Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Last Binion's Tournament (Part 1)

Note:  This is the first of three parts.

Originally, this was going to be one of my all-time favorite blog posts.  But a few weeks ago, before I had a chance to write it up, it became bittersweet.  I thought I was going to be blogging about my latest tournament at Binion's.  But now it looks like this will be the story of my last ever Binion's tournament.

You see, about a month ago, while I was in the middle of writing up the story of my two-day Venetian tournament experience, I was notified that Binion's had changed their tournament schedule again (they'd been doing that a lot lately).  The change that affected me personally was that they changed the Saturday Deepstack, reducing the buy-in from $175 to $150 but more importantly, taking away the $10K guarantee.  There is now no guarantee for the Saturday tournament.

Although it is still a player-friendly structure (though not as good as the version I played in early  September), I just can't see them attracting a big enough crowd to make it worth it for me personally to play there anymore.  If I am going to invest $150 in a tournament, I'd like to be reasonable certain that the prize pool would be close to $10K or better.  I hope I'm wrong, but without the guarantee, I don't see them getting anywhere near that. 

It's a shame.  They just completed the room's relocation to the other side of the casino, an area in the pit where they will at least get a lot more pedestrian traffic than the old (but iconic) location, which was basically a cave. If you didn't know to look for it, you'd never come across it.  Now it has visibility.  I'm sure that was the reason for the relocation.  But I guess they had missed enough guarantees for management to lose patience and just put a stop to any more potential overlays by withdrawing the guarantee.

I will definitely miss Binion's.  This is the room where I got my very first decent tournament score, a story I told you back in the early days of the blog (here).  Back then it was a $105 tournament and I don't think they had a guarantee.  The tournament has gone through several incarnations since then. From a $125 buy-in to a $140 buy-in to a $175 buy-in.  All of those had $10K guarantees.  When they went to $125 they threw in a few random $160 versions, called "Super Saturday," that had a $25K guarantee.  When they first went to $125, they did the exact same tournament on Sundays, also with the guarantee.  But they had to discontinue that a few years ago because they weren't making the guarantee on Sundays.

Some of my best and favorite blog posts came out of my Binion's tournaments.  Those involved both poker and a colorful cast of characters.  But most of those colorful characters are gone now, I didn't see any of them when I played in September.  Also, I recognized very few of the players—two or three, tops.  In the old days I'd see many, many familiar opponents. 

It turned out to be a last minute decision to even go to Binion's on this Saturday, towards the end of my early September Vegas visit. As I explained at the end of my Venetian tournament write-up (here), I originally thought I'd play the $250, two-day tournament at the V instead.  But the experience cashing in that Venetian tournament soured me on playing another two-day tournament (at least so soon).  So I decided it was time to head back to my perennial favorite tourney at Binions. It turned out to be a great decision for more than one reason.

They had fairly recently restructured the tournament and this version was one I'd never played before.  The buy-in was now $175 and the time of the levels increased as the tournament went on.  The first eight levels were 30-minutes, the next six levels were 40-minutes and then it went to 60-minute levels for the duration. The starting stack was still $20K.  Oh, and they added a 30-minute dinner break in it.  That was sure a nice touch that I definitely appreciated, but actually it was more of a necessity than it used to be because of the relocation of the poker room.  It was now on the other side of the casino and thus far away from the Deli, the most convenient, quickest place for a meal.  It would take too much of the normal 15-minute break to walk over there, eat, and walk back.

And it had the $10K guarantee.  That meant that they need 72 players to make the guarantee.  Well, as it turned out, they only got 57 players.  That's important for two reasons.  One, it helps explain the subsequent decision by Binion's to change the tournament and get rid of the guarantee.  I'm sure that this wasn't the only time in recent weeks they missed the guarantee.  Second, the shortage of players and the overlay provided by Binion's (a bit more than $2K) affected the payout structure of course, to my benefit.

They were paying seven, with the min-cash being $455. The next prize was $555, the $715, $990 and $1,455 for third.  The top two payouts were somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,700 and $2,100.  So I couldn't complain about the size of the min-cash, it was quite a bit more than $350 (double the buy-in, my "requirement"). Presumably that was due to the overlay. Of course, the other side of the coin was that they were only paying seven.  Most of the tournaments I play, you are usually in the money if you get to the final table (if not before).

With that, we begin the recap, level 1 the blinds are 50/100.  I opened to $250 with Queen-9 of clubs, one caller.  I flopped a flush draw and took it with a c-bet of $350.

In the big blind I had King-3 off.  No raise and it was five-way.  The flop was Ace-King-x, two clubs, including the Ace.  My King was a club.  I called $600 and it was three-way. I called $1K on the turn, another club, still three of us.  The river was another club giving me the nuts. I led out for $3K and didn't get a call.

Level 2 (100/200) $22K.  From the big blind with Ace-Queen of hearts, I called $600.  The flop was Queen-high, one heart.  We were heads up and I called $900.  The turn was a blank and I called $2,100.  No betting on a blank river and he mucked when he saw my hand.

In the small blind with King-4, I completed and five of us saw a King-high flop, no one bet. I bet $500 on a blank turn and had one call.  I bet $1K on a blank river and didn't get a call.

I limped in with pocket 3' s and five of us saw a flop of Ace-King-3, two spades.  I bet $500 and had two callers.  I bet $1K on the turn, a blank, and got one call.  I bet $3K on the river, a King, but didn't get a call.

Level 3 (150/300) $31K.  In the small blind I had Ace-Queen,  I called $1,100 and it was four to the flop. The flop was Ace-Jack-x and it checked around.  I bet $2,500 on a blank and took it.

Level 4 (200/400) $33K.  After halfway through this level they broke our table (which was never full) and I moved next store.  In the big blind I checked with King-10 off, it was three-way.  The flop was King-high, I bet $700, one call.  I bet $1K on a blank and didn't get a call.

The guy on my immediate right shoved his last $3,300.  I had Ace-King off and wanted to raise.  I didn't want my Ace-King up against a bunch of players.  While I was thinking about how much to make it, the girl on my immediate left folded out of turn, triggering a bunch of follow up out-of-turn folds.  By the time the dealer had put a stop to all the folding there was only one other player left to act, a reg I've played with many times.  I ended up raising to $10K and she folded.  The guy who shoved showed King-Queen.  A King hit the board, nothing else and I got some chips.

Level 5 (300/600) $34K.  I know, that chip count seems way off.  I noted it at the time, on my contemporaneous notes that it seemed too low.  I think I considered that some of my chips somehow went missing.  I wondered if I had lost some chips in the move from one table to another.  I dunno what happened, perhaps one of my chip counts earlier was wrong.  Whatever.

First hand of the level I had pocket Queens and opened to $1,600.  There was one call and the flop was 10-high.  I lead out for $2,800 and took it.

I had Ace-6 of hearts in the big blind and it folded to the small blind who completed.  I checked behind.  The flop was all low cards, giving me a gut-shot.  I bet $1K and he didn't call.

Level 6 (100/400/800) / $30,600.  I opened to $2K with Ace-Queen and took it.

I opened to $2K with 9-8 of diamonds and the lady on my left called.  The flop was 9-8-7.  I led out for $2,500 and she shoved.  I didn't even ask for a count, I wasn't going anywhere with two pair.  I had her covered.  She showed pocket 10's. She missed her straight and my two pair was good.  That brought me up to almost $44K.

As soon as that hand was completed, they broke our table.  It was still too early for me to be paying attention to how many players or tables were left, we were a long way from the money.  But I guess the table they sent me to this time was the one I was at for the longest time. 

Level 7 (100/500/1000)  $41,500.  Early in the level I opened to $2K with Ace-Queen of spades.  That was too low, I must have forgotten the blinds had just increased.  The big blind called.  I flopped the nut flush, which was nice.  After the big blind checked, I decided to check behind and see if I could get the big blind to bet.  But she checked the turn as well (it was not a spade and it didn't pair the board).  So I bet $2K and didn't get a call.  Not much value there for a great flop.

And that's the end of part 1.  Part 2 can now be found here.


  1. In 2016, I played at several tournaments at Binion's while I was out west for the WSOP. This year, the schedule just didn't appeal, and I didn't play there at all.

    1. Well, the schedule for this past summer was affected by being in the process of relocating the room. Management didn't give them enough tables to run a series the size that they've run in the past.

      So to manage, they had higher-buy-in amounts purposely to keep the number of entrants down. But they also filled up the schedule with a lot of non-hold'em tourneys. I think most of the events were Omaha, Stud, Horse, games like that. Those were big draws (relatively speaking) because they were filling the niche for that. The NLH games were not as well attended. They had a profitable summer, but now that it's back to business as usual, it's going to be rough going for them.

  2. I think it was 2009 to 2011 that my flights into Vegas arrived about 10am and at that time it was a complete no-brainer that my first poker action was at the Binion's Saturday deepstack $10K especially since I almost always stayed at the Four Queens. I agree, dropping the guarantee is going to kill attendance.

    1. Yeah. You know another thing I didn't think about when writing the post, one of the things they changed (in fact, it changed since the last time I played there before this) was the time. They moved the time back from 2pm to 1pm. I wonder if that had anything to do with decreasing attendance?

      Honestly, they should be doing better now. The most comparable competition they had was the Aria $125 at 1pm. But for over a year that is gone....on Saturday they run a $240 which starts at the ungodly hour of 11AM. I can tell you for a fact that that $240 on Saturday gets less people than they used to get for the $125 when they ran it on Saturday (which is actually what the Aria wanted). So they should have picked up some of those people. I dunno where they went.

    2. Maybe Gem Tiles or Dealer's Angel????