Sunday, November 5, 2017

Finding Royalty at the Venetian

Special Guest Post by @AvoidOddLaw

“A simple ‘hello’ could lead to a million things.” – Unknown

I just met Rob in person, for the first time, a couple days ago. I have been a long time, avid reader of his blog and aficionado of the pictures he posted. We have corresponded through Twitter many times, so when I told him I was going to be in Vegas the weekend before Halloween, he readily agreed to meet.  It was a quick meet-and-greet, as he and I were playing in the Aria tournament for that day. Not much to report since we both busted it half-way through. However, the plan was to try to get together for a game before I flew out of town.

I texted him that I was about to play in the Venetian noon tournament and that if I busted early would like to try to meet again.  Coincidently, he was on his way there himself to play as well. So while we were never at the same table, we updated each other during breaks on our progress (or lack of).

Also to my delight, Rob introduced me to the famous (or “infamous” as Lightning would say) Alysia Chang.  I was always curious to see if she would live up to her reputation of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, we never sat at the same table either so I couldn’t witness the whirling dervish in action myself. But PepĂ© Le Pew next to her sure did (check her tweets to fully understand)!

When Rob asked if I would be interested in writing about my escapades in this tournament, I was actually a bit apprehensive. I wasn't sure I could live up to his ability to paint a picture.  And compared to me, Rob tells tales in brevity (keep reading and you will see I am not joking). And now, without further ado, here’s my adventure with the $340 Venetian DoubleStack $25K GTD:

“Do not be distracted by the beautiful celebrities…” – Zoolander

I knew I should be focused on the game in front of me instead of the last few minutes of the Razorbacks - Ole Miss game.  I aspire to be more like Phil Ivey and pierce my opponent’s soul with an unwavering stare. I wanted to watch their every move, looking for the signs that give away the strength of their hands.  But alas, at that moment, I was just another recreational player with the attention span of a goldfish.  And like a teenage boy in the prime of his puberty, I was easily swayed when the attractive Samantha Abernathy sat down across the felt from me.  She is easily recognizable and although I am old enough to be her father, young uncle, I could not help but admire her beauty.

At that moment, my wife’s radar must have been working overtime from 1,300 miles away and it was as if she called the floor herself because within a few minutes of Samantha’s arrival, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  Looming over me was a floor person with a rack in his hand.  With a sigh I took the rack, put my tongue back in, and followed him begrudgingly to another table. And to punish my transgression of the eyes further, I was seated facing away from my original table.  My only consolation was the Penn State – Ohio State game was just starting on the TV.

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” –Charles M. Schulz

I started off slow, playing very passively.  So passive, you would have thought I was hiding from the monsters under the bed or skeletons in the closet.  I was in the small blind with AK after it was limped 3-ways to me.  With the intent to punish the limpers and to exert my dominance over the game, while not wanting to play out of position, I reached for chips and…called.  WTF?!!

To be honest, I really don’t know why I did that at the time. But the big blind offered me redemption and raised the pot for me. There was only one caller when it got back to me. Now was my chance to spring the trap that I unknowingly set, so I grabbed more chips and…called again. OH HELL NO?!!

Who was this passive fish that looked a lot like me?  At least the board was a King high flop. I checked, he bet, the other player folded, and I called. Turn, I checked, he bet, I called. River, I checked, he bet, I called. Do you sense a pattern forming here?  He showed a better played AK and we chopped the pot with my lifeless, timid, amateurish style of play in full view of everyone at the table (and probably the next table over too).

I wish I could say that was the only passive play I had in my arsenal but it seems like I would stay in first gear until break.  At least I ended only down to 20k from my starting stack of 24k.

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying” – The Shawshank Redemption

During break I finally located the cojones that I lost and came back to the table determined that it was time to get busy playing.  The table I was at had an eclectic group of players ranging from your soft rec player (myself included), all the way up to the tough semi-pro player, and everything in between.  One such player was more focused on the football games and monitoring his sports betting than playing poker.  However, when he did enter a hand, he would bet 7x – 10x the blinds and then bomb the flop with 2x – 3x pot size bets. Unfortunately I never found myself in a situation to take advantage of his bet sizing.  Instead, I went after an easier target: The semi-pro.

At least, I thought he behaved like a semi-pro with his consistent bet sizing and aggressive action when needed.  He showed knowledge of when to throttle back at times and he was building his stack with very little show-downs.  So in one hand, when he raised from middle position, I decided to call from the button with AsTx.

The flop was Ks6x3x. He c-bet as expected and I decided to float. The turn was a Qs.  He checked to me and not liking that either the K or Q could be in his range I opted to see a free card. The river was 9s and he lead out with a small value looking bet. I picked this moment to make a move.

Because of my limp fish image, I felt this was the right time to bluff him off his hand.  I had blockers to the nut flush, to a straight, and to AK/AQ.  So I chambered the revolver and pulled the trigger. I just wasn’t sure if I had the barrel pointed in the right direction.

He tanked for an eternity (at least he didn’t snap call). And when I was starting to think this may work… he made the hero call with QxTs. *Bam!*

“A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark.” – Dante Alighieri

Needless to say, I was starting to feel frustrated and a bit down on how awful a start I was having in this tournament.  And it was entirely my fault. But the reason I picked this tourney was because of its deep stacks and structure. I can make mistakes and still have plenty of time to recover. And the best way to recover from a rough start is to find the spark that lights my heater.

The semi-pro raised to 1.5k from early position and it was called by another player before it came to me. I looked down and found the silver bullets, AA. At this time I was down to 17k with blinds at 300/600/75. I re-raised him to 5k.

He stared at me (and my stack) and after a quick glanced at the player between us he said those magical words, “All-in”. The other player snapped folded and I quickly tossed in a chip and turned over my cards. He shook his head and showed AK. The board ran out and I got my first double-up with the added benefit of putting a big dent into his well-earned stack.

And with that, the furnace kicked on full blast. I called a preflop raise with AJ and flopped AAx. I checked to the preflop raiser, she bet, I called. Turn was A. I check, she checked. River blank and I set the lure and checked. She took the bait and bet. I raised and she folded asking if I had quads. I don’t usually show and just shook my head not wanting to give the table any free information.

There was a raise and a call in front of me when I called with QsJs. Flop was AsKs9x. Bet, call, call. Turn was a 6. Bet and then a raise. I saw that the initial bettor had already cut out chips for a call.  I made the call and he did call as expected. The river was the most beautiful card in the deck. No, Norman Chad it couldn’t be the Ace of Spades (that was already on the flop).  To me the most beautiful card is the Ten of Spades!  Holy Royal Flush Batman!!!

First player checked and second player bet.  Again, the first player gave off a tell, and this time he was telling me he was going to fold so I raised. He folded as expected and the second player…folded (Damn!). This one I had to show. Unfortunately, I was so deeply enthralled with the beauty of it that it was only later I realized I didn’t snap a picture of it. My stack was now at 69.8k with blinds 400/800/100.

I had AcKc in the cutoff and re-raised a middle position raiser, he called. Flop KsQcQs, he led into me and I called. Turn 9c. He bet again and I shoved. He tanked and I was worried that I overplayed my hand when he eventually found a call.  He showed AhKh and I was free-rolling. He shouted no clubs and on the river came the second most beautiful card in the deck Norman, the Jc! My stack was now at 120k with blinds at 600/1200/200. I was on fire!

“I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” - The Fault in Our Stars

The nice thing about having a deep stack in a good structure like this tournament is that now I could play the game I should have done at the very beginning. The heater got my juices flowing.  I picked my spots, being aggressive when in a hand, and maximizing pressure on the other players. I finally found my stride. I played good poker and try to avoid the minefields.  At first, my roller coaster kept climbing the hill.
  • ·       At 142k. Blinds 600/1200/200. 71 left.
  • ·       At 154k. Blinds 800/1600/200. 58 left.
  • ·       At 175k. Blinds 1.2k/2.4k/400. 39 left.

And I found the peak when I had pocket 6’s and busted a player with a flopped set against his overpair. 
  • ·       At 250k. Blinds 1.5k/3k/500. 38 left.

 “I didn’t come this far, to only come this far.” – Unknown

But eventually, like all good rides, it descended into a death spiral!  The very next hand I get my AA shoved on by KK just to watch them get cracked with a Turn K.
  • ·       At 194k. Blinds 1.5k/3k/500. 37 left.

And it showed no signs of slowing down.  My KK lost to AQ followed by A9 losing to KQ.
  • ·       At 130k. Blinds 2k/4k/500. 30 left.

Determined to fight like a cornered badger, I pulled off a bluff with A5 on the button against a player that really didn’t want to fold at first.
  • ·       At 176k. Blinds 3k/6k/1k. 27 left.

After giving up some chips on a river shove that I couldn’t call, I found JJ.  Yes, the hand that most recs hate! Young hooded player with ear buds, 3-bet my raise and I decided to play back at him with a 4-bet. Don’t try this at home kids! He eventually found a fold, not willing to commit his stack yet.
  • ·       At 210k. Blinds 3k/6k/1k. 27 left.

And when it looked like I was starting back in the right direction, I got blind-sided. Short stack went all in with QT and I called with AA. Board ran out AKJxx.
  • ·       At 110k. Blinds 4k/8k/1k. 22 left.

 It was hard to fathom that with only 4 spots away from the bubble that I could be out soon.  I didn’t want to end it like this. The final countdown began:
21 left.
20 left.
19 left.

We went to hand-for-hand. A proposal was made to pay the bubble to speed it up but a couple of the other players shot it down. Each hand played was torturous, like a slow drip down on the forehead.  I was able to get a couple of walks and even stole a blind or two to stay alive. Eventually the bubble burst.

“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.” –Carrie Fisher

18 left.
17 left.

I was sitting on a stack of 140k with blinds at 6k/12k/2k.  The even chop value was $2,452 which was equivalent to between 5th and 6th place.  It was proposed to do an even chop by several players at my table.  I doubted that 17 players would agree.  Nevertheless, they voted on it using red cards for “Yes” and black cards for “No”. 

Our table was all red; the other table had a couple black cards.  No surprise there so play continued. I already accepted my fate that I was on borrowed time and was hoping the poker gods would give me their blessing.

I guess they granted me a partial wish because somehow I managed to win just enough to stay afloat.  Players were dropping like flies:
16 left.
15 left.
14 left.
13 left.
12 left.

I was the shortest stack (106k with blinds 8k/16k/2k) when a new chop was proposed.  This time instead of an even chop, it was suggested to do a chip chop. Someone else suggested an ICM chop but Venetian shot that down. After some discussions, eventually everyone agreed to stop the clock and see what would be the payouts. 

It took the floor some time to count everyone chips, enter it into a spreadsheet, double/triple check the numbers before they told us the amounts.  I already decided that if it wasn’t much more than 12th place money I would be voting it down since I had nothing to lose.

But when they told me as shortest stack I would receive $1,645, which was equivalent to 7th place money and doubled what I could get for finishing 12th, I readily agreed.  Fortunately, everyone else also agreed.  We all shook hands and congratulated each other like we won the World Series (mainly because I think we were all exhausted and relieved it was finally over). 

“All good things must come to an end” – Geoffrey Chaucer

The tournament started at noon and by the time I was out of there, it was almost 2 am. Exhausted but thrilled to cash after a hard fought day, I made my way back to the hotel and crashed. This was the icing on the cake as I had a great Vegas trip and much needed break from reality.  Maybe one day I will tell you about the overall trip and how I got assaulted by a female cop (dressed like the picture shown here).  ;)

About the Author:
My Twitter profile (@AvoidOddLaw) basically describes me in a nutshell:  “Weekend Recreational Poker Player, Weekday Senior Business Analyst, and Everyday Husband & Dad.” I play for the fun and the challenge of it. While I always wanted to become a great poker player, reality dictates otherwise. One day I hope I can elevate my game but until then, I just play the small cash tables and tournaments.


  1. Thank you so much, @AvoidOddLaw, for this great guest post. You really outdid yourself. The writing, the delivery, the tone, the humor—even the massive amount pics you supplied—just incredible. And so impressive the amount of detail you included, especially considering you didn't take the kind of notes that I do. I was so tempted to interject my thoughts into your post but it was just so well done I didn't dare. Just fantastic. I hope you haven't set the bar to high for me now! got quad Aces and a Royal Flush back to back huh? OK, so I asked and you came back and said the the two hands were like 40-60 minutes apart. Still, that's amazing. Getting quads and a Royal (or straight flush) twice in one short Vegas trip is beyond incredible, but both in the same damn tournament (and presumably one level apart?). That is definitely what is known as "running like god." No wonder you cashed.

    I was so surprised that 12 people agreed to the chip-chop, but since it was nearly 2AM and thus almost 14 hours of poker, I can see why. I don't think that tournament usually draws 151 players as it did on that day. I've never seen so many, it was an amazing turnout. They were paying 18, with first place over $11K. The bottom three—the min-cashers—were only getting $592. The total prize pool was $42K

    Did the Venetian TD's give any reason why they wouldn't consider an ICM chop? Is that just the policy? Would it have taken too long? I've done a lot of these and never seen anyone ask for ICM chop, and honestly, I don't really understand the difference, but i know there is one.

    But getting 7th place money when you were the shortest stack and possibly headed for 12th place money (which would have been $803) is an awesome result. Good negotiating! :) A lot of that came out of first place, so kind of surprised the chip leader(s) agreed to it. The actual chip leader received $6,500. I also notice that Sam Abernathy didn't cash, so on this one day, you were better than her!

    Now, you teased us with that last pic and the near-explanation of it. Remember, I asked you for a write-up of the entire trip too, so let's have the whole trip-report when you get a chance. I'm sure you can find another sexy cop pic for us!

    Thanks again!

    1. I suspect being patted down for any concealed weapons might be party of the story???

    2. There was some contact made but not in the way you think. :)

    3. No one could ever replace your style of writing nor would I want to do so. I enjoy your blogs.

      The one thing I couldn't convey is how long in between some of these events occurred. It was over 14 hours and not all hands were reported.

      ICM can be confusing and requires a program so I think many poker rooms opt not to use it. Instead they prefer the even chop or using the chip chop method. Anything else they leave it up to the players. I am guessing they didn't want to be involved with ICM calculations because of the complexity.

      Getting the heater definitely helped but I wished it came much later. Especially after getting my aces cracked late. But glad to have cashed.

      Long day, high blinds, and even the big stacks not way ahead of the blinds, I suspect are all part of the factors contributing to them agreeing to the chip chop.

      Once again, thanks for allowing me to guest write on your blog. I am an analyst so writing is not my forte. But glad you enjoyed it!

    4. @Lester, we must help persuade AOL to tell us the story and the story of the rest of his trip.

      @AvoidOddLaw, Thanks for your kind words. I guess V didn't want to have to the ICM calculations themselves. If someone had whipped out the app and figured it out for them, maybe they would have gone along with it? Assuming everyone agreed, of course.

      As I said, that day for whatever reason had a huge turnout. The other times I played they didn't get 100 players, I don't think. With a normal turnout it would have been over by the time you still had 12 players left.

  2. So ... AOL's post is about as long as a Rob post, but, u see, Rob then had to make a loooong comment, of course!

    1. But still not as long as AOL's post, u see.

    2. It must be something about this blog, I am not always this verbose. :)

    3. This blog brings out the best in people!

  3. It was a pleasure to meet AOL. As I said before on Twitter, congratulations! Anything that is not a mini-cash is a win in my book! Your wife needed to work harder with her white magic spells though; instead of using it to take you from Sam Abernathy's table, how about using it to make your aces stand up? Or make your bluffs work?

    1. I saw on Twitter that you eventually ended up in my old seat after I busted. I assume as soon as you got there you got the dreaded pocket Kings and had them cracked?

    2. I wish. It would have been more spectacular than how I went out. Actually stayed in tourney until 44 people were left.

    3. Her "black" magic only works when attractive females are near me apparently. :)

  4. Great post! I never know what I may read or see when I visit this page. Keeps me coming back. One tourny I chopped I think was an ICM chop. I had second largest stack and got second highest payout after someone used a app on their phone. They took into account chips stacks, not sure if any thing else. Last week I chopped at the same place and we did even chop. 8 places and we each got the same amount. Being short stacked I was happy.

    1. Thanks very much, Tino!

      Great result to get an even chop when you are the shortie.

      I think the ICM somehow takes into account the difference between the stacks, not just the total. So it might be different if one person has a huge lead over everyone as opposed to if there are stacks that have similar increases from the next one. I need to research it.

  5. Well done. This is definitely up to Rob's standards.

    1. Thank you Dale. Guess Rob decided my post wasn't long enough for his standards as I see he started a 3 part one just now. :)

    2. @Dale--Thanks, and I agree. I'm actually jealous of how good the post is.

      @AOL--but each part of my three part post will be shorter than yours!

  6. Excellent post AOL, and a great result too. Quads and a royal in the same tourney. Now that's living right.

    1. Indeed. It's sick.....but in a good way.

    2. Thank you Neo. Definitely got hit hard by the deck during those levels.