Sunday, February 14, 2016

"This Must Be the Big Boy Table"

Ok, this is the report on the last of the three tournaments I played in during my most recent
Vegas trip.  For previous reports, see here and here. The one before this was on the Saturday after Christmas.  A few days before that, I heard from the Aria that they were having special “New Years” tournaments for the following weekend, the first Friday and Saturday of the New Year.  Instead of the usual $125 (with a $10K starting stack), the 1PM tournaments would be $240 with a $20K starting stack—although the blinds started at 50/100 instead of 25/50.  I thought that buy-in was in my range and figured that the prize pool would be bigger than normal, so why not play?  I had already had two long runs in my previous two tournament efforts, including a 5th place finish the week before, so I figured maybe I might be on a bit of a roll, tournament wise.

It turned out the $240 tournaments were a big success—so much so that they decided to make the $240 buy-in permanent for Fridays and Saturdays, as I noted here.  Now, I took a pic of the tournament clock with the prize pool info, hopefully it is readable.  If not, for a prize pool of $25K and 134 players, they were paying 12 (seems like it should have been at least one more).  The top six would get at least $1K (kind of a “magic” figure in my mind) and 1st was nearly $8,500.  But notice the top-heaviness of it (my constant gripe).  Almost a $3K difference between 1st and 2nd, and another $2K difference between 2nd and 3rd.  Just doesn’t seem right, does it?  

And then look at the min cash.  So, $442 doesn’t sound so bad at first….but remember the buy-in was $240, not $125.  So basically the last three spots get $200 profit—again, not even double the buy-in.  How can it be less than $480 for a tournament like this?  Again, even after taking home $700 the week before, when I looked at the prize pool, I wondered why I even play in tournaments.

The first table I was at, where I played most of the day, was full of—how should I put this?—non-millennials. All of us had been born in time to have witnessed the first moon landing.  There wasn’t a hoodie, a pair of sunglasses, or a set of ear buds at the table.  Anyway, there was one woman amongst us—of similar age—and at one point she made the observation that this was not the kid’s table or something like that. 

She busted out and was replaced by another person of similar age, but male, not female.  The other thing one might notice about the entire 10 players at this table was that none of us were exactly skinny.  You could say that no one at the table looked like they had skipped very many meals.

Anyway, at one point, a cute female dealer pushed in.  She was from a middle-eastern country originally and had a bit of an accent, which might help explain what she said when she got a good look at all of us.  And that was, “Oh, I guess this is the big boy table.”  We all laughed, but the implication was not lost on us.

One of the guys said, “What are you trying to say?  That we’re all fat?  Or that we’re all old?”  She hemmed and hawed a bit and the guy continued, “It’s ok….I guess we’re both.” She was embarrassed and tried to spin it as best she could.  “No, I just meant you were big poker players…you know, really good poker players.”  Yeah, sure.

Anyway, very first hand of the tournament I had Ace-King, raised to $250, had one caller.  The flop was Jack high and my c-bet of $300 took it down.

Two hands later I was dealt the dreaded pocket Kings.  I raised to $250 and had two callers.  The flop was Ace high, two diamonds, and I did have the King of diamonds.  I bet $500 and had one caller. He seemed pretty reluctant to call.  The turn was a blank, and not a diamond.  I bet $1,300.  Again he was very hesitant, but he called  Another blank on the river.  I bet $2,500 and after tanking, he said, “Well you probably got me…” and then called.  He showed Ace-4.  There was just nothing I could to do to get him off his crappy Ace, apparently.  I kept betting because he seemed so reluctant to call every time.  Ace-4, huh?  I would have played that hand the same way if I had Ace-King or Ace-Queen.  Oh well, it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve lost with pocket Kings.

A few hands later I had Ace-8 of diamonds in the big blind and called $250, it was four ways.  There was no betting on a blank flop and turn.  The river was an 8 so I bet $500 and no one called.

In late position, I raised to $550 after two limpers with Ace-9 off, there were two callers. The flop was King-Queen-5.  I c-bet $1K and had one caller—the guy who cracked my Kings earlier with Ace-4.  This time I knew better than to bet again.  We checked it down and he showed Queen-6 to take it. Yeesh.

I opened to $250 with pocket 10’s and had two callers.  The flop wasn’t bad—10-9-9.  I checked, as did everyone else.  The turn was a King.  A guy bet $500, I called, and then the last player made it $1,300.  The first guy folded. I just called. The river was a blank, and first to act, I bet $1800 and got a call, but he didn’t show when I flipped over my boat (so-to-speak).

I didn’t note a single hand for level 2, which got me to level 3 (100/200) with $17,500. In the big blind I had King-7 off. No raise, it was heads up.  Flop was Ace-King-7.  I called $400 and then another $400 on a blank turn.  No betting on the flop, he showed Ace-5.

I limped in from late position with 9-8 off, six of us saw the flop. It was Queen-Jack-6.There was no betting. I hit the gut-shot with a 10 and called $600, three of us saw a blank river. No betting there, my straight was good.

Hmm….Glad I wrote this up.  My logic there was that I had the bottom end of the straight and thus played it safe.  But I think that’s not getting enough value for my hand, right?  I need to learn to bet (or raise) a hand like that.  And then be able to let it go if I’m raised.

After a few limpers, I raised to $950 with Ace-Queen of diamonds, two called. I bet $1,500 on a flop of 5-4-4 and had one call.  The turn was another 5, and I check/folded.

I raised to $550 with pocket Queens, had two callers.  The flop was all low cards and I took the pot with a $1,200 c-bet.

Apparently I slept through level 4 and got to level 5 (50/200/400) with $16,400. Still card dead, I only noted one hand for this level.  I opened to $1K with Ace-Jack off and took it right there.

Level 6 (75/300/600), $15k. That’s an “M” of less than 10 if you’re scoring at home.  I opened to $1,600 with King-Queen off, two called.  The flop was low and I folded to a donk bet. 

I opened to $1,600 with Queen-10 and had to fold to a shove of $8k.

I can’t explain what happened next.  I can’t because my notes make no sense.  Somehow, I got a double up with pocket 7’s.  My notes would seem to indicate that I shoved with them after someone had raised to $1,600.  I honestly cannot believe I would have done that with pocket 7’s. Now, it’s entirely possible that with my stack down to probably less than $12K, I might have opened shoved.  My M there would have been around 7.5, and that’s definitely when I consider shoving if I can open a pot.  But just wouldn’t do that if someone had even limped in, let alone raised. Sorry my notes are so bad, it’s driving me crazy.  Anyway, apparently I was heads up against a guy with Ace-Queen.  The flop was all low and my 7’s held.

My notes say that I had $24,500 in chips after that hand, which is exactly what I started level 7 (100/400/800) with, so that must have been the last hand of the level.

First hand level 7, I made it $3K after one limper with Queen-Jack of spades, no call.  Later I opened to $2,100 with King-10 off from the button, no call.

Level 8 (100/600/1200) $25,200.  Opened to $3K with King-10 off, one caller.  Ace-Queen-2 flop, I c-bet $5K and took it.

The last hand of that level has big.  I opened to $3K with Ace-Queen of clubs.  A big stack re-popped to $10,100. Decision time.  I decided to make a stand there.  I wasn’t desperate yet, but I felt I was at a point where I’d be drip, drip, dripping away, a slow painful death if something big didn’t happen soon.  If I busted there, I’d still have an entire evening ahead of me to do something else.  In other words, busting there seemed like a better alternative than just playing another few hours and getting squat.  Of course, I had some fold equity too.  I had enough chips to put a ding in this guy’s stack, maybe he didn’t like his hand quite enough to call a four-bet shove with it.  So….after much deliberation, I went ahead and pushed it all-in.

He didn’t take long to call, and flipped over Ace-King of diamonds.  Oh well.  There was a Queen in the window but before I could enjoy it I saw the next card exposed was a King.  Ugh.  The turn was a brick. I started to rise from my chair, just a little.  But I was saved by a beautiful Queen on the river.  Two-outers are nice when you’re the one hitting them.

That took me to level 8 (200/800/1600) with just about $50K.

Late in the level I had another significant hand that could have made a huge impact for me.  I limped in from late position with King-Jack off after a few other limpers.  I didn’t want to make the pot too big with a hand like that by three-betting, Figured if no one raised I could see a flop with a decent pot and go from there.  It was 4 or 5 of us seeing a flop of King-Queen-6, two clubs.  It folded to me and I bet, I didn’t note what I bet, but it was probably about 2/3’s the pot.  Someone who had checked now shoved.  She had about $20K.  Another player who had checked asked for a count and though long and hard about what to do, but finally called.  I decided to shove thinking I could get the guy to fold and I’d take my chances with the short stacked woman.  But the guy called.  He had Ace-rag of clubs.  The lady had King-10.  I was ahead.  The turn was a blank, and then the lady kept saying, “A 10, I need a 10.”  So I said, “keep it red….kept it red.”  And the river was indeed red.  A red 10, however.

I lost the main pot, but my Kings held against the flush draw.  I really only lost a few thousand chips overall.  I was down to $44,600.  Turns out it was very good for me that the guy I was trying to get to fold called, otherwise I would have taken a much, much bigger hit.  Phew. But of course if that red card had been anything else, I would have gained a whole lot of chips there, and it would have made a huge difference in where I ended up in the tournament.

I raised to $4K after one limper with Ace-King, one caller.  Jack high flop and my c-bet took it.

Level 10 (300/1000/2000) $50,300.  The only hand I noted was raising to $5K with Ace-Jack, after one call, a guy three bet to $31K.  I folded as did the other guy—who showed Ace-Jack.

Level 11 (400/1500/3000) $38,200. Early in this level my table broke and we were down to 4 tables.  Then I open shoved with Ace-King.  A big stack called.  He had Ace-Queen.  A King on the turn locked it up for me. Much needed double up.  Got my stack to $72K.

In middle position, I raised to $5K with pocket 5’s, one caller (a big stack).  The flop was King-5-2.  Isn’t that what always happens when you raise with pocket 5’s?  It was rainbow so it I checked back.  The turn was a blank, he bet $7K.  I made it $20K and he folded.  I kept thinking after I should have just called or maybe made a smaller raise.  Oh well.

Level 12 (500/2000/4000) $86K.  I raised to $11K with pocket Queens, a short stack shoved.  He barely had more than me, obviously I called.  He showed Ace-7 off and the ladies held.

We moved down to two tables, I relocated again.  I was down to $99K.  Blinds and antes are killing me at this point.  After a limper, I raised to $15K with pocket 6’s. No call.

Level 13 (500/3000/6000) $110,500.  I had 10-7 of clubs in the big blind.  It folded to the small blind who completed.  I added $15K to my blind and he folded.  Next hand, in the small blind, I just completed with 5-2 of diamonds and had to fold to a shove from the big blind.

I opened to $16K with Queen-9 of hearts, no call.  In the small blind, it folded to me with Jack-9 of diamonds, I made it $20K and took it.

Level 14 (1000/4000/8000), $120K.  First hand I stole the blinds and antes raising to $17K with Ace-4 of clubs.

We were down to 13 players, the bubble.  Someone at the other had nixed any thought of paying the bubble.  We played hand-for-hand for awhile.  Honestly, I was shocked I had lasted this long, I never had a decent stack.  But now, yes, I sure wanted to take home some money, even the damn min-cash.

I had Jack-10 of hearts and someone limped in front of me.  As you can tell by how few hands I’ve noted in these levels, I was really card dead, and that looked like a monster.  I felt I was in position to make one more raise before I had to just go all-in anytime I wanted to play a pot.  So this was it.  I made it $28K.  It folded back to the limper, who shoved.  He had me covered.  He was an older gentleman and in the brief time I’d played with him, I hadn’t seen him do anything aggressive.  And the limp/re-raise is usually a sign of a monster.  Plus the bubble hadn’t broken.  If it was after the bubble or long before it, I think I would feel committed there and take my chances.  But right then and there, I decided to play it totally safe and I folded. But that was really a tough loss to my stack.

We played a few more hands and now for sure I only had one move left, the shove.  Before I got a chance to use it, someone busted at the other table.  I was in the money.

A hand or two later I had Queen-10 of hearts. I shoved.  The guy next to me shoved too, but I had him covered.  He had Ace-7 off, which held.  Now I had only $11K.  I was now under-the-gun and with the big blind at $8K, I’d be essentially all-in with whatever I had next hand.  So I felt pretty fortunate to get as good a hand as King-10 off then.  I shoved.  The same guy called me, this time he had Ace-King.  Ace-King held, and I was out in 12th place.

So I did get the min-cash.  When they paid me off and suggested I might want to tip the dealers, I gave just $5 and explained that as long as the prize pools are so damn top heavy, I’m going to let the top finishers do the heavy lifting on the tipping.  The person who paid me agreed with me that the prize pools are too top heavy and said that the new TD there, Paul, was planning on adjusting that in the very near future.  I hope so.  I thought this pay scale was just ridiculous.

I felt good though about the result.  Last tournament, I’d been the chip leader, albeit briefly, at the final table and felt I should have finished higher.  This time, until we were down to 2 tables—and even then, really—I never felt good about cashing, I just never had anything but a short stack.  It was moral victory, to be sure.

But as I said in the post linked at the beginning of this, although this $240 tournament is now running regularly on Fridays and Saturdays, I might not ever play in it again because of the move to 11AM.  Maybe during WSOP time, if they have it, and if they add a dinner break.

And that’s the final story on my tournament runs in Vegas for my Christmas trip.   Three tournaments, lasting like 8-1/2 hours in each, and two cashes.  If only poker rooms would make less difficult to play tournaments.


  1. Replies
    1. No idea....just some random chick I found on the web.

  2. Very difficult to enjoy viewing the hot female with that OGRE in such close proximity to her.
    Congrats on the tourney cashes.. GL and run good.
    May all your cards be live and and your pots be (dude in the pic).

    Big L

    1. Thanks, Big L....sorry about the big fat slob but it was in reference to the title, the Big Boy table! And as it was, it was really hard finding a really hot chick with a big boy. Gee, I wonder why that is?

  3. Spoiler alert: since the picture early in the post showed 11 players remaining it seemed safe to assume you definitely cashed and finished at least 11th. Boy was I surprised when you actually finished 12th.

    Min cash always is a light kick to the stones. You feel kind of silly griping about winning money when the other 122 people in the tourney didn't, but it's hard to feel good about spending all of that money and hardly winning anything.

    1. Heh heh. Well, I had already stated in previous posts that I had cashed in two of the three tourneys I played this trip, and wrote about one I had cashed in and one I had missed, so...

      In fact, I think in one of those posts I mentioned min cashing in one.

      But you know, I could have taken that pic when I was still alive.

      Yeah, the min cash sucks....all that time for almost nothing. As I said in the post tho, this time wasn't that bad, only because I never really had a decent enough stack to make me think I could get a big score.

    2. You should see the min cash in the cheap-o tourneys at my home casino. They pay 10 spots regardless of number of entries, so sometimes the buy in with add-on will be $35 and 9th and 10th place will get like $39.40 for about four hours of effort.

    3. Just ridiculous, Jeff. I don't see how they get people to play in those....I guess there are just not enough options for the players to be choosy. Damn shame.

  4. A few comments:

    "I opened to $250 with pocket 10’s and had two callers. The flop wasn’t bad—10-9-9. I checked, as did everyone else. The turn was a King. A guy bet $500, I called, and then the last player made it $1,300. The first guy folded. I just called. The river was a blank, and first to act, I bet $1800 and got a call, but he didn’t show when I flipped over my boat (so-to-speak)." - Why do you bet on the river after this guy raised the turn? I'm not challenging your actions, more challenging your thought process. Would you make more by check / raising? Is he betting $1800 or more on the river? Can you lock in value and then check raise? Finally, let's assume betting is the optimal action in this spot (I probably agree with that action): $3850 in the pot and you bet less than half pot ($1800)... He's shown that he wants to play a bigger pot with his turn raise... Why not bet larger - $2500 or $3k? Just thoughts...

    "I didn’t note a single hand for level 2, which got me to level 3 (100/200) with $17,500. In the big blind I had King-7 off. No raise, it was heads up. Flop was Ace-King-7. I called $400 and then another $400 on a blank turn. No betting on the flop, he showed Ace-5." - Why no raise or lead on the turn? He has an Ace; do you think you're behind here with flopped bottom two? Sounds like you were somewhat timid; what was your thought?

    "I limped in from late position with 9-8 off, six of us saw the flop. It was Queen-Jack-6.There was no betting. I hit the gut-shot with a 10 and called $600, three of us saw a blank river. No betting there, my straight was good.

    Hmm….Glad I wrote this up. My logic there was that I had the bottom end of the straight and thus played it safe. But I think that’s not getting enough value for my hand, right? I need to learn to bet (or raise) a hand like that. And then be able to let it go if I’m raised." - Agree 100% and the 3 hands above reflect timidness on each street. With the flopped boat hand, you're less fearful of a better hand, but what I read to be concerned about the guy folding, so you make a light-ish river bet. Stop playing monsters in the closet poker & have confidence in your ability to fold hands. When you're behind, at this level, the players will let you know! Otherwise, bet bet bet for value!

    Overall, as long as I've been following your poker blog, your game has come a LONG LONG way (i.e. NL game). You need to focus on what you wrote above; getting value for your hands (betting / raising) and sizing the raises properly to the situation. It comes down to this: When you have the nuts, would you rather get 1/4 pot bets in and called on the river all the time, or get a pot bet in on the river and get called 1 out of 4 times. You may say that on paper, they're equivalent and even money - but I say that you can only make a maximum of 1/4 pot bets and get called 100% of the time, but there are greater chances that 100% pot bets are called more frequently than 1/4 of the time... even though we state getting called 1/4 of the time. I'd rather have the bet with more upside than the bet with no upside and complete predictability...

    1. Great feedback, PM, thanks. I don't really have anything to add, you've addressed problems I have to work on, specifically getting more value for my good hands Especially in the early part of a tournament, I'm trying to chip up without taking a lot of risk I guess, which maybe explains some of my actions. But I definitely need to work on this.

    2. "Especially in the early part of a tournament" You make a good point / argument that maybe more passive earlier on is the way to play. Granted, I'm not a tourney player, so YMMV with regards to tourney vs. cash, but I see you give HH's and it seems to be a continual theme of yours - given cash or tournament.

    3. Thanks again, and appreciated the comment earlier about noticing my improvement....the top you are addressing is definitely high on my list of things to improve upon this year.

  5. Well Rob the old school simple math for payouts is that half of the prize pool goes to the top two spots and within those top two spots it is normally 30% to the winner and 20% to the runner up. The screenshot you provided actually showed that tournament was slightly more than half the prize pool to the top 2 spots and likewise slightly more than 30% to first and slightly more than 20% to second. After that the leftovers are carved up to the TD's discretion. If the TD did something as simple as only peel off 40% of the prize pool which was then divided 60% to first and 40% to second there would have been about $2600 to ten spots. Which would then approx pay the following:
    3 - $3,769
    4 - 2,470
    5 - 1,794
    6 - 1,460
    7 - 1,170
    8 - 975
    9 - 819
    10 - 702
    11 - 702
    12 - 702

    So there you go! No Havard MBA needed to sort out that math. In tournaments that pay 10 to 12 players allot 40% of the prize pool to the top 2 spots with a 60/40 split between first and second of that slice of the prize pool and then divide the delta from a 50% allocation to the top two slots and spread that delta evenly amongst the rest of the paid finish spots???

    1. Great job of working this out, Lester, thanksl

      It seems so simple, doesn't it. I think a $6K first place or a $4K 2nd place would be quite acceptable. And the better pay scale down the line would attract more players (once the word got out about the approved pay scale) who feel it very unlikely they could finish first or second but think they have a decent chance to cash.