Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maybe I am Getting the Hang of this Tournament Thing

As I mentioned here and here, I had some success recently playing tournaments in Vegas on my most recent visit there.  This despite the comment here that I seldom play tournaments.

Actually I’ve played them for some time, various size tournaments, various entry fees.  And I’ve cashed before.  In “big” tournaments (more than 50 players), I’ve cashed twice—in The Bike’s $40 noon tournament, but cashed out low, toward the bottom of those who got paid, never getting back even $100.  I cashed a few times in very small Vegas tournaments, where there were less than 25 players, at Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood.  Best result, chopping first place at HR where there were 11 players and getting back around $225 for a $60 buy-in.

But I want to do better and I find that mixing in tournament play (and even some No Limit cash play) makes things more interesting on my poker trips.  Just playing 2/4 or even 4/8 limit can get to be a little tedious after awhile.
I knew I had to improve my game if I wanted to cash out in bigger tournaments.  So I’ve been reading Dan Harrington’s first two volumes on NL tournament poker.  It’s amazing how much there is to being a good poker player.  I think it would be easier to become a nuclear physicist.  But I’ve delved into these books and have tried to absorb as much as possible.  I still have plenty to learn.
So on this trip, I tried a couple of tournaments with poor results.  First time was LC2 where I did horribly played horribly, knew I was playing horribly as I was doing so.  It was like I had never read a poker book in my life.  I deservedly busted out early and was furious with myself for not remembering anything I had read about tournament play. Back to my room to re-read the parts of the Harrington book I needed to emphasize! Next I tried Bininon's 2PM tournament during the week, when they only had around 12 players, and busted out fairly early as well.  Won a few early pots, went card dead and my “moves” weren’t successful.  But at least I knew I was playing better, I was remembering what to do and making some smart plays that usually didn’t pay off, but that’s poker.  I was feeling a lot better about myself.  But I got crippled when I needed to move all-in with A-J and a Jack on the board, only to be called by a guy with pocket Jack’s!  Ouch. 
Since I felt I had played a lot better this time, despite not getting a better result, I wanted to try to again.  I had heard that on weekends, Binion's 2PM tournament gets closer to 100 players so I headed downtown once again on Saturday.  Wow, what a difference a weekend makes.  Instead of two tables of 6 each, there were 10 tables full!  They ended up having 110 players for the Saturday event.  During the week they have the tournament in their regular poker room, but on the weekends they have a special room set up because the regular room couldn’t hold this turnout. 
The players seem mostly locals and regulars, which was unsurprising for the downtown location. They were mostly nice people, a lot of older folks.  I wouldn’t say I was one of the younger people there but I don’t usually find myself in a room with such a large percentage of folks my age or older!
I did ok at first.  The format is a real “deep-stack” which I like.  For $105 entry fee you get $20,000 in chips and after the first three 20 minute levels, the levels are 30 minutes.  You get some play for your money, to be sure.  I was adding to my stack consistently.  I never was one of the larger stacks but I stayed out of trouble for quite a few hours.  I had eaten lunch at the little deli at Binion's but suddenly it was 7, 8, pm and I was still there.  I really wasn’t anticipating being there so late!  I had to gobble down a hot dog from the deli during one of the breaks.  You could have taken in more food than that and eaten it while playing, but I don’t like eating while playing in a tournament, that’s too much multi-tasking for me.
I looked at the clock and watched as the number of players still alive kept going down.  They were paying the top 12, and once they got down under 20 and it was well into the evening, I did exactly what you are not supposed to do and started playing extremely conservatively.  The smart move is to take advantage of everyone playing tightly, trying to hang on long enough to finish in the money, by being aggressive against all those tight players.  That’s what you do if you want to win the tournament.  But sorry, I was there so damn long that just like everyone else, I wanted to hang on if I could to make even a little bit of money.  If I finished 12th, I would have gotten a little more than my money back but that seemed reasonable for the time I’d spent; playing 7 hours and leaving empty-handed would have been a major pisser.  Besides, I was well down from all the chip leaders and frankly, didn’t have the confidence that I could really finish in the top three or four (or even six or eight).
So I played ultra tight and stayed alive as players busted out.  Suddenly we had 13 players and someone suggested that we pay the bubble (meaning the first person to bust out out of the money would get something).  All the players left would have to agree and then agree on where the bubble money would come from.  The suggestion was it come from 1st place which was nearly $3,000.  But one kid, who was the chip leader at the table I was at (but not at the tournament as it turned out) objected.  Apparently he was confident he was going to win and didn’t want to lose any of his prize money.  So we pressed on and soon lost player #13, guaranteeing me that I’d take home some money….although I think the bottom prize was only $150, so it would only be a $45 profit….less if I tipped the dealers.  But though my stack was dwindling, I kept surviving as others kept busting out while I played excessively tight.  Yeah I kept playing tight for awhile right after I finished in the money as I wanted to get a few places up the ladder, prize-wise.
Finally we were down to the final ten, which meant the final table.  We redrew for seats and I ended up in the same seat. I looked at the new players that had joined us, I was clearly the short stack when the table was set.  So I was fine with that and taking home 10th place money if I busted out next (I think somewhere around $250).  But other players kept doing me the favor of busting out first!  Now I had stopped being so tight and with my small stack I was just looking for a hand to go all-in on and either double up or call it a day and take home some money.  But a few times I went all in and didn’t get a call, so instead of a double up I chipped up a little instead.  Still a long way from the chip leaders, though.
Key hand:  I guess we were around 8 handed and I was still the short stack when I got J-9 suited.  Perfect hand to go all in on as I was close to being blinded out.  The woman to my right was a regular (and a very nice lady) and she had been in bad shape until recently hitting a couple of double ups herself.  She called me with AQ offsuit.  When a Queen hit I looked dead, but I rivered a miracle straight to double up and stay alive.  From then on I was never the absolute shortest stack, just second or third shortest. 
Meanwhile, the kid who refused to pay the bubble had gone cold and ended up busting out 7th or 8th.  So he didn’t make any money by stiffing the bubble guy.  When it got down to 7 of us, a buddy of the guy next to me, who had played in the tournament but was now just watching his friend. observed that if we took a 7 way chop of the first 7 prizes, we’d each take home more than 3rd place money.  I was the short stack so I didn’t say anything, of course that would be great for me but I didn’t think the chip leaders would even consider it.  Another guy who had slightly more than me did speak up.  He was friendly young fellow with a British accent who had mentioned that he had and his wife had a nice dinner planned and that was now out the window  since it was around 10PM.  At least he had a big breakfast at the Golden Nugget buffet.  Anyway he said he would surely go for the chop but that he realized it wasn’t his place to even suggest it since he was so short stacked.  The chip leader, an elderly gentlemen, immediately nixed the idea, he was not interested in a chop.
We pressed on, and the fellow who’s friend had suggested the chop was next to go.  Now it was down to 6.  As the blinds and antes kept going up, we played a long time; two (maybe three?) levels six-handed and no one busted out.  Close to midnight, the elderly chip leader had had some reversals and lost a few big pots to players going all in.  He still had a good number of chips but his lead was no longer overwhelming.  An older woman who had been the chip leader when we formed the final table had also had some reversals and was no longer swimming in chips.  The British guy was no longer starving for chips but not the chip leader either.  But when we took a break around midnight, he did some calculations on how much we’d all get if it was chopped among the six of us.  It would be a tick under $1200, almost $200 better than 3rd place money.  The former chip leader was now in agreement with the chop saying he was tired.  The fact that he was no longer in such a dominant chip position and we’d gone a long time without anyone busting out was no doubt a huge factor in his change of heart.  We had to find the woman who had earlier been the chip leader….she was out of the room, smoking.  The dealer knew her well and said he didn’t think she’d go for it, “she’s stubborn.”  But when the British fellow found her outside the poker room puffing away and she agreed to the chop without any hesitation.  It was a done deal, we were all taking home nearly $1200!
This was a sensational result for me personally.  I was close to busting out many times, and I think there may have been one person with less chips than me at the time, but it was close.  I had been looking for an all in move for some time and would have been delighted with sixth place money (can’t recall the exact amount, but I think it was around $500).  So I was very happy.
While management was drawing up the paperwork, I chatted a bit with the British bloke. Turns out he and I both post on the Allvegaspoker.com forum and in fact, we had exchanged posts about the very tournament we had just competed in before he had left England for his Vegas vacation. Talk about a small world!
That was enough for me.  Ten hours of poker and a nice cash prize, I was ready to call it a night.  But I wasn’t done playing in tournaments.  Stay tuned.


  1. Hi Rob Its jason - the british player - great blog really enjoyed reading that.. having problems posting a trip report on AVP and have now given up! Back in Las Vegas Dec 2012 staying downtown all week this time..what a great tournament the weekend binions game is - and the cash games are great too. good times and a pleasure to meet you. well played sir!

  2. Thanks Jason, glade to hear from you. Yes it was a great time. Sorry you are having trouble with your trip report, I can't imagine what the problem is unless you haven't been able to write it. If you have, could you email it to me at least? I would love to see it. Thanks and good luck at the tables.