Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Return Trip Was Worth It After All

Golden Nugget $150 Tournament, Part 4
At last we come to the final chapter!  See here,  here and here for the first three parts.  We pick up immediately after we lost the first player from the unofficial final table and were down to 9 players.

The TD polled us about continuing, and, as I expected, two players immediately vetoed the idea of continuing for the night.  It was past 2AM and we were bagging our chips.   I bagged $88K and was clearly the short stack.  Worse, that bust-out hand had given the guy on my immediate left the big chip lead….he had nearly $700K.  The next smallest stack was $123K and there was a $188K stack and everyone else had at least $200K.

And when I looked at that and then reviewed the pay scale for the umpteenth time, I kind of regretted the decision to maybe play a little bit more towards trying to get the tag & bag experience rather than busting out so I didn’t have to return.  It seemed overwhelmingly likely that I would be the next player to bust and that would get me $635.  If I had busted 10th that night, I would have gotten $514.  Was the $120 extra even worth the inconvenience of making a return trip the next day (and thus skipping work for that Friday!)?   Oh and by the way, Sam and I had a nice chat after part 1 of this epic came out.  He's not mad at me for what I said about his structure being "too good."  But he did tell me that after he left, new management at GN did change the pay schedule.

Hmm…..the tag and bag experience was ok, nothing exciting but it was just nice to finally get to experience.  It didn’t seem like a lot of the other players had done this before either.  Basically, you just count your chips, fill out a form with your name, table # and your chip count, pull one copy for a receipt and then put the chips in a sealed plastic bag.  No one else counts your chips to verify, but since you are gonna get that same bag back, I guess it doesn’t matter.  In theory I could have written down that I had $2MM chips and it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Pretty sure everyone wrote down the right count.

It was after 3AM when I left downtown, and like 3:30AM or so when I pulled into my hotel’s parking lot.  And remember, I had to be back at the Nugget the next day at 2PM.

As I went to sleep, and then as I woke up, I was more unhappy than happy about the whole situation…having to go back downtown to collect less than a $500 profit.  Was it worth it?  I had a real negative attitude about my chances of moving up, even though I had leapfrogged ahead of the guy who was last out to end Day 1 just by doing nothing.  How long would doing nothing work for me?  Not very long, I suspected.

I envisioned getting a hand to shove with the very first hand of Day 2, and busting.  Really that thought was going through my mind like crazy. Although at my chip stack, there were a lot of hands I should have been willing to shove with, I think in my mind, for that very first hand at least, I was kind of thinking I’d only put it all in with Aces, Kings or Ace-King.  And Ace-King was 50-50!  Then I said to myself that was ridiculous, I have to play smarter than that.  But…..

As I drove back to downtown the next day, making sure I left the Strip area early enough to be able to make it on time even if there were unexpected traffic problems, I started thinking that maybe some of the players wouldn’t show up, or would be late, and I could move up a few spots because they’d be blinded out.  I was actually hoping—long-shot tho it was—that the kid from Australia with the biggest stack—the guy directly to my left—somehow wouldn’t show up.

Of course, when I got there the next day, he was the first person after me to arrive.  I even said to him, “Gee, I was hoping you’d forget to come back and not be able to bully me with that big stack.”  The kid was surprisingly humorless and didn’t say anything.

And so one-by-one the players returned, all on time, except for the one woman at our table.  She had the fifth biggest stack at $234K and was in seat 7.  I was in seat 1.  They just dumped her chips in front of her spot and left them unstacked as we resumed play pretty much on time at 2PM.

The first hand was in fact pivotal.  The missing woman was UTG, the first person to actually act made a big raise, about 4X the bb.  The next guy folded and I looked down at Jack-10 offsuit.  I dunno if I would have shoved or not if it had folded to me.  I think that would have been the right play, but I might have folded because of the “don’t bust the first hand” syndrome I explained above. However, with a big stack ($380K) already making a big raise, it was fairly easy to find a fold.  But a guy with a slightly bigger stack than the raiser, who was in the small blind, called and I got to see the flop.

Initially, I was a bit sick, because I would have flopped a open-ender with a King and a Queen on the board.  There was some betting and we saw the turn card—an Ace.  Ugh.  If my hand was alive I’d be sitting there with Broadway and looking at a sweet, sweet triple up (assuming my shove would have been called in both spots).  More betting, no folding.  But the river was another King.  The original raiser put out a big bet and the other guy tanked forever and finally folded, but he’d lost a lot of chips.  The original raiser didn’t have to show his hand, but he did..Ace-King.  So my straight would have been crushed by his boat. So by results-oriented thinking, my fold was of course the right play. Dunno what the other fellow had.

I should mention that the fellow who called and then folded had already brought up the possibility of a chop—yes, a 9-way chop—even before we resumed play this day.  Well that was never going to go anywhere.  Now if he had suggested it—lobbied for it—the night before, as we were bagging and tagging, to save us all a return trip, he might have had a chance.  But to come back just to chop it up? Not likely.  I did mutter something about doing it by chip-count, and also said, “I don’t think he (pointing to the kid to my left with all the chips) would go for it.”  The kid, again, said nothing.  Another player—one with just about twice my stack—said he wouldn’t go for it, he wanted to play it out.

And just to be a little bit politically incorrect, I will point out that the fellow who was suggesting the chop happened to be Asian (middle-aged tho, not young).  Who says all Asians are gamblers?

The very next hand, the missing woman was the big blind, so dead money in the pot.  And I looked down at Jack-10 again—though this time it was suited (hearts).  It folded to me.  There were still plenty of players behind me, but I thought being first in was a better spot to make my move. Especially since the big blind, perhaps the most likely player to call me, wasn’t there to defend her blind. That made it even a better play, to my mind. I went all-in.  No one called.

Later, I open-shoved with Ace-Jack, no call.  Then I was the big blind with pocket 7’s.  It folded to the small blind, who just completed.  I shoved.  He folded.

That got to me the next level, which I think was level 20 (2K/6K/12K) with about $86K. But here’s the thing.  Somehow, in getting there, I had outlasted three players who had started the day with more chips than me—while never getting a double up myself.  I didn’t take the time to write down what happened to them, how they lost, but one-by-one, they got eliminated.  The first one to go was the guy who I had caught a straight against with Jack-10 to survive against his set of 9’s.  The next guy was the Asian guy who lost a bunch chips on the first hand of the day.  The third guy out was the guy who said he was not interested in any kind of chop whatsoever.

With each bust, I moved up on the pay scale, which made me happier and happier.  Starting out the day thinking I was getting $635, I survived that and the $796 payout as well and so, when we were down to 7, I was assured of at least $1,014….breaking thru to that “four-digits” territory that meant so much to me (tho not yet a four-digit profit for the event).  Then, when we lost the third person for the day, I was now assured of at least $1,309—four digits of profit for my 14+ hours (thus far) of poker.

And again the subject of doing a chop started coming up.  This time it was the woman—who had shown up a few hands after I had stolen her big blind—was talking about it.  I really didn’t say much, though I would have loved it of course.  I hadn’t chipped up at all—I was just treading water stealing the occasional blinds & antes—and was now even further more entrenched as the short stack, with the next three shortest stacks all gone.  When I’m that short, I don’t feel right lobbying for something that will help me so much more than anyone else.  But I did say, again, we could do a chip-chop.  I’m not sure if anyone else really knew what that meant.  But the big stack, still to my left, no doubt did and he was incredibly silent on the topic.  No one directly asked him.  I had a feeling that if I could dodge another bust or two, and get to five or even four handed, we could make a deal that might get me a really nice payday.

But I had to stay alive, which meant more stealing blinds and sooner or later, I was going to have win an all-in or two.

In the big blind, there were two limpers and I just checked with the mighty 9-4 offsuit.  The flop was 10-9-3.  First to act, I just shoved with my middle-pair, no kicker.  No one called.

Then I got King-Queen UTG.  Easy decision.  I shoved.  It folded to the lady who was now the small blind.  She tanked for a bit, asked for a count, and then shoved.  The big blind had a big stack, he had the woman covered, and he tanked.  Damn.  Did two players have better hands than me?  How lucky was I going to have to be?

He finally folded.  The lady had Ace-3 offsuit.  OK, not bad.  She didn’t have a made hand.  I was only a 58%-42% underdog there.  Probably as good as I could have hoped for.

But the board was nothing but bricks.  Ace-high took it, and I was finally done, after a little more than an hour of play on Day 2.  BTW, the big blind who folded said he had Ace-Queen.  If he had called he would have busted the two of us and had a whole lot of chips.

I got paid out.  Having gotten twice the money I was expecting when I woke up that morning, I was feeling pretty good right then.

And then….well, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet because I had gotten up so late. So I stayed downtown to eat.  Here’s a tip:  The Subway at the Plaza downtown is overpriced (but not nearly as overpriced as The Subway at the Monte Carlo food court).  I went over to Binion’s to check on whatever tournament they had going over there.  I happened to run into the guy who bested my pair of 9’s by hitting two 10’s with his 10-9 shove.  He recognized me and asked me how I was doing.  I told him where I finished and then said, “I might have done even better if you hadn’t sucked out on me with 10-9 against my pocket 9’s.  He actually didn’t recall the hand at first.  Of course….the loser in that situation always remembers it longer than the winner.

Then, walking around GN trying to find the way to my car, I ran into one of the players from the final table.  He was still alive when I busted.  So we greeted each other and he told me the result.  They played about an hour after I busted and no one else busted.  They kept talking about a chop. At first the Aussie kid with the huge stack was the hold-out.  But guess what?  He started losing a few pots and suddenly he was the short-stack (I believe the expression for this is, “that’s poker”).  And so they did eventually agree to do the chop.  Not a chip-chop.  A five-way, equal chop.  He said they all got $3,500! (Note, I checked online and actually, they all got over $3,600).

And suddenly, I didn’t feel like such a winner any more.  Damn.  If they had made that deal when we were 6, I would have gotten $3,100.  Or if a Queen or a King had shown up on that last hand….maybe I would have gotten $3,600 (or gone on to smash the tournament, even).

I know that’s the wrong way to look at it.  I should be looking at all the hands where I did get lucky on (or didn’t get unlucky on), that kept me alive. I could have easily busted first on this day, or anytime earlier the day before.  I did get my somehow “magical” four-digit profit.

I didn’t play perfect, by any means.  But I think I did well playing a short stack most of the day to 6th place.  I got lucky sometimes and unlucky sometimes.  I got lucky playing at the same table as Santa Claus.

But I ended up feeling bad about about a $1,300 pay day, cuz I came soclose to a much bigger pay day.  And that’s what drives me crazy about poker tournaments!

So knowing how I felt after this, knowing that the top-heavy pay scales drive me crazy, this had to be the last tournament I played up in Vegas this trip, right?

No of course not. I’m crazy, remember? There are more tournaments to talk about. Another day. Another time.


  1. Tournaments are fun, aren't they? Get the old adrenaline pumping.

  2. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, ......hmmmm

    How about "a bird in hand is worth 2 in a bush"

    1. Definitely....but this is the craziness I spoke of!

  3. You shoulda went to the plaza and hit the HHAGG for splendid half pound burger with a copious amount of bacon! Congrats!

    1. Hmm.....thanks for the tip, never eaten tho tho I've heard good things...not sure I could have handled that much food!

      But isn't that place only open for breakfast and early lunch. At least the one at the Rio is that way.

  4. Congratulations Rob! It's nice when the people opposed to chopping get busted... :). Great write-up...

    1. Thanks! Yeah, it's guaranteed bad Karma, isn't it?

      Say, did you see my recent post about Orel Hershiser? I figured that one would be right in your wheelhouse because, well, COACH!

    2. Being a Dodgers fan, I was shocked that you didn't recognize him immediately. Nice guy...

    3. Don't tell my close personal friend Orel Hershiser but I'm not actually a Dodgers fan. To the extent I follow baseball at all, I guess I follow the Dodgers more than anyone else cuz they're the local team.

      And since I don't watch much baseball, I doubt that I've seen him on TV as a broadcaster more than once or twice. Before this meeting, if you had said his name to me, I would have picture him as he looked in 1988 when he had that incredible year.

      Based on your comment....have you ever met him yourself?

  5. glad to hear the plaza and the monte carlo now have subway service, vegas has been needing a commuter train for quite some while.

    1. LOL..of course I was referring to the Subway sandwich fast food restaurants.