Sunday, March 10, 2013

"There's No Shame in Re-Entering"

As I explained here, my January Vegas trip was timed to coincide with the Red Rock/Ante Up challenge.  But at the same time, there was another tournament series going on in town then that also caught my interest.  That was the Hollywood Poker Open, being held at M Resort.  I wrote about it a couple of times in my Ante Up column, and you can read about the results in my column here.  If you read the column, you will note that I did not report that I had won any of the events.

I was interested in the tournament series for a couple of reasons.  I did like the structure and the guarantees, and the fact that you could win a seat in the $40K guaranteed Sunday event on Friday (or Saturday).  I also kind of missed the M Resort.  You see, back in my 2/4 days, I played there a lot.  It’s a nice room, the dealers and staff are all friendly and quite good, and as I said in this post, the waitresses are all super hot. 
But in the past year or so, I’ve hardly ever played there.  The room was definitely always more of a limit house (2/4 and 4/8) than a NL house.  As I started switching to NL, I noticed that a NL game was a rarer and rarer thing to see there.  Plus I’ve always preferred playing NL on the Strip rather than a locals place, I want those tourist fish (it’s not as important in 2/4, plus if you play 2/4 in a locals place, there’s always good promos and jackpots to play for).  And then, just as I was making the switch, for reasons that aren’t at all clear to me, the room starting losing business like crazy.  In my last days of 2/4, I would sometimes go over there in what used to be prime time for the room and see zero games going.
Even back in my 2/4 days, I frequently found myself playing in their 6 PM tournament, and even cashed once when they were running a 2PM tournament with a guarantee (see here).  So I really thought it would be nice to return there and play there for the first time in a while.  And I figured the tournament event would bring out a big crowd, which would be fun.  Nothing’s more depressing than to visit a room that used to be super-busy and see it quiet as a morgue.
So on this particular Friday I got there around 1PM.  Plenty of time, I thought, to register for the 2PM,  Aside from some cameras set up to take pictures (and perhaps video) of the event, things looked fairly normal when I got there.  There were just two cash games going in the 14 table room, but that was busy for them based on the last few times I was there at that time of day.
There were a few more people than normal milling around the podium as I went over to sign up.  Before I got to the front, I overheard one of the two women manning the podium (or should that be, “womanning” the podium) tell another player that the tournament was sold out and there was a long alternate list.
Huh?  This room had been very quiet for a long time.  I thought there was a chance they might sell out during the early levels, but the thought they’d already be full by the time I got there—one hour early—never occurred to me.  Damn, I thought, I shouldn’t have mentioned the event in my Ante Up column, surely that was what caused the huge popularity of this event!
One of those two women up front recognized me, if not by name.  We’ll call her Jessica, since that’s not her real name.  Jessica used to be a dealer in the room but the last few times I’d been there I had noticed she was working  as a floor person.  In fact last time I was in there, I chatted with her and she told me she was mostly working floor now.  Jessica is one of the really nice people I’ve met in the Vegas poker world, and, as a bonus, she is extremely easy on the eyes. 
She asked if I had already signed up and I told her no.  They had been taking registration in the room for at least a week and they had actually sold out the day before.  Damn.  I had been in town for a week by now and could have easily swung by earlier to sign up.  I just had no idea it would be this popular.
Jessica told me that all 14 tables were full.  They even were planning on breaking the two cash games going on so they could have as many players in the tournament as possible.  Wow.  I’d never seen a poker room break a cash game for a tournament before.  And then she told me that there were 91 players already on the alternate list.
Ninety one?
Yes, 91.  Just then, my fellow blogger –S came by and said hi.  He is now the swing shift supervisor there (used to work graveyard when I played the room regularly) and thus was super busy himself.  He asked if I was registered, and I said no.  He said I should register for the Saturday tournament before it too sold out.  Then he took off to do some work. 
Jessica asked if I wanted to register for Saturday, seats were going fast as her colleague had just told me.  I really hadn’t planned on playing in a $225 tournament.  But I got swept up in the moment.  I realized I wasn’t going to play there this day, so I might as well get it on it tomorrow.  The thought of playing in such a full, busy room that I had spent a lot of time in earlier appealed to me.  I saw a lot of dealers that I recognized and had mostly good memories about (including Jessica, of course).  I had come to Vegas with the intention of playing at this tournament, and it looked like playing the next day in the $225 event was going to be my only chance (unless I wanted to pay $335 to play in the Sunday tournament, and I did not).
And besides, when Jessica flashes her smile at me, it’s really hard to say no.
What the hell.  I dug into my wallet and gave her my $225 for the tournament the next day.  That resolved, she then asked me if I wanted to get on the alternate list for today’s tournament.  They would let alternates in for the first 90 minutes (plus the 10 minute break).
I said, “Oh, I’ll never get in.  There’s 91 people in front of me.”
She replied, “You could still get in.  There could be a lot of donkeys playing.  We’re seating alternates for the first three levels.”
I knew that I was gonna hang around for awhile anyway, even if I wasn’t playing, just to soak up the atmosphere and possibly have something to write about in my next Ante Up column.  And they weren’t accepting money from the alternates until you actually got called for a seat.  So it didn’t really hurt to get on the list.  So I became alternate #92.
And so I just hung around for awhile and watched everyone work like crazy as they got ready for the tournament.  I was able to chat off and on with –S as he went from one thing to another as they were setting up.  And of course I took credit for the huge tournament, because of the Ante Up mention. He did point out that HPO took out huge ads in all the poker magazines, including Ante Up, promoting the event.  Still, just between you and me, I think it was my column.
I nodded hi to the dealers that recognized me, and also saw a few regs I recognized.  One guy I recognized was the player who crippled me at the Red Rock/Ante Up tournament a couple of nights earlier—the guy who busted out to my Aces, rebought, and then had AA to my JJ (see here).  He recognized me too and I asked how he ended up in that tournament.
I don’t recall whether or not he said he cashed, but he did tell me a bad beat story about how a guy who called his raise with garbage, hit his hand, and busted him out.
Oddly enough, I had zero sympathy for him.
Anyway, I hung around as the tournament started.  I sat in the nearby sports book, or wandering around, occasionally chatting with –S when he had a moment.  I must admit there is something exciting to me in being in a poker room this busy.  All 14 tables going, the chatter, the chips clicking. I was actually enjoying just being there.  And it didn’t take long for people to start busting out.  The levels were 30 minutes, the starting stacks were 10K (but the blinds started at 50/100).  Soon it seem like a couple of minutes  couldn’t go by without hearing a dealer cry out, “seat open!”
But my name was far down on the list, so they weren’t close to calling my name.  After about a level and a half, I stood by the podium for a bit.  I didn’t dare bother them to ask how far down thru the list they’d gotten, but I noticed that, as time went on, a higher and higher percentage of names called didn’t show up, having given up. There was enough turn over for me to start thinking I might actually get called as an alternate.
Which left me with another decision to make.  Getting in during the first two levels wouldn’t have been too bad.  But antes started on the third level, making that 10K starting a short stack (an “M” of just over 10).  So, once the second level ended, I really shouldn’t have considered taking a seat if they called me now.  I stayed around just to see, out of curiosity, if they would get to my name before the late entry period ended. 
During that third level though, as it appeared more and more likely I wasn’t going to get called anyway, I started wavering.  I guess I was kind of excited by all the poker going on in this room that had been so quiet lately.  And a thought flashed before….wouldn’t it be really cool if entered late, worked a short stack strategy well, got a few breaks, and ended up cashing in this thing, even winning a seat in the Sunday tournament?  Not only would be that be sweet in and of itself, but it would make for a hell of a blog post.
I also realized what a long shot that was.  So, honestly, during the third level, as I waited, I changed my mind basically every minute about whether to enter the tournament if I was called. And then, with about 10 minutes left, just as it was becoming clear to me I wasn’t going to get called, I heard Jessica call a bunch of names—at least five—the last of which was mine.
As I said, I was going back in forth in my mind every minute, and I swear, if my name had been called a minute earlier or a minute later, I would have passed.  But at this particular instant, I decided to play in the tournament, coming in very late in the 3rd level, short stacked.
I quickly paid my entry fee and was sent to the very back of the room, further delaying my poker playing for the day.  Then when I took my seat, I was in the seat of the small blind, so I had to wait a hand to play.  Then when that hand was completed, they changed the dealers, and then a player at the table made a big issue about where the button should be, so they had to call the previous dealer over, and at least a three minute discussion took place before they agreed the button was in the right place all along.  Which meant I was denied the opportunity to play maybe 2-3 hands at those blind levels.  As if getting in that late wasn’t bad enough!  There was actually one hand dealt to me before the break, I folded garbage, and thus, I had played exactly one hand of poker  and we were about start the 4th level, where the blinds were 50/300/600 and I had 10K in chips (less $25 for the one ante I’d put in).  Not a good position. 
After the break, our table played exactly one more hand when they broke it.  Seriously, ten players must have busted out on the first hand in order for that to have happened!  More bad luck for me, now a few more minutes wasted, not playing, while getting situated at my new table, which was as far from the first table as possible. 
So a few hands later at the new table, a guy with a few less chips to me shoved.  I had King-Jack of hearts and thought I was in desperate enough position to shove too.  I was hoping that in his position, he was shoving light.  I was right.  He had Ace-9.  I had 6 outs, plus the heart draw.  I lucked out and caught a King, and got almost a double up.
That almost gave me enough chips to actually play poker with.  One more nice chip up would have been really helpful. But I had time to wait a little.  I finally limped with pocket 6’s and when a short stack shoved, I thought it was likely a desperation move so I shoved too to isolate.  We were heads up but he had Ace-Jack and caught a Jack.  Damn.
Now I was truly in shove or fold mold, and before the big blind came to me, I caught two Jacks so of course I shoved.  Ace-Queen called me and hit his Ace.  My tournament lasted less than 90 minutes. 
The good news was that busting out there gave me enough time to have dinner and still make it to the Venetian Survivor tournament at 7PM.  Of course, that tournament resulted in this post here and the two that followed it. There wasn’t much poker to talk about from that tournament, it was all bad for me, but the last hand was particular disgusting.  First hand after the first break, in desperate shape, I looked at two Jacks in late position.  A guy with just a few more chips than I had shoved, but for me there, it was an easy shove back.  He had Ace Queen, and I was happy that I wasn’t behind a bigger pocket pair.
Flop was 8-3-2, and I was pretty happy.  The turn was a four, which made me happy at first.  Then I realized he only needed a 5 to make a wheel.  So of course, that’s exactly what hit on the river, and I was done.
So it was back to the M the next afternoon, and sadly, I didn’t play poker much longer on this day than I had the day before.  I was totally card dead, and my efforts to steal chips met with very rare success.  Right before the break, I was getting pretty close to desperate when I found Ace-King of clubs in late position.  Someone in early position made a standard raise, another person called, so I shove.  Small blind thinks a long, long time.  His stack is about the same as mind.  He finally calls.  The others fold and we flip our cards.  He has Ace-King, offsuit. Looks like a chop.
Except that the flop had 2 clubs.  One more and I’d have a nice double up.  Alas, no club hit on the turn or the river, and I went to break just a few more chips than I had before the hand.
Unlike the day before, despite a pretty long alternate list, they actually run out of alternates before the break.  I guess there was about 10 minutes left to go in the re-entry period.  We heard Jessica announce over the loudspeaker, “Attention players, we have run out of alternates, so if you do bust out before the break, you can get back in right away.  Remember, there’s no shame in re-entering.”  We all got a nice chuckle out of that.  It seemed everyone at the table knew Jessica and knew what a doll she is.
First hand after the break, I had pocket 10’s in the big blind.  A guy in early position, with a few more chips than I had, raised.  Folded to me.  Easy shove for me there with my stack.  He takes a moment or two to call.
He has Ace-King.  I was satisfied with that, it was a race, I was ahead.  Very low flop, good for me.  10 of diamonds on the turn.  Awesome, hit my set.  Blank on the river.  Yippee!
But wait.  I hadn’t noticed something.  His AK was suited, diamonds.  Two diamonds on the flop.  So the card that gave me the set gave him the nut flush.  And thus my two day return to M Resort had come to an abrupt end.
I looked around for –S but he was in the back.  Jessica was there however, and not busy at the moment.  I told her my tale of woe on the last hand, and she seemed sympathetic.  And then I told her it was good to see her again, and she returned the favor.  Truth is, despite the very bad run there, it was nice to play at M again, and I hope they can get their room hopping again.  I seem to have a soft spot for it.


  1. I am surprised you entered the tournament so late. That seemed like an un-Rob-like move. If you are that desperate for a blog post perhaps you should do a ten part professional gambler interview with TBC. : o )

    1. Yes, Lightning, it was very un-Rob-like. Maybe I've become a poker degenerate?