Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Was Planning to Write a Post on Sunday, Honest

Yes that was the plan.  But things seldom go as planned when I'm in Vegas, and I've been here for a bit more than two weeks.  I didn't drag my ass out of bed until 10:30AM on Sunday, and that pretty much prevented me from writing up any of the stories I've collected this trip so far.  Sorry.

Will I get around to doing any serious blogging before I return home?  You're guess is as good as mine, but the local sports books are heavily favoring the "No."

But I didn't want it to appear that I've abandoned the blog.  So I'm posting this little nothing of a blog post so you won't think I drove my car off the roof the Golden Nugget parking garage yet (tempting as that sounds).

In the meantime, you can get a taste of my trip so far by checking out my pal Lightning's latest blog post here. Since we got together numerous times during his visit last week, you'll be able to see some of the stuff I've been up to before I am able to tell you the whole story.

As for the pictures below, they have nothing to do with this post or anything else, but I figure if I can't give you some of my brilliant prose, at least I can give you what you all really come for.  

Enjoy and stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Vegas Poker Scene - June 2018 Ante Up Column

Here's my newest column for Ante Up. The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report. 

The magazine should be in your local poker room by now. 

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The South Point Poker Room, in conjunction with Helix Poker, is hosting some women’s events in late June. A $300 event with a $20K guarantee is June 27. Players get 20K chips and play 30-minute levels. There also are $130 satellites for the WSOP Ladies Championship on June 26. Pro Jamie Kerstetter hosts Helix Poker University on June 26. Admission is $100 but there’s a $10 discount for registering for the $300 event the next day.
South Point has added some variety to its 2 p.m. tournaments. Mondays and Wednesdays offer a micro-tournament, with a $20 buy-in for 2K chips and $20 add-ons of $2K chips available for the first six 15-minute levels. 
Tuesdays and Thursdays offer a $50 tournament with $30 bounties. Players start with 7,500 chips and play 15-minute levels. A double-stack event runs Fridays. Players start with 5K chips but can take 5K more at any time during the first six levels at no more cost. The levels are 15 minutes.
A $125 Stamina tournament runs Saturdays. Players start with 20K chips and play 30-minute levels. The breaks are every four levels but they are only five minutes; that’s where the stamina comes in. A $50 Survivor runs on Sunday, with the final 10 percent of the field splitting the prize pool. The starting stack is 7,500 and the levels are 15 minutes.
High hands hit in tournaments receive cash. Quads are worth $25, straight flushes earn $50 and royals win three times the tournament buy-in.
VENETIAN LAS VEGAS: David Ormsby of Canada took home $62K in the $1,100 doublestack in the DeepStack Extravaganza. Robert Elliott of Trussville, Ala., earned $38K for second and Kathryn Lindsay from West Hollywood, Calif., claimed $28K for third. The event attracted 278 players, creating a $271K prize pool, easily surpassing the $200K guarantee.
The series had another $200K guarantee, a $600 doublestack, as local Dustin Goff took first, winning $46K. Colorado’s Don Patrick received $29K for second and Tamas Lendvai of Vegas won $21K for third. There were 413 entrants and the prize pool was $210K.
The room is running a Quad Royal promotion for royal flushes. Initially, all four suits are eligible. Once a suit is hit, it’s no longer available for the promo. First suit to hit wins $1,250. The second suit wins $2,500. The third wins $5K and the last suit is worth $10K. After all four suits are hit, the promo restarts. Players must use both cards in their hand to qualify.
This is in addition to the $20K static bad-beat jackpot (quad deuces). The losing hand gets $10K, winning hand gets $5K and the rest of the table shares $5K. Again, both cards must play.
WYNN: Viacheslav Fentisov took first in the Signature Weekend $600 main event in April, earning $58K. Ryan LaPlante earned $38K for second and Faye Sonntag took third for $26K. All three hail from Las Vegas. The prize pool was $293K for the $250K guaranteed event. There were 560 entrants.
WESTGATE: The Heartland Poker Tour visited in early April. The $1,650 main event drew 329 entrants. Terry Fleisher was the winner, taking home $114K.  Jeremy Joseph received $72K for second and Kainalu McCue-Unciano claimed $48K for third. The prize pool was $500K.
CLUB FORTUNE: The small but friendly locals room in Henderson offers fine, affordable buy-in tournament action. Every Saturday at 2 p.m., a $40 tourney runs. Players get a 5K stack and can get another 3K for a $5 dealer bonus.  The levels start at 20 minutes and switch to 15 minutes starting with Level 4.
Every other Wednesday, a $65 deepstack is offered. Players get 15K chips, with a $5 add-on for another 4K. The levels are 20 minutes.
Every other Monday, there’s a $45 bounty event. Players get 7K chips with a $5 dealer add-on for 3K more and play 15-minute levels. The bounty is $10 and there’s also one $15 mystery bounty per table, which is funded by the house.
Players can get 1K in chips for all tournaments for bringing a canned-food donation. All tournaments have high-hand bonuses and tournament chips are awarded for quads or better. 
The cash games include a 50-cent-$1 NLHE game with a buy-in of $20-$200. There’s also a $1-$6 spread-limit game with a $20 minimum buy-in and no max. A $1-$2 NLHE game runs less often with a $100-$300 buy-in.
Promos include a progressive bad-beat jackpot. The losing hands must be quads or better and the losing hand gets 50 percent, the winning hand gets 25 percent and the table shares 25 percent. The high-hand payouts also are progressive. Quads start at $50, straight flushes at $75 and royals at $100. All high hands are worth $222 on Tuesdays.
Players get a $100 bonus for making all four flushes on Thursdays and Fridays. A $1K biweekly freeroll is available to the first 30 players to play 20 hours in the two-week period before the freeroll.
Players get $1 an hour in comps and from noon to 2 p.m., the comps are $5 an hour.
MANDALAY BAY: Kay White has retired. The new poker room manager is Joe Mignano, who has been at Mandalay Bay for five years, most recently as the swing-shift manager.
GREEN VALLEY RANCH: Longtime poker legend Kathy Raymond has come out of retirement to take over the reins of the Henderson poker room, which is part of the Stations chain. Raymond had a long career at Foxwoods before coming west to open The Venetian Poker Room in 2006. She retired from there in 2015. 
SUNCOAST: The poker room closed in April.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Where's Rob?

Well, I'm right here, actually.  But obviously I haven't been posting much new material lately.

And I totally missed the fact that I recently posted my 1,000th post since starting the blog in 2012.  Yeah, 1,000 posts!  I was going to celebrate my 1,000th post, but I've blown past it and it says that I've actually posted 1,009 times by now (not counting this one).

Of course, that's a little misleading.  That includes all posts, including quite a few re-posts (like my last post), not to mention some guest-posts and even some really short, quickie "filler" posts without much written content (yes, not all my posts are 15,000 word epistles).  I have to say too that those guest-posts are a fair amount of work for me, I think being an editor is maybe harder than being a writer.  

Anyway, as to why I haven't been posting much, well, a few reasons.  For one thing, since I haven't been to Vegas since last Christmas, I've pretty much run out of material.  Now I do have notes (written and voice) for trips and sessions going back like four or five years and if I dig hard enough, I can rummage thru those old sessions and crank out a post.  But obviously if there was a really great story from an old session I would have written it up by now (the really great stories get written first, generally).  Oh, sometimes when I'm mining for stories and listen to my old voice notes I come across a long forgotten gem, or find a hook to make session worth talking about, but that's the rare exception.

I guess the other thing that is keeping me from writing much is that when I do post something new, I haven't been getting much feedback lately.  I suppose that's a function of having already used up all the best material.  But even when I have something new and what I think is entertaining, sometimes all I hear is crickets.

Which leads me to think that maybe you're all getting tired of the same old, same old.  

I dunno, but when I put all the time and effort I do into mining for post, then sitting at the PC for hours trying to make it the best possible post it could be, and then realize that I'm going to end up feeling like I'm just writing into a great void, it doesn't motivate me much to do the next one.

But the good news I'm off to Vegas in a week and I should get some new material then.  I hope.  I plan on doing Vegas a little differently than I have in the past (more on that in the future) so we'll just have to see.

Maybe I've just got the blahs.  But I tell you, there's nothing wrong with me that sitting across the table from a crazy lady showing lots of cleavage and saying outrageous things wouldn't cure.

Speaking of cleavage, I had originally intended to celebrate my 1,000 post with a few choice graphics of the kind my blog is famous (or infamous) for.  So I'll do that now.  This will be a mix of pics I've used before and new ones.  And maybe a few that I'm not sure which is which (it's hard to keep track at this point).  If I had a prize to offer, I would consider making it a contest, which of the following pics are reprints and which are new?  But since I have no prize, I won't do that.  Just enjoy.

Happy 1,010th post, everybody.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Not Everything's Flat in Iowa--It's Still True

It's been awhile since I've posted and at the moment I have nothing new to offer you.  So I present this story from the relatively early days of the blog. It was so long ago I still referred to a casino as "BSC" --remember that? I hope to be back in a few days with at least an explanation about why I haven't been blogging much lately.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this trip down mammary memory lane

This post is about a long ago night at BSC, and involves poker, a well-endowed woman, an aggressive hooker and the state of Iowa.  I believe only one of those topics is new to this blog, but I'm not sure.

This session started out on a very bad note when my straight ran up against a flush on my very first hand of the day.  I was dealt AQ off and raised, a couple of callers.  King and Jack on the turn, but two diamonds (I had no diamonds).  I was hoping to take down the pot with a continuation bet, but a woman--a regular in the room that I've played with numerous times before--called.  On the turn, a 10 of diamonds hit, giving me a straight but also putting a flush out there.  I bet again hoping the double threat of a straight and a flush would get her to concede, but she called. 

The river card was yet another diamond, making me throw up a little in my mouth.  I checked and when the woman bet a relatively small amount, I made a crying call even though I was sure I was beat.  I even said, before putting my bet out, "Gee, I don't suppose you have a diamond, do you?"  In fact she had two diamonds, one of which was an Ace.  She had the nut flush on the turn.  She bet just small enough amount to get me to call.  A bigger bet and I would have folded.  So right off the bat I was down $60. 

This particular villain was sitting between her husband and her daughter, and not long after, the entire family left for dinner.  In this woman's place a rather attractive, albeit unusual looking, woman was seated.  She had a rather science fictiony look to her, and I immediately thought she sorta looked like a female Vulcan.  But pleasantly so.  I have no idea what her name really is, so let's call her Saavik.  

In addition to her exotic looking face, she had something else that caught my attention, oddly enough.  She was rather well endowed the chestal region.  Furthermore, she was showing some eye-catching cleavage.

But she was not showing said cleavage in one of those "dressed for clubbing, I'm a slut" outfits that so many females wear while in Vegas.  Her outfit was very professional looking (and no, I don't mean that profession); you know, the kind of outfit a female business executive would wear to the office.  It was just that, her jacket closed below the bust, and the top underneath the jacket was cut to expose a decent amount of boobage (or, an indecent amount, depending on your point of view).
She almost immediately revealed that she was in town for a conference and had attended meetings and other convention type programming all day.  That certainly helped explain the outfit she was wearing.  Before she arrived, a guy wearing a suit and tie had joined the table and he was attending the same conference.
So it would be unfair to accuse Saavik of going for the JenniferTilly Effect with her choice of clothing. It was not anywhere that revealing dammit.  On the other hand, one might be inclined to say that, for the professional setting she was attending, the cleavage was inappropriate.  Except, as I've already discussed herecleavage is never inappropriate.
Anyway, I was still smarting from my straight vs. flush fiasco when Saavik further abused me.  I was dealt pocket Aces under the gun.  To my dismay, five people called my preflop raise.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  The flop came 10-4-4.  I led out a bet of about 3/4's the size of the pot.  Two callers, including Saavik.  The other caller was a BSC regular I don't remember playing with before.  I assumed he was a regular though because he knew all the dealers as well as I did.
I kind of figured at least one of them could beat my Aces.  They were both reasonable players, neither one had shown anything crazily aggressive.  In fact, I don't think I ever saw Saavik raise preflop during the entire session.  I prayed for an Ace on the turn, and didn't get it.  I don't recall what it was, but it didn't help me at all.   I guess I need help in how to proceed in this situation.  I just checked.
The guy checked and then Saavik reached for chips.  She put out a fairly small bet for the size of the pot.  But it was close to half her remaining stack.  Both the regular player and I had her well covered (and more covered than the outfit she was wearing).
I 'm not sure why I called, other than it was such a relatively small bet, so I was getting better odds than I would normal expect.  But it was a tough decision.  The other guy also took some time.  I was kind of hoping he was thinking about raising.  If he had, it would have been a much easier lay down.  But he finally just called.
The river card seemed meaningless as well.  We both checked to Saavik, who pushed all in.  I think it was around $50, give or take.  Again, the bet to pot ratio was quite small, and I felt I was worth making the crying call even though I strongly suspected I had the worst hand of the three of us.
The other guy debated for awhile, said he was probably in 3rd place, and finally mucked.  He said that he assumed I had pocket Kings (maybe he reads my blog) but that Saavik had a big hand, maybe a 4, maybe a full house.  Anyone care to guess what Saavik had?
Just pocket 10's.  Yeah, she had flopped a friggin' boat.  I didn't show my bullets.  The other guy said, "Well, that's why I didn't get another 10 to fall."  So he probably had Ace - 10.  I'm thinking if that's the case, he probably played the hand worse than I did (especially if he thought I had a big pocket pair).
Saavik took down a very nice pot and I was suddenly quite short stacked.  I waited an orbit and then added $100 to my stack so that I had enough ammunition to continue to play the way I wanted to.
Meanwhile, Saavik had told us all that she was from Iowa and that she is a serious sports fan and therefore has to travel outside her state to see professional games, and she does it regularly.  And so she told us that there is really nothing much happening in Iowa.
To prove her assertion about her home state, she told us about a t-shirt she saw in the gift shop at the Iowa airport before boarding the plane to Vegas.  It said something to the effect, "Nothing tips like an Iowa cow."
I pointed out that she should have gotten it for Vegas, so she could where it when playing poker, where players are expected to tip the dealers.   There was some cross talk and I don't think she heard me.
Then she mentioned the "other shirt" she saw that airport gift shop.
It said, "Not Everything is Flat in Iowa."
Ahem.  I had just scored a cute "woman said" story.  Everyone laughed, and I'm sure that everyone at the table (all guys, save her) had the same thought--how appropriate it would have been for her to have purchased and worn said shirt.  Perhaps she even mentioned it because she did buy it.  But I was surprised she had brought that up when she didn't have to....this was the first--and last--even remotely risqué thing she had said all evening. This wasn't Prudence, after all. And she had to have known that by bringing this up, it would make all of us start thinking about her impressive chest.  Because, you know, until then, none of us would have.
During the rest of the session, she kept giving me sly smiles whenever our eyes met (she was sitting across from me).  I did not take this to mean she was interested in me or was flirting with me.  I took it to mean she was very happy about taking so many of my chips.
Later when the other guy in that story returned from the rest room, he asked if he missed anything.  "Any fights?  Any big hands?  Any all-ins?"  We all shook her heads no.  And then I added, "No flopped boats."  Saavik enjoyed that.
I did get most of my money back, slowly.  A short stacked guy went all in after I raised with AK.  It was an easy call based on his chip stack.  The board missed me and I assumed i would lose to a pocket pair, but no, he had AQ and thus gave me all the rest of his chips. 
I caught a an Ace high straight against a set of 10's and stacked some short stacked guy.  A nut flush also got me some chips.  I got pocket Aces again and this time a guy in early position raised to $15.  I made it $40 sure that the other guy would at least call.  But he folded.
I got two callers when I raised with pocket Queens and no one called my flop bet on a low flop.  By the time I was ready to call it a night, I had gotten all but a few bucks of my $300 buy in back.
Walking to the parking lot, I was deep in thought about the session as I walked through the area where hookers have been known to congregate.  After this story, I no longer seek out hookers to blog about or tell my friend Woody about, but they still seem to find me. As I walked passed two girls I hadn't really noticed sitting in front of two slot machines (but facing out, not towards the machines), I heard one of them say, "Hey what are you looking for?"

I didn't get a good look at them, but they both some reasonably attractive as Vegas hookers go.  They didn't really stand out in my mind, good or bad.
I gave them a quick glance but kept moving.  The girl continued.  "Hey, come here."
That was said rather pleasantly.  But when I continued to ignore them, she said it one more.
"Come here!"  This was said very sternly, much more like an order than an invitation.

I turned to her and shook my head.  "No thanks."  Nothing she could have said would have gotten me to stop, but she needs to work on her sales pitch.  She'd only get guys who like to be verbally abused with that tone.
I kept heading to my car and my thoughts returned to the Mid-Western girl who flopped a boat against my Aces and told us--and demonstrated--that everything isn't flat in Iowa.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Folding My Way Up The Ladder

(Second of Two Parts)

Part 1 is here.

We pick up at the Commerce tournament after I mentioned I went levels 12, 13, 14 and 15 without writing down a hand.  Now things got confusing for me because it turned out that the structure sheet that Commerce had for this tourney had an error on it.  There was a level missing.  I was really surprised that they made a mistake like that.  I meant to comment/ask them about it but I never got around to it.  Also, the structure sheet was really only for day 1 and they didn't even have a structure sheet for day 2.  And another error….it turned out that for day 2 the levels were 30-minutes, but this information wasn't listed anywhere.

Anyway, from here on out, I'm not really sure what level I was at or what the blinds were.  I'll do the best I can.  According to my notes, we are now at level 16 (2,500/1,500/2,500) with $20,500.  And I opened shoved with pocket 8's.  I got called by the big blind with Ace-Jack.  The board was all bricks and I got a double up.

That got me to $48,500 but by the time we got to level 17 (3K/2K/3K) I was down to $41K.  I shoved Ace-Jack of spades and was called by a shorter stack with Jack-10 off.  A Jack hit the flop and my kicker won the pot. 

I didn't make any notes about how close we were to the money.  This flight ended up with 520 players, it was the biggest flight of the series (because it was the last one and also because it was Saturday). There was a print out that showed 50 players advancing to day 2.  I didn't realize until I got home that it was only for the first three flights, it didn't include the Friday flight. Turns out there were 72 players who had previously advanced.  For this flight, 64 would be paid and 42 would survive to day 2.

So I'm not sure what level it was but I had $53K and that was short.  I needed a double up.  I peaked at my cards one at a time.  The first one was a King.  Believe it or not, I was so desperate that I was actually hoping the other one was a King too.  Yes, I was praying for the dreaded pocket Kings.  And my prayers were answered.  Even better, a big stack had raised in front of me.  I shoved and it folded back to him.  He tanked for a long time. As long as he didn't snap call I was happy.  I wanted him to call. I figured I'd either have my double up or I'd had have another dreaded pocket Kings story.  But after a long think, he folded.

Then the last hand of whatever level it was, I got Ace-King and shoved.  A shorter stack called and turned over pocket 7's.  There was a beautiful King in the window. That got me up to $115K.  And I had to post the blinds as the next level began and that brought me down to about $100K so the blinds must have been 5,000/2,500/5,000. 

I opened to $10,300 with Ace-5 suited but had to fold to a big stack that shoved.

But somehow, without any cards, I was outlasting a lot of players.  As we neared the next break, the player count dropped below 70.  I can't recall exactly what the last count I saw when we went on break, but it was really close to the money.  Maybe 66-67.  I assumed we would be hand-for-hand when we came back.

As best as I can calculate, we were going to break before level 19 where the blinds would be 6k/3k/6k.  And my stack as I left for the break was $89K.  But right before we started that level after the break, they announced we were in the money!  Hooray!  Not only was I gonna cash but we avoided the whole dreaded "hand-for-hand" play which is so excruciating.  And it happened so quickly I didn't even have to have the debate with myself about whether to go extra nitty for the min-cash or try to take a few risks to build up the stack.  I was just playing the game as the cards dictated—which was almost always to fold cuz I was getting such crap.  I overheard one of the floors or players saying that two players busted on the same hand—last hand before the break—which means they weren't keeping up with running count accurately on the clock.  I think they were busting too fast to keep up.  It's almost like they did that intentionally so all the players wouldn't see how close we were to the bubble and go into survival mode.  I don't think it was intentional, just a function of the size of the tournament.  I guess.

Anyway, that was one worry out of the way, now I had to try to get some chips so I could survive and come back Sunday—hopefully with enough chips to actually play with.

But still most of the hands played themselves—instafold.  But the first hand back from break and in the money I looked at King-Queen and opened to $15K.  No call.

I called $12K with pocket 9's and it was heads up.  Whiffed the flop but he didn't bet.  Blank on the turn, still no betting.  There was an Ace on the river and this time he bet $22K.  Sure it looked like he had a big Ace and caught it on the river.  But I had a feeling he saw the Ace as a scare card for me and was trying to steal it.  Still not sure my 9's were good but I made the call.  I was right, he said "good call."  He had a couple of Broadway cards that the board had missed.

A guy with a ton of chips opened to $15K and I called with Ace-King.  I guess I was at a point where I should have been ready to risk my tournament life with A-K, but I thought I had enough chips to play poker with.  I probably should have three-bet shoved.  The flop was Queen-Jack-X and neither of us bet.  On the blank turn, I bet $4,500 with my gutshot, hoping to take it down there.  But he called.  The river blanked and this time he made a big bet, and with Ace-high I of course folded.  He showed King-Queen.  I guess the preflop shove was the right play, although in this case he had enough chips to call and would have hit.

They finally broke our table and I moved to a new one, seat 5 at a table where there was no room for me to squeeze in, between how tight the tables were packed, the fact that on one side of the seat was a very heavy man and on the other side was an older gentleman whose cane was in the way.  Plus there were drink carts on either side.  I think it would have been easier for me to have crawled under the table to get to my seat.

By this time I got to the new table, we were down to just one or maybe two players left to bust before we'd bag for day 2.  And I realized my stack was really too short to be a contender on day 2.  I didn't get any cards, but I should have found more risks to take to either get a double up or bust then, take my $360 and avoid a long drive back to Commerce on Sunday.  It really was a mistake to play that Ace-King hand so timidly.

With only one or two hands left, I had to make my move. I was in early position and if there was any possible way I could put all my chips in the center, I had to.  Fortunately, UTG +1 I got lucky and found pocket Jacks.  There was no way I wasn't getting it all-in there.  The huge stack on my right made a normal opening raise, and I wasted no time in saying "all-in."  I actually wanted a call, maybe two.  A double up, or maybe a triple up would have made it worth it to return the next day.  If I busted I saved myself a Sunday and still would leave with a profit for a long day of poker.  The old man on my left talked a whole lot (he had a good hand, etc), counted his chips (he had me way covered) and I was sure he was gonna call…but he finally let it go.  Quick fold around the table until it was back on the guy on my right.  I was sure he'd call, he could afford to lose what I bet.  But I guess he was betting light.  Remember, I had just gotten to the table, didn't have any idea what he had done to get that impressive stack.  He didn't take long to fold.  I was actually disappointed.

As they dealt the next hand, they announced that we were done, this was the last hand before we'd bag.  UTG, I looked down at 9-2 off.  I suppose if it was suited I might have shoved (just kidding) but I couldn't do anything but fold.  I started counting my chips.  It was $111K.  The big stack after the first three days was $582K.  There 14 players on that sheet with less including the ultimate short stack who had $17K.  But remember there were players advancing from day 4 that weren't included on that sheet, which I didn't know at the time.

The bagging procedure was a bit different, and a lot simpler, than the times I've bagged and tagged in Vegas.  We just took the bags and wrote our names, home town, and player's card # on the bag.  The times I've done this before, they give you a two part slip to fill out, one part goes in the bag and you keep one part which is your receipt.  I realized after I left the room I didn't have a receipt for my chips—or the money I was entitled to!  I had nothing to show if there was some dispute, and they owed me at least the day 2 min-cash, which I assumed was more that the $360 that they were paying this day.

I was a bit ambivalent about the results.  On the one hand, I was really proud of the way I (mostly) played all day (over 8 hours) to have made the money, made day 2, especially considering how card dead I was all day.  On the other hand, I had probably an hour's drive back the next day, a beautiful Sunday, and was feeling like I'd most likely play one hand, bust out, and head back home for another hour's drive, just to get a few extra bucks than I could have left with that night if I'd only had the good sense to bust ten minutes before we broke for the night.  I guess the key would be how much the day 2 min-cash was going to be, because that was what I was expecting. 

But it was great getting all the tournament practice in before heading to Vegas for all those series tournaments I expect to play there.  That was invaluable. 

Fortunately traffic was not bad on the way home, and when I fired up the ol' PC I saw that Commerce had already listed the chip counts and the seating assignments for day 2.  That's when I figured out that there was a flight missing from the hand-out they were giving out that day.

There were 114 total playing day 2 (plus 4 stacks taken out of play because players played multiple days and qualified twice).  The biggest stack was still $582K and the smallest stack was still $17K.  My stack was tied for 82nd, obviously not good. 

Of course first I had noticed the payouts.  The total prize pool was $292K and first place was worth $46K.  But I was looking at the bottom.  The day 2 min-cash was only $470.  Really?  I have to say I was (as usual) disappointed.  I mean when the day 1 min-cash is so measly—a mere 50% above the buy-in, it seems to me you could at least figure out a way to give everyone who had to come back for a day 2 the double the buy-in I think should be mandatory for the regular min-cash of a one-day tournament. It just seems that with that big prize pool spread out over 118 players (not counting however many players got the day 1 min-cash and were gone), I think that min-cash should have been $480 at the absolute minimum.

But no one cares what I think.  What that $470 represented was $110 extra I'd get on day 2 than if I'd busted in the money on day 1.  That's not a lot when you consider the time on a Sunday and of course the gas to make that drive back to Commerce. 

Places 109-118 would get that min-cash.  Places 100-108 would get the next pay level, $530.  91-99  was worth $590.  82-90 worth $650.  73-81 $710. 64-72 $770. 

Now something I didn't realize until just now…the sheet showed places down to 118.  But that included the four duplicate stacks (players who made day two twice).  So there were only 114 players left.  So I only had to outlast six players to make the first play jump, not 10.  I should have seen that at the time.  But even without realizing that, I was kind of thinking that players were busting really fast the last few levels of day 1 (so fast that we blew right by the bubble) and with the stacks what they were, I could very likely fold my way to at least one play jump.

And that was significant to me, not for the money (though that didn't hurt) but for the principle of the thing.  I wanted that (at least) double my buy-in payout!

So the next day, Sunday morning, I set the alarm and made sure I was back at Commerce well before the 1pm restart time.  Although I did consider the possibility that even not showing up and getting blinded out, I might very well have made at least one pay jump!  It might even be better to get there late, get blinded off, make a pay jump than get pocket Aces and having them cracked on the first hand of the day!

It all depended on where I was in relation to the blinds.  Remember, with the big blind ante, there are 7 hands per orbit at a full table where you don't pay a thing unless you want to.  Of course when you are the big blind, that really hurts, cuz you post the equivalent of two big blinds on one hand.  The small blind would usually be one-quarter of that.

The dealer at each table of course had to see a photo I.D. before you were allowed to open your bag of chips and play them.

We played two hands at 6K/3K/6K and then the blinds went up to 8K/4K/8K.  And the first hand of the new level, I was going to be the big blind, costing me $16K.  Still, that would leave me with chips for another orbit, and for sure by the next time the blinds came around I'd be up one pay jump, maybe two.  I was hearing "seat open" pretty rapidly at first, a few busted the first hand.  Some of that may have been not realizing that there were four players less than I thought for reasons I've already explained.  But I decided there was no need to take high risks.  I wasn't about to fold a really playable hand to make a pay jump but I probably folded a few marginal hands.  Especially because at this table, every pot was opened with a raise, there was no limping, and unless I was UTG, there was almost always a raise in front of me.

So I folded a couple of really bad hands, got a really bad hand in the big blind and folded to a shove.  Same when I was the small blind, and though I was down to $91K I was alive and had seven "free" hands to try to find a shove.  I didn't make a note of when we past the pay jumps but for sure when the blinds passed me the first time I was up to the next level.

When the blinds started approaching me again, I was UTG +1 and I got my first chance.  It was pocket Jacks and after a fold it was an easy shove.  But no one called.

I guess I posted those blinds and antes when it was my turn and by the time the next level came around, I was still at $91K.  Now the blinds were $10K/$5K/$10K.  UTG +1 with pocket 9's, I open shoved with pocket 9's.  Again, no call.

Then next orbit I was UTG and shoved with King-Queen of hearts.  Again no call.

Then the blinds jumped to $15K/$5K/$15K.  I was still around $90K.  So if I didn't get any more chips, I'd be putting a third of my stack in play next time I was the BB.  I'd pretty much be pot committed no matter what I had.  There were less than 80 players left, I was now guaranteed at least $710.  Not bad considered how I had started the day. 

So when I was UTG, and I looked at King-10 offsuit, I thought I didn't have much of a choice.  I could open the pot with a shove, and who knows what my BB hand would be.  Besides, no one had called one of my shoves yet at this table.

It instafolded around the table until it came to the big blind, who tanked.  He asked for a count, looked at his stack (he had a lot of chips).  Finally he said OK and called.  He turned over pocket 9's, which was about the best I could hope for—a race.  I didn't catch anything on the flop but by the turn I had a gutshot—all I needed was a 9.  The board wasn't paired so I had never been hoping for my opponent to catch a set this much in my life.  Unfortunately I whiffed, and I was done.

I'd lasted a about an hour and a quarter on this Sunday and folded my way up the ladder from $470 to $710 (a $470 profit).  I'd treaded water for all that time by winning a round of blinds and antes once an orbit, but I couldn't get the double up I needed to be able to play poker.

But still, it was good experience for next month in Vegas.

Friday, May 11, 2018

It Was Like Pulling Teeth

(First of Two Parts)

Poker Tournaments are like women.  Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

I have such mixed feelings about tournaments.  There's something really exciting about them. They can really get your juices flowing.  And of course, there's that chance, however great or remote, that you can make a really big score in them, much bigger than you can in a cash game.  But then, as they drag on, they can wear on you, they can make you a little (or a lot) crazy, even a little bored.  And then there's that moment when they post the prize pool and you realize (or at least I do) that cashing in it is going to be at least partially disappointing unless you finish in the top 3.  For sure the dreaded min-cash is going to make you think, "I played X hours of poker for this?"

I realized how much I missed playing a tournament as I was sitting at the table waiting for the first hand to be dealt.  It had been too long since I played tournament poker.  Christmas Day of last year, to be exact.  The problem is I haven't been to Vegas since then, and there are really no good regular tournaments in L.A.—good as I define it anyway.

So when I saw that Commerce was running a tournament series in late April/early May, I checked out the schedule to see if there was anything that caught my eye.  And one did. It was a $240 "Double Stack" tourney with a sweet $200K guarantee.  The event had five starting flights, Tuesday through Saturday, with a day 2 on Sunday.  Each starting flight would reach the money before finishing.  One in eight players would get paid, and the top 8% would advance to day 2.  So by playing on Saturday, the final starting flight, I'd confine all my poker to the weekend, which is what I wanted.  Of course I knew with this format, that the min-cash for those that made the money on day 1 but didn't advance to day 2 would be extremely min , but I was resigned to that.  I figured that with this set-up, with these numbers, the day 2 min-cash would almost certainly be more than double the $240 buy-in.  As I've mentioned numerous times before, I think in a tournament of any reasonable size, the min-cashers should get back at least twice what they paid to enter (so that it's at least an even-money bet, like a bet at the blackjack table or the pass line at a Craps table).

The one drawback for this tourney was that the levels were only 20-minutes.  I've gotten spoiled because usually in Vegas I play tourneys with 30-minutes (or even 40-minute) levels.  I played a tourney with 20-minute levels at Commerce about a year and a half ago (see here) and really noticed the difference with the shorter levels. But there was no other decent alternative—it was either play in this tournament or wait until next month when I'm in Vegas.  And you know, I thought I could use the practice, having played nothing but 1/2 all year. 

Besides, the tournament was using the "Big Blind Ante" format (see here).  And since the main benefit of using that format is getting more hands dealt per level, I was hoping that would mitigate the shorter levels to some degree.  In reality, it didn't seem to help much.  As the tourney wore on, the amount of time players spent tanking, and then with all the delays for the dealer to count stacks and pay off bets made the number of hands per orbit not particularly player friendly (I do imagine it would have been worse with the standard ante).

By the way, Commerce is now using the big blind ante for all its NLH tournaments.   Matt Savage, the TD there (as well as TD for the WPT) was reluctant to use it at first, but he gave it a try in a few events and got near unanimous positive feedback. As I've said previously, it will become the industry standard in the very near future.

All that said, I almost didn't play the tournament.  On Thursday, I had an appointment to finally get a tooth pulled that has been bothering me on and off for some time.  I assumed that I wouldn’t be feeling well enough two days later to want to play poker.  But in fact, although I couldn’t eat normally, I felt pretty good the next day, and when I felt even a little better Saturday morning, I thought I could take a chance and head down to the tournament.  BTW, I didn't have general anesthesia for the tooth extraction, just a local. I was awake the whole time and didn't feel a thing.  Piece of cake.

The starting stack was $15K and the starting blinds were 25/50, which was interesting.  The Aria $240 weekend tournament where I first encountered the big blind ante (and where it originated) starts with the ante right away, and starts the blinds at 100/100/100.  But this tourney had more of a traditional early blind format, with the ante not kicking in until level 4. And like the Aria, sometimes the big blind is not double the small blind.  Sometimes it's only 1-1/2 times the small blind.  You'll see as I describe the hands…..

Second hand of the tournament I called $100 with Ace-2 of hearts.  It was heads-up.  The flop was Ace-high and the preflop raiser put out $175. I intended to call.  Now, this was only the third time I'd ever played a tournament at Commerce and I wasn't familiar with the chips.  I saw a stack of chips that had the number "1" in front of some zeros.  I grabbed two thinking they were $100 chips to make the call.  As soon as I saw the chips out there after I dropped them, I realized they were $1,000 chips and that I had raised to $2K!  Ooops.  I did my best not to react like I had made the mistake I had indeed made.  And I saw another stack in front of me that had $100 chips.  The color was at least vaguely similar to the $1K chips.  Anyway, the other guy tanked for awhile, said something like, "I don't like my top pair that much," and folded.  A few of the players were about to ask me if I meant to do that and I beat them to it.  I confessed that it was an accident and that I just meant to call.  I mean, my bet made me look stupid—it was a ridiculous overbet.

Let me mention one thing about the guy on my right (my opponent in this hand).  He seemed like a nice enough of guy (in fact all the players at my original table were nice people) but he had this really annoying habit.  I don't think he started out doing this but at some point, whenever he folded, he would just drop his cards in front of him, not push them toward the dealer.  It was weird.  He'd bend the cards to look at them, but then when he'd fold he'd pick them up and just drop them right in front of him.  And none of the dealers said anything to him.  They didn't ask him to push them forward, and they didn't ask him if he was folding (because really, it wasn't obvious). 

Finally near the end of his run, he had a run-in with a female dealer.  The action was on him and he got involved in a discussion with another player (it might have been a spectator, not sure) that had nothing to do with the hand.  The dealer gently reminded him that the action was on him.  He got nasty, saying something like, "I know it's on me…I'm not going anywhere, relax."  There was a nasty tone in his voice.  I don't think the dealer said anything, and then he folded.  The next hand, when he folded by just dropping his cards, the dealer did ask him to push them forward.  He grunted and continued to fold the same way.  But fortunately he busted a few hands later.  A player from the other side of the table apologized to the dealer for having to put up with that, and told her she was doing a good job (which she was).

That was the only pot I dragged in the first level.  I went to level 2 (50/75) with $15,050.  After a limp, I limped with Queen-Jack of clubs.  It was four way.  The flop was King-Jack-9, two spades, one club.  I bet $200 and everyone called.  Everyone checked on a blank turn.  I checked a blank river and a guy bet $500.  It folded back to me and I had a feeling he was just trying to steal it.  I called.  He had Ace-high.

Level 3 (50/100) $15,825.  After a limp, I made it $350 with pocket Jacks. It was five-way.  The flop came 8-8-2.  I bet $1,200, two called.  No one bet on the turn or river, both blanks (though the river was a King).  Nobody turned over their hand when they saw my Jacks.

Level 4 (100/50/100) $19K.  Didn't write down a single hand.  Level 5 (150/75/150) $17,800.  After one limp I made it $550 with Ace-King.  Limper called.  The flop was Queen-10-x.  I c-bet $1,200 and got a fold. 

In the big blind with 9-2, no one raised and four of us saw a flop of X-X-2.  No one bet any street and my deuce was good.

Level 6 I didn't write down a hand.  Level 7 (300/200/300) $17,300. From the big blind I called $600 form the small blind.  It was heads up.  Ace-high flop, I called a small bet.  There was no more betting.  He had pocket Jacks and my weak Ace was good.

Level 8 (400/200/400) $17,700.  I raised to $1,400 with Queen-10 of clubs.  It's not in my notes but there must have been a limper first or I wouldn't have raised that much. It was three-way.  I didn't write down the cards but I had a flush draw.  I bet $3K and one guy called.  The turn put four to a straight out there, and a guy made a big bet.  There was no way to call, it was either shove or fold.  I decided not to risk my tournament life on a non-nut flush draw.  I folded.

Level 9 (500/300/500) $11,500.  That last hand was at the very end of the level and it really hurt.  I was starting to get short stacked.  As you can tell from the few hands I've discussed so far, I had been seriously card dead all day.  I'd had just one or two pocket pairs, nothing bigger than those Jacks, and Ace-King just once.  And I didn't get a hand to play this entire level.

Level 10 (600/300/600) $10,200.  I opened shoved $8,700 with Ace-5 off.  No call.

With about $10K, I open shoved with Jack-9 of spades.  I was called by Ace-Queen.  Well, what's the expression?  "Two live cards," right?  There was a Jack on the flop and then another Jack on the turn.  I had my much needed double up.

Level 11 (800/400/800) $20,400.  Still card dead, I didn't like my chances of cashing, let alone making it to day 2.  But then….with pocket 8's I called $2,200.  It was heads up and the flop was low but no set for me.  There was no betting and the rest of board bricked out, still no betting.  I won the pot with my 8's, beating A-2.

Very next hand I got pocket Jacks.  I opened to $2,100.  Only one player called, a guy who had been fairly aggro.  The flop was King-8-x.  I c-bet $2K because he was short stacked.  In fact he had a little bit less than my bet.  He called and showed an 8, don't remember the other card.  My Jacks held.

Then the very next hand I got pocket 10's.  After not seeing hardly any pocket pairs, this was my third one in a row.  Could I win my third hand in a row?  This time I limped in and no one else raised.  It was five of us seeing a low flop.  My 10's were an overpair so I bet $3,500 and didn't get a call.

That was a nice little run and it got me up to $36K for level 12 (1K/500/1K). I had some chips to play with.  And then went that entire orbit without getting a hand to play. And then the next orbit, and the next one and the one after that.

Not sure if this is right, but I didn't write down a hand for levels 12, 13, 14 and 15.  I gotta figure I played some hands, but I guess I didn't win anything, maybe I just played a blind or two when it wasn't raised. 

I'm going to leave it here and do a part 2 in a few days.  I will bring you up-to-date with where I was in the tournament (number of players, how close to the money) at that time.  And now part 2 has been posted here.