Monday, December 12, 2011

Aria Poker Tournament—Another Successful Run

I blogged about my first “big” score at a Vegas tournament here.  Four days later I scored again.

In telling the story of the six-way chop at the Binion’s tournament, I inadvertently left out one other tournament experience I had prior to that success.  On the day before Thanksgiving, I played in the 1PM Aria tournament for the first time.  This was a day after I tried the 2PM tournament at Binion’s, which as I mentioned, is very poorly attended mid-week.  I wanted to try a “deep-stack” tournament again, but didn’t want to play in such a small event.  So I made it over to the Aria for their big 1PM tournament.  I had heard this particular tournament “talked up” while playing in the LC2 evening tournament a few nights before.  A player there was raving about it, saying it was probably the best tournament in town.  He mentioned that one night he played in the 7PM tournament at Aria, which has the exact same entry fee and structure as the 1PM one, and won it, and didn’t realize that until he left the Aria with his winnings and noticed it was daylight out that it was almost 7 AM!  Well, I figured if I was going to play for 12 hours (yeah, right), I better start at 1PM and not 7PM.

So I played there that Wednesday before Turkey-day.  I was totally card dead the whole time, but stayed afloat for a few hours by making some moves and stealing blinds and such.  I was starting to master the art of bluffing!  After a few hours, my being card dead was taking its toll on my stack and I was near the point of desperation.  But not there yet.  In middle position I find pocket 10’s.  I wasn’t at the point where I had to go all-in or fold, so I raised 4X the big blind.  There had been a couple of limpers before me but I was the first raise.

A guy in late position who had been playing fairly tight and had at least twice as big a stack as I had surprised me by going all-in.  It folded back to me and I had a tough decision to make.  This was his first all-in move and with his stack, he certainly wasn’t in a desperate situation.  He hadn’t played many more  hands that I had, he was not playing aggressively as far as I could tell. 

I had to respect his move.  He hadn’t shown himself to be the kind of player who would make that move without a pretty decent hand.  If I called and won, his stack would take a severe beating.  If I folded right there, I would still have enough chips left so that I wouldn’t be forced to make an all-in bet as my next move (I would be kind of close to that, though).  The old me would have certainly insta-folded there, but I thought long and hard and decided it was time to take a shot.  Those 10’s were the first good hand I’d seen in over an hour and who knew when I would get a better hand?  If I stayed card-dead for a couple more orbits I would then be forced to go all-in, likely with a lot worse than the 10’s. 

So even though I thought he might have a bigger pocket pair than me, I called.  Now I was hoping he had AK or maybe AQ and I’d win the “race.”  If he had two ace’s or two paired face cards, I would need a real miracle to stay alive.  But I thought there was a decently enough chance he had only a big Ace so that’s what I hoped for.

Imagine my surprise when he flipped over KJ offsuit!  I was happy about that.  He had two “live cards” but I was ahead and he had basically 6 outs.  It was as good as I could have hoped for.  The flop and the turn were blanks, but the damn river card was a Jack and he busted me out.

To this day I can’t figure out why he went all-in there.  He didn’t need to.  KJ is hardly a hand you stake your tournament life on when you don’t have to and he surely didn’t have to.  I guess he figured I would fold and he’d take down the pot uncontested.  He sure hadn’t played that way up until then.  I was baffled and a little pissed, to be sure.

Anyway, a week later I returned to the Aria for another shot at their 1PM tournament.  Before that but after my score at Binion’s, I played two more tournaments.  I returned to Binion’s the day after my win (Sunday) and did ok, but didn’t come that close to cashing out.  Lightning didn’t strike twice.  And the night before returning to the Aria tournament, I again played at LC2’s evening tournament where I was beyond card dead and didn’t last long at all.

Since I was planning on returning home from Vegas on Friday, Wednesday was likely my last chance to give Aria another shot.  I had to force myself to get there in time for 1PM.  When I’m in Vegas, it is very difficult for me to get anywhere that early!  I know, that’s not early, but you know, for me it is.  I sometimes don’t leave my room until 2PM or later.  The 2PM at Binion’s works for me, even tho it’s a bit of a drive downtown, but noon tournaments on the Strip are almost impossible for me.

Especially if I want to eat lunch first, which I do.  I have a little breakfast in my room that I bring from home, but lunch is usually my big meal when I’m in Vegas and it is tough to have a big lunch and still be someplace by 1PM.  On this day, I rushed to Aria, figured out the back way to get to the Aria valet parking without actually driving on the Strip (something I avoid at all costs) and got there in time to eat something at the Aria before the tournament began.

But what?  I knew the Aria would not have any cheap places to eat, but they bring the word “over-priced” to a whole new level.  The options were a $10 hot dog or a $15 burger, with no place to sit down to eat!  But for some odd reason, my stomach wasn’t feeling quite right.  I didn’t think I was ill, I just felt extremely not hungry.  So rather than buy a ridiculously overpriced meal, I bought a can of peanuts and a diet soda from the gift shop (still way overpriced!) and didn’t even start eating the nuts until the first break.  The breakfast I had in the room and my own lack of hunger would hold me until then.

So again, I did well.  I got some cards and won a few big pots, but mostly I was chipping up by making some moves, using position to steal blinds and limper’s calls.  Early on I had AK, raised, got called.  Ace on the board but the caller had Ace-rag and hit his rag for two pair.  He shoved, I called (had him covered) and busted him out when I rivered a King.

The hand that really made me was when I shoved with pocket Jacks.  I didn’t need to shove, but it was close to that point.  I shoved in early position to try to take down the blinds and antes.  I got two callers, both had me covered!  Actually one of them shoved too and the third guy called.  Turns out they both had AK!  Since they had each other outs, I had a big edge and neither a King or a Ace showed up.  I tripled up and then went on a nice little streak where I took down some decent sized pots. 

After the first and second breaks I ate my can of peanuts, then had nothing more to eat the rest of tournament.  I couldn’t even order diet cokes because they tasted funny.  Somebody said it was real coke but it didn’t taste like that either.  I had a couple of bottles of room temperature water (I hate water if it isn’t ice cold) and nothing else.  But I hung in as people kept busting out.  There were 87 entrants and they were paying nine places. 

When it got to two tables I refused to play it safe to just make a little money.  I was going for it.  At that point I was in the middle of the pack, chip-wise.  I kept making moves and taking chances, but unfortunately a young guy at the table (who I hadn’t played with before we were down to the last two tables) went on a nice run.  When I first saw him he was short-stacked, hit on a couple of shoves, and was off to the races.  He started raising quite a bit, and didn’t get called for awhile.  He did us the favor of showing us his hands even though he didn’t have to.

That was damn nice of him.  Turns out he wasn’t just making moves, he was getting cards like you wouldn’t believe.  He had pocket Jacks three times when it was 6 handed at the table.   Had AK a couple of times. AQ once, KQ suited twice. He was just on a great run.  Suddenly he became the chip leader at the table.  I tried a few plays that worked sometimes but I ran into this guy with the hot hand a few times and had to back down when I raised with garbage.  That cost me and it put me in “looking for a chance to go all-in position”—that was the only move I had.  But every time I did—I went all in with some really marginal hands—I didn’t get any callers and just chipped up a bit.  I swear I wasn’t playing it safe but I couldn’t double up when I needed to. 

So without playing it safe, the cards and the play dictated that I didn’t bust out until we were down to 10 players.  As they made the final table of the 10 of us, we voted on and agreed to pay the bubble player.  So I was in the money.  What was strange was the way we did it.  I’d never seen this before.  We all agreed that each of us would chip in $15 for the 10th place finisher.  And we each came up with $15 cash out of our pockets and put it in an envelope for the next person to bust out.  So 10th place got $150 cash, $15 of which was his.  So, he made ten bucks!  But at least he didn’t play all that time and lose money.

It was now well into the evening, 8PM or so.  I was starving but I was happy I was going to make some money.  And I wasn’t avoiding making plays to survive, it was just whenever I shoved (and that was still really my only move left), I didn’t get called!  Others were not so lucky.  We played one hand after assembling the final table and agreeing to pay the bubble (and each coming up with $15 out of our pockets) before the next break. As soon as I saw the garbage I had I left the table and headed to the Mens Room.  Upon returning, I found out I missed the 10th guy busting out on that last hand before break.  He had taken the envelope and was gone.  I couldn’t even remember who he was.

Ninth place was I think $190 and I had no problem if I had a hand to shove with, busted out, and took down that money.  There was one guy who had a smaller stack than me, and he shoved a couple of times and won, but even with that, he didn’t catch up to me in chips.  But I was willing to shove when I had a hand that warranted it, and the few times I did, I didn’t get called.

One by one they fell, and soon I looked up and saw that I was in line to take down over $500, which was great.  But they kept falling.  With five left, I made a shove with a not great hand but I was UTG and didn’t want to have to shove on the BB.  I think it was like Q-8 suited.  Figured that was going to be better than my next hand, where I would really have no choice.  But no one called.  This kept me going until another guy busted out, so down to four players.  Two players (including the kid who had gotten real hot that I mentioned earlier) were about equal with huge stacks.  Suddenly as I was UTG again, I was no longer the short stack.  The BB, who had me way covered when we first formed the final table, had only a few chips left after posting his BB and ante.  I knew I would thus throw away anything but a premium hand, knowing he would have to shove.  I got garbage and small blind (the chip leader) put the BB all in, and sent him packing. 

My stack was now miniscule compared to the huge two stacks I was looking at.  It would take a miracle to get me in contention for 1st or 2nd place, but I didn’t care, because the board said I would take home over $1200 for being the next person to bust out!  I was ready to shove with any face card.  Sure enough, next hand I got J/6 off suit.  I was BB but the button raised forcing me to fold or shove.  I would have shoved anyway (although if they both folded to me and conceded the hand, I wouldn’t have complained, there was no small blind this hand).  The button actually had an Ace, and I believe he hit that not that it mattered.  I was gone, the remaining two players agreed to chop but I was thrilled with my $1200 third place prize.  Of course I had gotten lucky a few times but I knew I played well and deserved it.

It was 9:30PM, I was exhausted and extremely hungry.  Even with my nice winnings, I wasn’t about to eat at Aria prizes so I was able to hang on until I made it to NYNY and had my traditional Nathan’s dinner (hot dog and a slice of pizza).

It never tasted so good.


  1. is that a Hebrew National hot dog at Nathan's?!!

  2. Nathan's Hot Dogs are all-beef--I'm not sure if they are kosher or not, but they are their own brand, not Hebrew National.