Sunday, July 19, 2015

Santa Claus Came Early This Year

Golden Nugget $150 Tournament, Part 3

As we pick up the story (see here for part 2 and here for part 1), I had survived through dinner and the redraw when we reached 27 players.  Now we were down to 26, maybe 25.  I guess we were going hand-for-hand at this point.  Despite my dislike of the min-cash, I couldn’t help myself here….I tightened up.  It isn’t so much the small money I want….it’s the notion that I’ve played so damn long, I have to get some money to show for it.  Like I said, tournaments make me crazy like that.  It was approaching midnight, I believe.  I’d been at this for 11 hours.

Anyway, after the redraw there was a huge stack two to my left, possibly the biggest stack of the tournament.  He was an older gentleman, with a distinct British accent. In my first notes about him, I referred to him as “British Bully.”  But by the end, I was referring to him as “Santa Claus” for reasons that will become evident.  Going forward, let’s just refer to him as “SC” for convenience sake.

SC liked to take advantage of his huge stack.  From the moment I got to the table with him, he would open raise 3X the big blind every single time.  He must have done that 6 or 7 straight times.  If there was a raise in front of him, he might fold, or he might three-bet.  But his open-raising range was, it appeared, ATC (any two cards).  Except finally, at one point, it folded to him, and he announced, “Believe it or not, I’m folding.”  And so he did.  But the next hand, he was back to open raising 3X the big blind.

So, with pocket Queens, it folded to me and I decided to raise to $10K instead of shoving.  I had seen SC fold to a preflop raise and since he must have noticed by now that this was the first hand I’d played since we got to the same table, I figured he’d likely fold.  Thus, I was pretty shocked when he announced “all-in.”  He had me covered many times over.

Damn.  Since I had seen him fold in that situation, I couldn’t just assume he was trying to bully me because we were so near the bubble.  But I did have an awfully good hand.  Did he have a better one?  Did he have Ace-King?  I tanked for a bit.  In almost any other situation, I’m going to call there.  But with only one or two more players to go before the bubble would break, I just couldn’t bear the thought of busting that long into the tournament with nothing to show for it.  I mean sure I was pissed that the min cash was only $253.  But that was at 6PM.  Six hours later, after 11 hours of poker, I would have been even more pissed bubbling.  Yes, yes, I would have called with the dreaded Kings.  But Queens?  Gulp.  Any other time, but not then, not there.  I folded.

I couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if I had shoved instead of just raised?  Would he have risked losing a decent amount of chips and called?  Or would he have folded?  Hell if I know.

And sometime around this point, we were down to 25 and the inevitable discussion of paying the bubble came up.  Now I must say, the folks at Golden Nugget were not at all helpful in this.  In fact, they were downright unhelpful.  They said any arrangement we made would have to on our own.  They would not adjust the prize pool because “Accounting already knows how many spots we are going to pay.”

OK, that’s not too bad, I’ve seen this before, where everyone takes out $10 (or whatever) and we just give that pile of cash to the next person who busts.  But they wouldn’t let us really negotiate.  They not only wouldn’t stop the clock to let us all talk about it, but they wouldn’t let anyone from one table get up and go over to another table to talk and try to strike a bargain.  Usually they are willing to stop the clock and stop play and let us all talk, which was kind of necessary since three tables of players were involved. Usually the TD will actually poll the players to see if we all agree to pay the bubble.  But they would have none of it. And whenever one of the players went to another table, they forced him to go back to his own table.

So we did the best we could.  We stayed at our own tables and shouted and talked it through.  I had one of the shorter stacks so I was definitely ok with it.  To my surprise, SC, still the biggest stack at this point, said he was fine with paying the bubble.  If everyone kicked in $10, the bubble prize would be $250, three bucks less than the min cash (or technically, $13 less than the min cash, since $10 of that would be the bubble’s own money).

So everyone at my table and one other table was agreeable, but there was a hold-out at the third table.  He said they would kick in $5 each, not $10.  Huh?  That would be less than the buy-in and really, how much difference does the five bucks mean if we’re all gonna cash?  SC was aghast.  “I’m the damn chip leader….I’m bullying everyone here.  If’ I’m willing to pay the bubble, why aren’t you?”

Hands were being dealt (hand-for-hand) and we kept talking and one of the guys at our table said OK…take $5 from that one guy and $10 from everyone else.  If the $5 guy is the bubble, we give him $5 from everyone, but otherwise, every gets $10 from everyone (but him).  Close enough, right?

Well, as we were in the process of doing that, another guy from our table someone convinced Mr. $5 to cough up $10 like everyone else.  And I think we still had to go hand-for-hand a little longer because the Golden Nugget was not part of this arrangement (and it wasn’t quite the same as the min cash anyway).  But eventually another person busted, took the $250 in cash (it wasn’t the $5 guy) and we were now all officially in the money.

Still at the same level, in the money, the eccentric lady I mentioned earlier shoved for less than I had, and I woke up with pocket Kings.  I didn’t dread them.  I shoved.  SC tanked forever.  Hmm…..I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to call or not.  Obviously he didn’t have Aces, but did I want a call from him if he had any Ace?  Well, he finally folded.  The lady had deuces.  I actually hit my set, and then the board paired, giving me a boat.  SC said he folded Ace-Queen.  Damn, I would have gotten a lot more chips if he had called.  As it was, I added about $37K to my stack.

That got me to level 16 (500/2000/4000) with over $100K.  A little breathing room, but not that much.

I raised to $13K with pocket 9’s.  The big blind shoved for about $17K more.  I figured I had to call, so I did.  He had 10-9 off.  I was a solid favorite but he caught a 10 on the flop, and, for good measure, a 10 on the turn.  Ouch.

Now, of course at the outset I explained that this was a two-day tournament, as were pretty much all the GPS events.  But in addition to it being unusual that a $150 would play out over two-days, the tournament fliers the GN produced said nothing about these tournaments being two-day events.  You had to review the structures to see that.  Of course, if you got your info from PokerAtlas, you would know that this was a two-day event, as I had entered that info on our site.  But a lot of people enter tournaments without doing their due diligence. 

One of the ladies at the table with me from the beginning was from Wyoming and during one of the breaks I heard her talking to her friends.  They were asking her what she was going to do if she had to come back the next day.  It seems she was booked on a flight to return home in the morning!  She kept telling her friends, “Don’t worry.”  Hmm….imagine if she had to come back, earned the smallest Day 2 prize possible and it cost her more than she won to rebook her return flight?

Her problem was solved when she busted soon after the bubble broke.

But there were several players there who were intended to play in the WSOP seniors event, which was starting at 10AM the next day.  These people also had no idea when they entered that it was a two-day event.  They also didn’t figure it would last this long even if it was a one-day event, as it was now quite past midnight, and I’m sure they had planned on being in bed by then if they were going to make it to the Rio for the 10AM bracelet event.

One of those players was SC.  And suddenly he realized he’d have to come back the next day at 2PM if he made it to the end of this evening,  He talked about playing the Seniors Event until 1PM, taking a cab over to the Nugget, and then returning to his stack at the WSOP after he was done. 

But he started playing very differently and pretty much decided to give his chips away instead.  OK, what he said was that he was going to play to either build a huge, huge stack or lose it all.  So I suppose he would have been ok if his wild play got him a stack that was 3 or 4 times bigger than the next biggest stack.  But basically, he started shoving with lousy hands, and more importantly, he was calling shoves with lousy hands. At one point, after making one of those incredibly loose calls, as he flipped over his cards he said, "I'll play Santa Claus."

Example….I shoved with pocket 8’s and he called my shove with….Jack-3 off.  He had me covered, hadn’t committed a dime to the pot (other than the ante) and certainly didn’t need to do this.  But he had already made similar plays against other players at our table.  Sometimes even worse hands than Jack-3.  I think 3-2 once.  He even said to another player, “OK, I’ll double you up.”  Since he seemed to be friends with that player, it almost bordered on collusion, and one player at our table, who knows me from the Binion’s tournament I play, whispered to me that this wasn’t right.  But he was an equal opportunity Santa Claus, giving his chips away to almost anyone and everyone.  On the hand in question, he hit his 3 but that was it, and I got a double up.

Between the blinds, antes, and maybe a few small losses that I didn’t write down, I made it to level 17 (1000/3000/6000) with just $90K.  And then SC helped me out again when he called my shove again.  I had pocket 10’s, he had Ace-5. “Does the Ace scare you?” he asked.  Yeah, it kind of did.  But he didn’t catch in, the 10’s held.  SC was pretty close to being out, and I’m not sure when he busted but had managed to lose a remarkable amount of chips in a relatively short time.  I had $135K after that (those blinds and antes were killers).

I raised to $18K with Queen-Jack offsuit, no call.  My note says we were now down to 14 players.

I opened for $20K with Ace-King; no call.

At level 18 (1K/4K/8K) we got down to 10 players, did the redraw and I had $124K. 

So we were down to one table but not technically the final table.  The final table would be 9-handed. So we needed to lose one more player to break for the night.  Clearly we would lose another player before completing level 20, which would trigger the end of the day if we still had more than 9.

Except…the TD on duty (definitely not the one we started with at 1PM…this was now after 2AM the next day) said that if we wanted, we could keep playing, even to completion.  The reason was that the Heads Up tournament that had started the day before ours (at 11AM I believe) was still going on, and would last until the wee hours of the morning.  So since they weren’t closing up shop anyway, if we wanted to, we could keep going after we lost #10.

I had very mixed emotions.  Of course I was tired, but honestly, at this point, adrenaline was kicking in and I wasn’t nearly as tired as I should have been (especially since I had gotten a really lousy night’s sleep leading up to this tournament). So I could have played on…and avoided the necessity of coming back to the Nugget for what figured to be a relatively quick day 2.  I was the short stack at this unofficial final table. So that would have appealed to me.

OTOH…..if we broke for the day, I’d have a new experience.  This would be the first time I’d ever “bagged and tagged” my chips and had to have come back for a Day 2.  It was kind of a bucket list item.  Of course, I’d played in very, very few tournaments that would have given me a chance to come back for a Day 2.  So I was thinking it would be cool to get that experience under my belt.

In fact, I would say the odd desire to try to experience the “bag & tag” affected some of my play.  I might have called a few shoves, made a few more looser raises or shoves myself if it wasn’t in the back of my mind that I wanted to do the “bag & tag.”

That and the fact that I really wanted to move up the pay scale and see if I could get some “real” money.

Anyway, even before we lost #10, I heard a couple of the players—much younger guys than me—say they were too tired and wouldn’t want to play any longer than we had to.  And it had to be unanimous that all were willing to make the exception and play on, rather than call it a night.

On the very first hand once we were down to 10, I was the big blind with Queen-Jack.  It folded to the small blind who just completed. I checked.  The flop was Queen high.  He checked and I shoved, he folded.

That was the last hand I noted for the night.  I started level 19 (1K/5K/10K) with $91K.  That was the short stack but two of the moderately sized stacks got into a pot together.  The smaller stacked shoved with trip Aces. The bigger stack thought long and hard and finally called with the nut flush (but a paired board, two Aces).  This was the turn and the flush was at risk of the other guy catching a boat…..but he missed and he was gone.  Nine players left.

And that brings part 3 to a close.  Yes, we will actually conclude this story in the next chapter!  And that next chapter can found right here.


  1. I thought I was the nittiest player you've ever seen. On the Q-Q, that's a snap call for me. I must be getting fast and loose in my old age, lol.

    1. No you're right, I should have called. I would have but for the bubble...we were just so close. But I regret more not open shoving, raither than just raising. I think he would have folded--unless he really had a big hand, possibly bigger than my Queens.

      But as I said, poker tournaments make me crazy!