Thursday, June 12, 2014

The WSOP Satellite-Thingy Experiment at the Bike

This past Saturday, I made a last minute decision to head on down to the Bike (in picturesque Bell Gardens, CA) and play in a weird type of WSOP Satellite.

It was last minute cuz I didn’t even know about it until the day before.  But when I realized my dance card was empty for that particular Saturday, and I had a vague memory of some kind of WSOP event taking place at the Bike, I decided to check into it.  Fortunately, I know a good place to research stuff like that, PokerAtlas.  Of course, I work for them. So I found this link and learned about the WSOP satellite-ish event they were running.  The first day of the whole thing was that very Saturday.

I had noticed in the past that the Bike had run what I call, for lack of a better term, “weird” tournaments.  What’s weird about them?  Well, they have different buy-ins, starting stacks, and structures for different sessions.  I don’t mean that you just have the option of taking an add-on or re-buys (although there’s that too in this case).  I mean you can buy-in to what seem like totally different tournaments, but they’re really the same one.

Example: On Saturday at 1PM (or 6PM) I could buy into the session for $75 and get 5K in chips, 30-minute levels to start (20-minutes after the first four) and starting blinds at 25/50.  But if I wanted to enter the 3:30PM session, it would cost $235 for 25K in chips with the blinds starting at 50/100 (and antes starting at level 3 instead of level 5) and 25-minute levels after level 4 (20 for the first four still).  These are all Day 1’s, But if that’s not complicated enough, players have the ability to buy directly into Day 2.  That costs $2,100 and starts with 250K in chips (and blinds at 1K/3K/6K).

When all is said and done, the top 25 players get seats to the WSOP Main Event and $500 in cash, and there’s plenty of money left over for a lot more players than the 25 to get cashes.

Take a look at the link above and the structure info sheet that this links to and tell me what you think. Maybe this isn’t as complicated or as convoluted as I think it is. Or maybe it’s worse.

I had noticed earlier this year that the Bike was running similar tournaments (apparently they’ve been running tourneys like this for years), and I dismissed them out of hand as preposterous and not something I had any interest in.

Furthermore, I’m not really interested in playing satellites—at least what I would call “normal” satellites.  You know, where basically the only prize is an entry into a bigger tournament.  I’ve played in a few, but the more I’ve thought about it, the less I liked the idea.  Let’s face it, even a really, really good player—someone a lot better than me—doesn’t cash in even half the tournaments he or she plays in.  So, in order for me to get any actual return on my investment, I’d have to perform very well in two tournaments back-to-back. I just don’t like the idea that I’d do well enough to cash in a tournament, only to have to perform even better in a much bigger tournament where the odds against me are even greater, to actually have a payday.

But this particular “satellite” series was different.  I noticed that for the $75 buy-ins, it said that 10% of every session would finish in the money and that 5% would advance to day 2.

Hmmm….in other words, if I did well enough, I could get paid, whether or not I advanced to Day 2, whether or not I ran well enough to win an actual Main Event seat.

That made it more appealing to be sure. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was something worth doing.  I do work in the poker biz, and actually playing in this odd format would be a experience worth having, It’s a good idea for me to try things out of my comfort zone for my work. Especially since the Bike has used this format for years, and I assume other poker rooms around the country use it too.

I figured that getting in the top 10% of the field wouldn’t be out of the question, I seem to do that quite often in tournaments.  Getting into the top 5% (and thus make it to Day 2) would be a lot harder, but still doable.  And if I got into the top 10%, I get some money—and have an interesting experience as well.

Of course, I noticed that for the session I was going to play in, there was an single $50 add-on, and that appealed to me as well.  A tournament with a $5K starting stack doesn’t sound like it has a lot of play.  But the $50 add-on got an additional 8K chips.  That’s a 13K stack for $125.  That’s actually a bigger starting stack than the Aria tournaments I like for the same $125. 

So, I journeyed down to the Bike and gave it a whirl.  I admit, I just assumed the $50 add-on had to be taken before the first hand.  That’s the way they do it with the $5 add-on on their Nooner tournaments.  And I never even considered asking, because the fact that the add-on made it somewhat like the Aria tournament is one of the things that sold me on playing.

But it turned out, players had until the end of the registration period (4 levels and the break) to take the add-on.  I wonder what your thoughts are on this.  Obviously, if I didn’t take the buy-in, I might have gotten enough chips to have gotten past the break without having to take the add-on and saved myself some money.  But if I busted the 5K, I’d basically be playing twice with relatively short stacks instead of one big stack.  To me, taking more chips than the original buy-in for less money than the entry fee was a no-brainer.  But I guess I can see the logic behind playing a short-stack strategy knowing I have the option of using the add-on if/when I needed I needed it. Thoughts?

The tournament got off to an amusing start when the guy running it announced the starting blinds were 25/25, and that’s what it said on the tournament clock.  Well, the blind sheet I had in my hands showed it was supposed to be 25/50.  Heh heh. We played a hand or two at 25/25 before someone bought it to their attention and they corrected it.  

That was probably the error of one guy, and it might have had to do with the fact that the Bike’s actual Tournament Director was in Vegas playing in an WSOP bracelet event.  I had been following his run on Twitter, and he wasn’t at the Bike on this day (he had busted, but cashed, in his event).

However, another error wasn’t so easy to explain.  They had the second break one level sooner than was listed on the structure sheet.  It made more sense to have it then, since they had to do the $100 chip color up, but they didn’t have it that way on the printed structure they were handing out.

Before I get to the poker, I have to tell one story that relates back to a post I recently did.  Remember my gripe here about people taking away my diet Coke before I was done with it?  Well, at the Bike they recently laid off all the people responsible for bringing you soft drinks, they called them “porters.”  The cocktail waitresses serve only alcohol, which they charge you for (California State Law, they are not allowed to serve free booze).  So you have to find an actual waiter or waitress to get you a soft drink (recall that, to compensate for not being able to serve free booze, they serve inexpensive—and possibly free, depending on the game you’re playing—food).

I had somehow gotten a waitress to bring me a diet Pepsi during the second or third level.  I would guess I still had at least a quarter of it left when the break came.  Plus lots of ice, which I’m ok with.  When I returned from the Men’s Room, I couldn’t believe that my drink was gone!  Unbelievable. Hadn’t I just done a blog post ranting about this very thing?

There’s a couple of reasons this was more unlikely than in Vegas.  For one thing, the porters they laid off were also the people who cleared the empty dishes, empty cups, etc.  So who the hell was it who cleared my drink away?  They don’t really have anyone to do that!

But worse, they don’t serve the soft drinks in glasses or plastic cups.  They serve it in those paper (cardboard?) cups that say “Pepsi” on them and have the blue emblem on them. And with a plastic lid.  The point being, you can’t look at a soft drink and determine that it is empty or nearly empty.  You have to grab the cup and shake it to see if there’s anything in there.  So someone grabbed my cup, and somehow determined that there wasn’t anything in it, even though there was.  While I was away from the table.  The nerve!

I have a lot of notes from the tournament, but I will only discuss a few key hands.

On the third level, with pretty much my starting stack intact, I had the dreaded pocket Kings under the gun plus 1.  I made it $400 (blinds were 75/150).  Only the big blind called and the flop was Ace-Jack-X, not great for my dreaded hand.  I c-bet $600 and was happy that my opponent folded. Remember this: it wasn’t the last time I had KK on this day.

I was hanging around with close to my starting stack when a big hand happened that put me in position for a long run. It was level 4 (100/200) and I had 5-6 in the big blind.  There was no raise and five of us saw the flop, which was 9-6-6.  I led out for $800.  Only one guy called, a player who had had some early success and had almost twice as many chips as I did.  The turn was a Jack and I bet $2,000.  He called.

The river was a King.  I realized that made a straight possible (no flush possible) but I dismissed that quickly. He would have to have Queen-10, and why would he call the flop with that?  I was more concerned about him having a bigger 6 than mine—or a boat.

I bet $4k, thinking my hand was good.  Until he almost immediately announced, “I’m putting him all in.”

As an aside, I’ve played enough poker to know that wasn’t a legitimate bet on his part.  You have to declare an amount—or say “all in.”  You can’t say, “I’ll bet what he has left” or what he said. I knew what he meant, and I didn’t argue the point.  But the dealer should have told him that.

I thought long and hard.  Again, I pretty much dismissed the idea that he had made a back-door straight.  But I was concerned that he had the other 6 and if he did, he almost surely had a bigger kicker (or even a boat).   How would he have a 6, I wondered?  I had the excuse that I was the big blind, but he limped in early position.  Ace-6 suited?  Or may 7-6 suited?  I couldn’t dismiss the possibility.

But I counted out my remaining chips and realized that I had put too much of my stack in to fold at this point.  Especially since I still thought there was a good chance my trip 6’s were good.

So after a long time in the tank, I convinced myself to call.  I was already starting to wonder if I was going to play cash next or if I would just go home.

He flipped over King-9 for two pair.  My trip 6’s were good, and I had a very nice double up. 

Everyone was saying, “Great call, gutsy call.”  The other player said, “I sure didn’t put you on that.”  I guess not.

Later, during the first break—right when someone was taking away my unfinished Diet Pepsi—I ran into the guy in the Men’s Room.  “Took a lot of balls to make that call,” he said.  I just said, “I got lucky.”  I believe that’s the most appropriate response in that situation.

The same level I picked up some more chips with 8-9 in the big blind.  A couple of players had called an aggro’s raise to $500 so I came along.  The flop was 8 high and I called the aggro’s $2,500 bet.  We both checked the turn.  He bet $2,000 on the river and I put him on air.  I was right.  He had overcards, nothing more.

Oddly enough, this guy lost a big pot last hand before the break, and although he had chips left over, didn’t return.  I believe it took most of the next level to blind/ante him off.

I kept surviving level after level, winning small pots, and not losing any big ones. Note: there were 177 players in this session, and they were paying 18.  The last nine would get either $200 or $250.  The top nine would advance to day 2, where they were assured of at least $400.

So at level 14, blinds 500/1500/3000 I had around $50K, pretty desperate.  I shoved with 8-8 and 9-8 suited (first in) and didn’t get a call.  Then I looked down at pocket Aces.  I had been thinking that with my short stack, if I got Aces it would probably be worth it limping with them in a risky attempt to get more chips.  We were still quite a few players away from the money.

But when a guy raised in front of me, I went ahead and shoved and he snap-called.  He had about half the stack I had and he flipped over Ace-Jack.  He actually caught a gut-shot on the turn but missed, and I had some more chips to play with.

By level 15 (500/2000/4000), players were dropping rapidly.  We were down to less than 30 and getting close to having only two tables.  If I could maneuver my still-short stack, I could cash.

I had around $73K, and I felt I probably had to shove, not raise, if I was first in with a decent hand.  I shoved with pocket 9’s first in, and no one called.

I was still stacking my chips when my next hand was delivered. I hadn’t counted my new stack yet, and I obviously hadn’t figured out for sure if I was still in a fold-or-shove mode or if I could play a little.  But I had to think fast, cuz that very next hand was the dreaded pocket Kings.

Despite everything you’ve read on this blog, I was actually happy to see that hand at that time.  I just wasn’t sure what to do….did I have enough to raise and try to get max value, or should I just shove as I had with the 9’s?  Or should I really take a gamble and slow play and just limp?  No, I couldn’t see doing that and risking someone with a crappy Ace hitting the flop.

I decided to raise but raise big.  Instead of $12,000 as I might have put out, I made it $15,000. It folded to the small blind (I was UTG).  He called.  His stack was shorter than mine, about $50K when we started the hand.

I was going to shove pretty much any flop that didn’t have an Ace.

The flop was low, something like a pair of 6’s and a deuce.  He checked and I immediately announced “all-in.”  He thought about it for just a few seconds and shrugged and said, “Call.”

He flipped over pocket 5’s. WTF?  There was no 5 on the board, all he had was the 5’s. He started to stand up to leave and then, of course, of course, because it was me, because it was pocket Kings, the dealer put a 5 on the turn.  And failed to put a King on the river.

Ugh.  To me, that hand was horribly played by my opponent.  He had no business calling my raise with pocket 5’s.  Not with our stack sizes.  I could see him maybe taking a chance on shoving back against my raise, but to just call there was awful.  I’m not sure why he called, my flop shove either, unless he put me on an Ace-King type hand and felt I was just c-betting with nothing.

Of course, I couldn’t help thinking that I should have shoved preflop.  But based on the way he played the hand, he might have very well called me there and the result would have been the same.

The very next hand I was the big blind.  No one raised, a bunch of players limped in and so I checked with 6-9 off.  I probably didn’t have enough to get anyone to fold with a shove, and I could see the flop for free and shove if it was good.

Well it wasn’t bad.  It was 8-7-2.  I flopped an open-ender.  I shoved.  If I got called, I’d have to hit my straight.  Sure enough, the biggest stack at the table called and tabled Ace-8.  So in addition to the straight outs, there were three 9’s that could save me.

But no, there was no 5, no 10 and no 9.  And I was out in 23rd place.  Just five spots away from the money.

I had played nearly 6-1/2 hours.  I don’t think I’ll play in a tournament like that again, but I don’t regret giving it a try.

As usual though, I do regret getting pocket Kings


  1. Rob it hurt to read about that hand, it must have really sucked to play it. He really had no business calling your raise preflop, he was definitely in shove or fold mode there. I'm surprised he didn't shove the flop considering that was a good flop for his hand, except of course for the fact you're sitting there with KK. Next time just toss the filthy kings in the much preflop and move on.

    1. Thanks, Neo.

      If you consider that he was planning on shoving there anyway, maybe waiting for me to bet was the right play. If he shoves first, I fold A-K, A-Q, this way he gets more chips.

      But really, it was a terrible call pre by him. If it hasn't been raised when it gets to him in the small blind, limping in would be fine. But as it was, I don't see him just calling--shove or fold.

      I do sometimes win with the dreaded hand. But the times I don't really makes an impression!

  2. Great call with the trip sixes, and the most appropriate response in that situation is "thank you..." ;) Late in the tourney, he hit a 2-outer with the 5's - so be it (and yeah, I know that I still have to write that entry where your post got my wheels rolling)... Either way you play it there is right - he had to hit a two-outer to beat you from the start...

    1. Thanks, Coach.

      I guess the probably way to look at it is..."That's poker."

  3. i dunno. I get a definite TBC vibe when you start complaining about your soda ... : o )

  4. Tough beat....maybe they took your soda so you weren't able to throw it? lol

    As an aside, you know if it had been me, I would have either won the blinds pre-flop or won the hand outright with that dreaded hand of yours....

    1. No, would have flopped quads and the guy would have shoved into to you!

      I actually got another soda and I didn't throw it anybody.

  5. As to the add on....always take the add on if the price is additional $50 for 1 3/5th starting stack is a no brainer....once the antes come into play the extra ammo comes in handy.

    As to the trip 6s...its an either or situation...and you really couldn't muck it after committing that many well done

    As to the KK bustout hand....meh...he played it horribly and got lucky....he has two direct outs and backdoor straights...ideal situation for you....sometimes you just can't beat a donk.....just don't be results got your opponent to get his money in drawing super thin....that's all you can do.

    1. Thanks,. bill. I think the only way I could have played the last hand differently was to shove preflop. Based on my stack, that might have been the right play. But if called my shove on the flop, he's probably calling me preflop too. Unless he felt better about calling after the flop since there were no broadway cards on the board.

      But I know I got the money in good....and that's poker.

  6. Couple of comments:
    1 - Great post as usual
    2 - I must have missed the text to meet you at the bike
    3 - Love the lead on the flopped trip sixes
    4 - You clearly don't read my columns. That crazy entry format is formatted by Mo and I have written about it in detail before. ;]

    1. 1. Thanks, Dave. Always great to hear from you, even if you didn't identify yourself. I didn't have to be a great detective to figure it out.

      2. Heh heh. The truth is, I wasn't sure I was going down to the Bike that day until about 10 minutes before I got into my car. I thought there was a good chance I was going to visit my recovering family member in the hospital, but ended up doing that the next day.

      3. Thanks, I think a lot of people would be tempted to slow play it....tried for a check-raise.

      4. You know, when I first thought about trying this a day or two before, I actually considered contacting you to see if you could explain the whole thing to me, since it was so confusing. I didn't do that because I really thought I wasn't likely to play in it.

      But now that you mention it, I'd love to see your columns about those tournaments that Mo came up with. Can you give me the links?

  7. "players had until the end of the registration period (4 levels and the break) to take the add-on. I wonder what your thoughts are on this."

    I do what the others do. If no one takes the add on right away, neither do I. What's the point? You already have as many chips as they do. If at least a couple of them do the add-on right away, then I do too. You want to be able to max your results if you get involved in a big pot. My two cents.

    1. Thanks, MOJO. In this case, more than half the players at my table took the add-on right away. So my getting it right away was a good one. But as I said, I didn't even realize you could wait to get until anytime before the break.

  8. Hi Rob,

    It was really nice to meet you when I was in Vegas recently. My 10-day "vacation" turned into more of a "work from a remote location" kind of thing as I got really busy with work stuff. The company I work for was in the process of being acquired (the deal is done now, and public) - and I had to do a lot of middle-of-the-night conference calls with Hong Kong.

    Anyway, I hope to be back in Vegas again before the year is over so perhaps we can meet up again for some poker and "parade watching".

    I enjoy your writing - keep up the good work.


    1. Thanks DWP. It was great meeting you and I was sorry we didn't get more time to play or just just chat. I did look for you when I left that game I was playing, but I couldn't find you. Hopefully next time your in Vegas, we will get a chance to sit at the same table, just shoot the breeze.

      Rest assured that our brief encounter will be duly noted in a future post of mine!