Sunday, September 4, 2016

Beauty & The Bastard

The Aria WPT 500 2016
(Part 1 of 3)

And we return to my recap of the tournaments I played while in Vegas last time.  This time we are up to the WPT 500 at the Aria.

I was really looking forward to this one—so much so that I planned my entire trip around it.  Then, when I found out that it had the ungodly starting time of 10AM—yes 10AM!!!—I got over all my personal objections to playing a tournament with that ridiculous starting time and arranged to play in it.  For more details about my thought process, see my post here.

I had played in the event last year and I really like the format and structure.  I thought I did well in it, and despite the high (for me) buy-in, felt like I was on my way to cashing in it when, right before the dinner break, I had my Aces cracked by a set of Jacks.  It was all-in preflop and you can read about it here.  I didn’t think the competition I faced was any better than what I regularly face when I play my normal $125 tournaments in Vegas, so I really figured I had a reasonable chance of cashing.

As I mentioned in my last tourney recap (here), I made a last minute decision to play the Golden Nugget $150 tourney on Sunday, the day before I planned to play at Aria, which was Flight 1A of the WPT 500.  Well, as per my original plan, when I made it past the dinner break that Sunday night at GN, I knew I would skip Flight 1A on Monday and play Flight 1B on Tuesday instead.

Knowing I had to be up bright and early on Tuesday, I decided not to play any poker at all the day before.  So Monday I worked all day and only went out in the evening to grab some dinner and buy my entry into the tournament for the next day.

Since the start time of the flight was so damn early, I sure didn’t want to have to get to the Aria even earlier just to buy my way in before the event started.  Last year, when it started at Noon, I got there at least 20-minutes early and had to wait in a long line, and missed a few hands. Not this year. I wanted that seat ticket in my hand before I got to Aria on Tuesday morning.

I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and use this as an opportunity to try out the new burger place that Aria had opened right next to the poker room.  It’s called the Burger Lounge and it’s kind of a fancy/schmancy fast food burger joint.  It’s very pricey for what you get (thank goodness I had Aria poker comps to use), partly due to the fact that it’s in the Aria and partly due to the supposedly healthier meat they use.  They advertise “grass-fed burgers.”  I assume that the French fries come from meat-fed potatoes. 

Well, it’s pretty good but I actually ordered the wrong burger, because mine came without pickles (after the incident described here, I’m so beaten down I often don’t even bother to order “extra” pickles and onions).  I could have ordered a similar burger for the same price that came with pickles and I just didn’t read the menu properly.  Despite that, it was actually a very tasty burger.  Next time, I will not only order the right burger but I’ll order the double, because honestly, the burger barely looked bigger than a regular McDonald’s burger.  And at that, it was $10 for the thing.  Another $3 to get an extra patty is therefore a bargain.

I ventured over to the tournament area.  It was in a different location from last year and I wanted to make sure I could find it easily the next morning.  And once I saw it, I knew instantly why they had moved the time for this tournament from Noon to 10AM.  There were significantly fewer tables in the tournament area than there were last year—or the year before.  In fact, last year I recalled that for the last few Day 1 flights of the WPT 500, they even brought in more tables to accommodate the crowds (I did mention this in last year’s post).

But with only like 20 or so added tables, it only made sense to start early, before the cash games got really busy, and so they could free up tables for cash games earlier in the day.  The Aria cash games are crazy popular this time of the year, and they would lose a significant amount of business if the tournament extended two hours longer into the night.

Now, the great people who run the Aria poker room are too professional to complain to me (or anyone else) about this.  So this comment is not based on anything I heard from them, and comes strictly from my own knowledge of the poker & casino business.  But if I were a betting man, I would bet that the Aria poker folks were less than pleased with the number of tables the casino was willing to allot for them for the Aria Classic and the WPT 500.  It’s so sad that even a great and important poker room like the Aria can’t get the consideration it deserves from upper casino management. 

The limited number of tables for the event also explains the reduction in the guaranteed prize pool.  Last year it was $2MM and this year it was only $1MM.  They just couldn’t be sure they would have enough tables to meet a $2MM guarantee.  In fact, they didn’t quite reach $2MM for the event, but the WPT itself generously donated some money to round off the final prize pool at $2MM.

I bought my way in and then headed back to my room to rest up, relax, and retire early for the big day tomorrow.  Because I actually had to set my alarm to wake up the next day to play poker in Vegas.  Yeah, I set my alarm to wake up earlier enough to play poker.  In Vegas.  Outrageous.

But set it I did and I got up early that Tuesday.  I had to make my lunch to bring with me to consume during the first break.  I packed a sandwich, a few bags of peanuts and some Kind bars in case I need all that. And I got to the Aria in plenty of time for the 10AM start.  I wasn’t fully awake, but I was there.

The structure was the exact same as the year before, and the format was pretty much the same. I really liked both.  The structure was a really slow progression of the blind levels, and I loved the fact that the bubble would break for each individual Day 1 before they stopped the flight.  The final 12% of each day would get paid, and then the final 5% of each day would move on to Day 2, obviously already assured of a pay day.

So I found my table, took my seat and looked around to see if I recognized anyone.  Outside of the Aria personnel, I didn’t.  But suddenly a blonde woman taking a seat at my table had my totally undivided attention.  She was simply stunningly beautiful.

She was very fashionably, classily dressed. Her outfit was not sexy or revealing.  This woman was just drop dead gorgeous. The kind of woman you rarely see in real life, let alone a poker room.  It took every ounce of willpower I possessed to avoid just staring at her non-stop.  I can only hope my tongue wasn’t hanging out. Yeah, she was that striking.

Somehow, someway, I sort of knew that she was “somebody.”  She wasn’t just some random gorgeous blonde playing in this tournament.  I was sure she was a pro or a semi-pro, someone known in the poker community.  Someone I should know of.  I would have bet anything I would recognize her name when I heard it.  I just couldn’t get that name to come to me.

I was so sure that I should have known who she was that I didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking any of the Aria folks I knew who she was—at least not yet. By this time, there were a bunch of players seated at my table, so I asked the player in the seat to my right if he knew who she was. I phrased it like this, “That woman in seat 6, she’s a pro isn’t she?  She’s someone you see on TV, right?”  And he responded, “Yes….but everyone at this table is, to some degree.”

Oh shit.  I muttered, “I’m not.”  And I wondered I was about to be taken to the cleaners by the rest of the table.  I didn’t recognize anyone, though.  And he was unable to give me a name for the beautiful blonde.

So let me flash forward a bit to the moment after she departed our table (and oh yes, I’ll tell you the story about that in a minute) and the Tournament Director came over to ask the dealer what happened to her.  So I asked the T.D. who she was.  “Lacey Jones, he said.  Of course I recognized the name.  I googled her.  I found some great pics of Ms. Jones.   And I can assure you that, although she was dressed a lot less provocatively at the tournament than she is in this pic below, no picture of her I found online does justice to just how stunning she is.

Now that I’ve revealed that Lacey Jones was at my table, let me tell you about the only hand I saw her play.  It was the first level, pretty early into it.  I doubt the tournament was even 15 minutes old.  The oldish, personality-less man on my immediate left had already made an impression on me as an aggressive, tough player. He got into a hand with Lacey. I can’t remember exactly how many raises and re-raises there were preflop, or who said “all-in” first, but there was an all-in and a call, both players turned over the cards.  Lacey showed two Aces.  And the bastard on my left showed the dreaded pocket Kings.

And guess what the card in the window was?  Yes, a dreaded King.  It was dreaded by Lacey and by me and by every other player at the table, I’ll bet (Lacey was the only female at the table). And the set of Kings held and the bastard had a few more chips than Lacey had, and thus Lacey was out and I was denied the opportunity to enjoy her beauty at the table for the rest of the tournament.  Did I call that guy who busted her a bastard?  That is way too kind. .Lacey seemed unemotional over the loss. I guess she’s used to it.

Now, after she was gone and I found out who she was, I heard the dealer telling the T.D. that he actually busted her out the day before in the first level as well. Seriously?  That time she had Ace-King. I didn’t get details but I’m thinking it was unlikely she was all-in on preflop with that hand (assuming she still had most of her starting stack).  Which brings me to a little tangent I want to go off on…..

Let me discuss Lacey’s Aces vs. Kings hand.  I’ve thought about it a lot.  In particular, I thought about the bastard’s play there.  I mean, very first orbit of a $565 tournament, do you really risk your tournament life with Kings? When you have a full stack of $15K chips—plenty to play with, for sure—and your intention is for it to be a long, full day of poker?

I suppose it’s possible since this guy is a “TV pro” and Lacey is well known in the Vegas poker community, they had faced each other many times, and the bastard had some kind of mental book on her that made him think this was a good play—that Lacey was just as likely to risk her tournament life early there with Queens and Jacks and 10’s and Ace-King and Ace-Queen.

I find that highly unlikely.  For one thing, the two gave no indication—verbal or otherwise—that they knew each other (although, honestly, the bastard was not even remotely friendly or chatty and didn’t say one word more than necessary to communicate about his play the entire day).

Regardless, with a tournament that has a $565 buy-in, are you willing to risk your tournament life preflop during the first level with anything but Aces (or, dare I say it, even Aces?).  For me, the answer is no, and I don’t say that just because of my well-known issues with pocket Kings. I mean not only am I already playing above my “comfort zone” with that buy-in, but I have zero intention of buying in again if I bust.

But the bastard may have a totally different perspective.  In fact, he almost certainly does.  For one thing, I’m sure he’s used to playing not only this level of tournament, buy-in wise, but ones much higher.  Likely he plays $1K, $2K, $5K tournaments.  Probably ponies up $10K for the WSOP main event too. Undoubtedly, he has a much, much bigger poker bankroll than I do.

Moreover, this is a re-entry event.  And seasoned tournament grinders at this level are prepared—both mentally and financially—to re-enter multiple times if need be.   He was probably planning on buying into multiple days anyway.  The format was such that you could play multiple Day 1’s and take your biggest stack to Day 2—and get prize money for each stack you forfeited.  So unlike me, with my one lone entry already used up, he may see those Kings and think, “Well, if they cost me my stack, I can buy right back in today at level 1. No big deal.”

So I’m guessing that’s his attitude.  But that brings me to my next thought—what if this was not a re-entry tournament?  Suppose it was a WSOP event?  Most of those, including the main event of course, do not allow re-entry.  You only have one bullet to fire.  Does he risk his $10K tournament life with Kings ten minutes into that tournament?  No idea, but I do wonder.

What do you think?  Do you put your $10K buy-in on the line 10 minutes into an event you hope to last for days with the second best starting hand in hold’em?

And that’s where we leave part 1.  Part 2 has now been posted and you can find it right here.


  1. First, "meat-fed potatoes". I'm stealing that one!

    Second, here's a postulate: If you *aren't* willing to get it all-in preflop with KK in the first level of a tournament, you shouldn't be playing that tournament.

    1. That's a valid postulate....I did consider that. However, I recalled something I read from a much better player than me on that subject. I couldn't find the source, so I didn't include it in the post.

      You know Benton Blakeman, who used to do strategy articles for AVP, right? I recall him doing a recap of a tournament he played (might have been the Main Event) and he had Kings in the first level, after a raise or two, he just called, saying something like it was too early to risk his tournament life there (with Kings).

      Of course, it was the Main, that's different than the one I was playing, true. But then are you saying you shouldn't play in a tournament if you're not prepared to reenter if you bust early?

  2. I think you should rename the "Jennifer Tilly" effect to the "Lacey Jones" effect!

    1. Well, if she had been wearing anything as revealing as what she is wearing in that pic...definitely.

      Of course, if she was wearing that outfit in the tournament I am discussing, I seriously doubt that any male at my table would have ever looked at their cards. Even once.

      As it is, although there are some "Jennifer Tilly-effect" style pics of her playing poker on the internet (and I may run one or two before this three-parter is over), I don't think she does that these days. But I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

  3. 10am is NOT "early."

    1. Au contraire, my anonymous friend.

      For a work (I mean REAL work) it is not early, it is late.

      But for playing POKER...In VEGAS, it is very, very early.

      It is obscene. The only people who should be playing poker in Vegas at that hour are those folks who have been playing all night and haven't gone to bed yet.

  4. Negranu has bought 8-10 rebuys in a single tournament. That was in his chasing bracelets days.

    1. Thanks, Ken.

      I've heard that about Negreaunu. One story I heard at a poker table many years ago was that he once re-entered a tournament 17 times. The last one stuck and he won the tournament. Have no idea if that is true or not.

      Of course, he could only do that in non-WSOP events. Most WSOP events do not allow re-entry.

    2. This was back in the mid 2000s when the WSOP had rebuy tournaments. In 2004, Negreanu rebought 27 times, and finished 3rd for $100k.

      2 years later he tried it again, setting a record with 46 rebuys. That time it backfired on him, as he was moved to another table after dumping all those chips and didn't make it past day 1. His thought process was that he would dump all those chips, and have the skill to win them all back and get an advantage with a much larger chip stack.

    3. Thanks, Nick. I found some info on that here:

      I'm thinking that it was because of instances like these that they did away with rebuy events at the WSOP!

  5. Once again, the Dreaded Pocket Kings screwed you. Even when you don't have them, you suffer the consequences.

    1. It's true. I just can't escape those damn Kings.

  6. Your question goes to a topic that I have been thinking about, reading about and trying to work into my game. Math vs. Other, or in my mind the nuances of the game. People give lip service to putting other people on ranges than ignore the information that provides. The math folks would say that if you don't get it in with kings when would you. Against 8 random hands and players absolutely. But if the betting and the fact you know the other player leads you to believe you likely facing AA I think it is simply a call or fold, especially if wasn't a rebuy. Live and fight another day.

    1. Thanks, AG. There's a lot to be said for not gambling too much in the early stages of a tourney, and many articles about that. I read the article below recently about this....he talks about a hypothetical where a player should fold AA on the first level. Granted, that was after the flop, but he does say the player with AA is most likely ahead. I think he would recommend not getting it all in with KK first level, unless, perhaps you knew the other player was more likely than most players to be willing to put their whole stack in play that early with anything less than KK himself. There are times to gamble and times to not gamble in a tournament, and unless you are planning to re-enter or re-buy, this situation calls for more conservative play, I believe.

  7. I have to echo Grange's comment. Unless I just have some crazy read and particularly if my opponent is aggressive I will go with the Kings pretty much every time. Even if I'm not willing to rebuy, there's a very good chance my opponent treats it as if he will rebuy and I very well might.

    My "tournament life" really isn't worth anything if I don't make any money to me.

    1. Yours is a valid perspective, I respect it.

      But I think the other side is valid too. If you haven't, check out the article I referenced in my response to AgSweep. Pretty sure that writer would think risking an entire starting stack with KK first level was an unnecessary risk.

      I'm not suggesting you fold the Kings. But if you three-bet with them and get four-bet, maybe just call. I suppose if yo made a standard three-bet and the other player over-shoved there, maybe that makes it look less like Aces and you do call the shove.

      But you know, if you bust out in the first round, you don't make any money either.