournament life. The suspense was over early. There were only three diamonds on the flop! Sweet. He did not go runner-runner boat to suck out on me. In fact, the turn card was another diamond, just for over-kill. It was a desperately needed double up. As it happens, this player was the most unpleasant person at the table, a fairly nasty guy. Earlier, he had refused to be the person who bought up all the green ($25) chips when they did the color up. So besting him there was a win-win.
With some chips to play with, I raised to $2,500 with Ace-Queen. One caller, an Asian lady. The flop was all low, two spades. My c-bet of $3,500 was called. The turn was a Jack. With nothing, I checked. She made a big bet and of course I folded. She politely showed me King-Jack of spades.
And we leave Part 2 there, we will conclude the story next time, starting with one of the most incredible hands I’ve ever been a part of. And you can find part 3 here..