Sunday, September 24, 2017

It Was the Best of Kings, It Was the Worst of Kings

I made sort of a last minute decision to go to Vegas for Labor Day Weekend (and the week following).  I usually go then, except for last year when I couldn't go because I had cataract surgery the week before.  But as you know from reading my posts, I have become less and less enamored with Vegas lately.  And after my month-long summer trip ended in early July, I openly wondered how soon it would be before I returned.

As the weekend approached, I was thinking more and more that I wouldn't go.  But somehow the desire for another Vegas trip returned just in the nick of time.  I made some mental adjustments that I thought would help me with my poker. And then I realized that I had just enough comps left that I could keep my expenses down for a "quick" 10-day visit.  So I figured I'd give it a go while the weather was likely to be good and the days weren't short yet.  Note:  In winter, the days in Vegas are actually shorter than in L.A. and I hate it when the sun is gone by late afternoon.  Even in the heat, I like it when the sun is out in the early evening.  Typically, by September, things have cooled down a bit in Vegas so the weather you have to worry about is inside the casinos, where it is winter pretty much all year round.  Note: It turned out for the first part of my trip it was almost as hot as June, and for the second part it was cloudy, windy and rainy. 

So I booked a room and then the only other consideration I had was what to do about tournaments.  I've long felt that I was a better tournament player than a cash game player.  But my recent results seemed to be telling me otherwise.  I'd had quite a dry spell, tournament-wise. The only time I cashed in 2017 was the whopping $40 I'd won at the Bike Mega-Millions in March (see here, if you like).

Thus, anticipating the trip, I debated with myself whether I should even play any tournaments, or I should just stick to cash the whole time.  I did ok during the summer at cash but took a beating at the tournaments.  Of course, with tournaments the variance is much greater. I had two competing thoughts.  The first was, it had been so long since I'd done well in a tournament that I was "due."  The other thought, however, was the old saying, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

Well I must be insane because after researching the tourneys available to me for the time I would be there, I decided to get back on that horse and try a couple.  As it happened, that first Saturday I didn't play a tournament because of some issues with the room I was staying that took just too long to get semi-resolved.  By the time I was done with the issues, it was too late to play a tournament.  However, I should point out, this decision was influenced by my less-than-overwhelming desire to play a tournament.  Despite the issues, if I had really, really wanted to play in a tournament that day, I could have and would have.

But I passed, and that brings us to Labor Day.  I took advantage of the holiday to play in one of my favorite tournaments—and also one that I've had quite a bit of success in over the years—the Aria 1PM with a $125 buy-in.  In fact, I've already written about one particular incident that took place during this tourney (here).

Since I didn't cash in this tournament, I'm only gonna discuss a few hands of interest.  If you love complete detailed summaries of tournaments, fear not.  I have two more tournaments to blog about and those two will together probably fill out enough blog posts for the rest of the year.

But for this tournament, I'll start with a hand late in level 4. I started that level with a stack of $12,200 where the blinds were 25/100/200.  The starting stack is $10K.  I opened to $525 with my old friends, the dreaded pocket Kings.  There was a call and than a lady made it $4K.  Hmm.  She was new to the table.  Her stack looked to be about the same as mine (which had dwindled down to $10K-ish).

Since it was Kings, I insta-folded.  At least in my mind.  But in real life, I am just about never folding Kings preflop.  Would you have?  That $4K was a big part of my stack (and hers) and I really couldn't see calling.  I guess you could make an argument for it.  Fold on the flop if there's an Ace, get it all in if there's a King on the flop and play it by ear if it's Queen-high or lower.  But I couldn't see that. I had to assume, without any other evidence, that she could be doing that with Queens, Jacks, maybe even 10's and of course Ace-King.

I couldn't really raise without shoving so I shoved.  And the speed with which she announced "call" signaled that I was in deep shit.  Of course she had two Aces.  I started thinking about what I could do with the rest of my day.  Until I saw that beautiful King on the flop. My set of Kings held and I was left stacking her chips and wondering why I hated that hand so much.  I had her covered by just a few chips, it was a nice double-up.

As I was stacking the chips, I started thinking that this was an omen.  A sign from the poker gods.  If I got it all-in Kings vs Aces, and somehow laid a bad beat on the other player—I survived KK vs AA—there's no way I am not cashing this tournament.  I have to cash.  It's been ordained.  It's friggin' destiny.  I owed it to the poker gods to cash.


The woman on my right thru the early rounds was someone I recognized, or at least I think I did. If I'm right, she's a regular at the Aria tournament.  But she didn't say hello to me, so maybe I have her confused with someone else.  Of course, to be fair, I didn't say hello to her either.  She is a mature woman if you catch my drift.  I'll call her "May."

The success with Kings did not propel me to greatness.  Instead I lost chips raising when I could but getting called or raised and having to let the hands go.  So by level 6 (50/300/600) I was down to $8,100.  It was shove-or-fold.  And I was dealt King-Jack off.  May open limped.  This was surprising.  By now she had built up a fairly big stack.  And she had been fairly aggressive since she had gotten a double up with a set of 9's.  I couldn't remember another open limp from her.  That affected my thought process.  If she had raised, I would have folded.  If she had folded, I would have open shoved.  But the limp.....well?  Based on what I saw, I figured the limp was a sign of some weakness.  And I decided that there was no way she would call a shove from me with a hand she had only limped in with.  I was so sure of it I was willing to bet my tournament life on it.  So I shoved.  It folded back to me, she asked for a count, took her time, and then shocked the hell out of me by calling.  Well, so much for that read.

And she flipped over Ace-10 off, which also surprised me. She was in middle position and that's a tough hand to play out of position.  To me, it would have made more sense to raise if she wanted to play it.  Whatever, I was behind but at least I had live cards.  Well, there was a Jack on the flop and another Jack on the turn for good measure, and I had a much needed double-up.

Next level May raised to $1,800 and I called with pocket 10's, we were heads up.  She checked a Queen hi flop.  She bet $2K on a blank, I assumed she didn't have a Queen so I called.  We both checked the river.  I showed my 10's and she mucked, saying she had a 6 (there was a 6 on the board).  I assumed she either had Ace-6 suited or maybe 7-6 suited.

The next hand, the (male) dealer pitched her a card and it somehow flew off the table and hit her, sort of in the chest.  It went off the table and it was a misdeal.  May said to the dealer, "You damn near hit the cleavage with that."  The dealer laughed and said, "Shh....don't give away my secrets."

As I was coming back from the break before level 8, I saw they were breaking our table.  So I got my new assignment just as the level started.  I had $24K with the levels at 100/600/1200.  I opened to $3K the first hand back with pocket 5's but the guy on my left shoved and I had to fold. 

A hand or two later I was the big blind with 8-5 offsuit.  It folded to the button.  The small blind still hadn't returned from the break, so if the button folded I'd get a walk, which would have been really nice since I had such a garbage hand. But the button said, "Oh, I gotta gamble...I'm all-in."  However, he was super short stacked—only $2,900.  When I got the count, I thought about it and realized that for such a small additional bet, and with all that dead money in there, it really didn't make sense to fold. It was just a little more than another big blind ($1,700) to call. His stack was so short he could be doing that with almost any hand, and even if he had Aces it wouldn't have been a terrible call (just a really odd looking one).  So I called.

Well, he really was gambling.  He had 6-2 and it wasn't even suited.  Absolutely nothing hit either one of us, and I busted him with 8-high!  Yeah, I won the pot with 8-high!  Pretty sure that never happened to me before.

I survived that level with $17K and the blinds went up to 200/800/1600.  And early in that level the table broke. We were down to 30 players (93 total players, they were paying 11).  I had just posted the big blind at the old table and now I lucked into the big blind at new table. I looked down at pocket 9's and I figured that unless there was a lot of action in front of me, this would be it.

Well it folded around to the small blind.  Hey, a walk there would have been fine with me.  But the small blind, who had a big stack, added $4K to his SB.  Well, I didn't know this guy at all, hadn't seen him play a hand.  But I figured with his big stack and seeing my short stack, he might do that with all kinds of hands, including total garbage.  It's a smart play, and I've done it myself.  So I shoved.  Unfortunately, he snap called and turned over pocket Kings.  Ugh.  Yeah, that was pretty dreaded.  I didn't hit my two-outer and my tournament life was done.

So the dreaded Kings worked for me beyond my wildest dreams early in the tournament.  But in the end, the burned me, as usual, even though I wasn't the one who held them.

I had played five hours.  The top prize was $2975 and 9th, 10th, and 11th all paid the min-cash of $217.  Not one, not two but three places get less than double the buy-in.  You can bet I wasn't t thrilled when I saw what the min-cash was, you've heard me rant about that.  But at least I felt that I had played pretty well, well enough to consider another tournament or two before I left town.  Stay tuned.


  1. Another nice run. MOJO had several of these and kept at it, and then one day ... You have the skill to do the same.

    1. Thanks. I'd say you're wrong but I know what happens.

  2. You should invite Jennifer to play tennis with you sometime????