Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Last Binion's Tournament (Part 3)

This is the third of three parts.  Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.  And again, we pick up right where we left off.

Level 14 (1K/3K/6K) $239K.  And then....I went card dead, at least for the early part of the (40-minute) level.  That last level had obviously been a good one for me and now the poker gods were balancing things out.  I got almost nothing to play.  When I tried to make a move, either Mike (short stacked but still tough) or especially Cliff would make my life hell.  One of them would always call me—unless they three-bet me.  Usually it was Cliff.  I swear, there was a long stretch where he called every single time I made a raise. If I checked the flop, he bet.  If I checked the turn, he bet.  If I bet, he'd call or raise.  And I had too many chips to just shove with—I had to play poker!  At one point, I shouted across the table, after Cliff called me again, "You know, you're allowed to fold if I bet."  He was a really tough player.

But I did finally get pocket Aces in my small blind.  There was a raise or maybe just a limp and I added $18K to my small blind.  Of course Cliff called.  There was a Jack-high flop and I put out a pot-sized pot.  Cliff folded. 

Later I got Aces again.  I opened to $15K and Mike called.  The flop was Ace-Queen-x, two diamonds.  I bet $25K and he folded.

I opened to $15K with Ace-9 of spades. Cliff called.  I totally whiffed.  I checked, he bet $25K and I had to fold.  Typical hand against Cliff.  If I had c-bet he would have called and I'd have lost more chips.

After one limp, I made it $18K from the small blind with pocket 10's and didn't get a call. 

Last hand of the level I had Queen-Jack off in early position and opened to $15K and took it. 

Level 15 (1K/4K/8K) $280K.  We were now playing 60-minute levels. 

I opened to $20K with Ace-Jack of diamonds and Mike called.  I totally whiffed the flop and tried a $30K c-bet.  But Mike shoved and I had to fold.  He showed pocket 8's (and also an open-ender, as it happened).

Now, I didn't keep good track of the bust outs.  When we first made the final table, no one busted for a long time.  Whenever ever anyone was all-in at risk, they survived.  But eventually, a couple of players busted out and we were down to eight, and remember they were paying seven. We played a few orbits with eight and then Mike popped up with, "Should we consider paying the bubble?  I mean, we've all played so long, I'd hate to think one of us would leave with nothing." And he admitted it was somewhat self-serving since he was one of the shorter stacks—after being one of the chip leaders for so long.

Mike suggested that everyone chip in $25 so that the bubble would get $200.  Someone objected saying that the bubble would be paying himself $25. So what?  That's kind of always the way it was with these bubble deals.  He'd end up with $175—at least he'd have his buy-in back.  But then, to my surprise, Cliff spoke up and said, "Look at the top payouts. How about we take $100 each from first and second place?"  Considering that Cliff was definitely back to being the chip leader at this point, it was surprising and generous of him.

Well, here's the thing.  At this point, I was pretty sure I had the second biggest stack.  I could have objected. But there's no way I would have. I've been saying on this blog for years that the pay scales for these tournaments are out of whack, that they're way too top heavy.  I'd be a total hypocrite if I objected to taking a couple of hundred bucks off the top two spots for the bubble.  I guess if I wanted to say I just didn't want to pay the bubble I could object on those grounds.  But I always agree to pay the bubble (usually because I'm a strong candidate for being the bubble) and again, I'd be a hypocrite if I objected.  Actually, I was totally fine with it.  I think it was the right thing to do.  We all agreed and they adjusted the payouts and we were all in the money.  I was assured of a $25 profit, but I was surely in position to do a helluva lot better than that.

I raised with Ace-Queen after one limp and took the pot.  I opened to $20K with Ace-4 and took it. 

And we lost a couple of players and were down to the final six.  I was assured of at least $555.

There were several limpers and I looked down at Ace-King.  Cliff had already folded so I decided to just shove.  Mike said, "What the hell....I had fun and I'm going to get some money," and called with his short stack and flipped over A-4.  There were two Aces on the board but no 4 and Mike was gone. 

At this point I was not really keeping up with my notes. One of the remaining short stacks busted to the next shortest stack.  Cliff eliminated the next short stack, a nice guy who had commented to me during one of the breaks (in the Men's Room, of all places) that he admired my game.  So in a way, I was sorry to see him go—but not that much.  Now we were three and if we played it out I was assured of at least $1,445.

(Speaking of the Men's Room, I noticed the sign below at the urinals.  There is a much bigger sign with the same message at the front of Binion's, but I'd never seen the smaller, bathroom version of the sign before. The one outside does not have the silhouette of the cowgirl with the arrows pointing out where the poker and liquor are supposed to be.  In other words, this version is raunchier than the one out on Fremont Street.)

This is definitely the part of the tournament where I'm used to someone suggesting a deal. By this point, Cliff was the overwhelming chip leader, I was in second and the Swede was in third. For awhile, the Swede had worked his stack up to almost the same as mine (and I had worked my stack down to his level too).  But he lost some chips to Cliff and now I had at least twice the Swede's chips but I'd guess Cliff had almost three times my stack. In other words, I had a better chance to bust out third than I did to overtake Cliff.  But no one said anything about a deal and we played on.

So the Swede raised and I shoved over him with Ace-Jack of diamonds.  He called and showed pocket 4's.  There were two diamonds on the flop, and the a third diamond on the river to give me the nut flush and sent the Swede back to Stockholm.

Now I was assured of at least a $2K pay day.  We started to play heads up, played a few hands.  I looked over to Cliff's stack.  He had more than twice as many chips as I did.  And I had played enough against him this day to be convinced he was a better player than I was.  Of that I had no doubt.  Furthermore, I have very little experience playing heads up.  I think there have been two live tournaments when I got down to playing heads up.  I did win one (against a really inexperienced player) and we finally agreed to split in the other case as neither one of us had any idea how to play heads up.  Both of those were years ago.  I had to assume (rightly or wrongly), that Cliff had more experience heads up.  In other words, I really didn't like my chances of overtaking Cliff and winning this thing.

Plus, I am just used to getting to the final few players and making a deal, that's always been my experience in any tournament of this many (or more) players that played so long and where I lasted this long.  I actually expected a deal to be proposed when we got down to three.  But it wasn't and now Cliff wasn't apparently going to suggest anything.

It was around 10:30pm (we had started at 1pm).  Not really that late, and I wasn't tired, but still, we had played a lot of poker for the day.  And I didn't really see how I was gonna come from behind and win it except with some kind of fluky cooler hand or a major suckout.  So, after a few heads up hands where we basically just passed the blinds back and forth, I spoke up.  I didn't even consider the possibility of suggesting an even split, he had way too much of an advantage to accept that. What I was used to was the chip-chop.  So after a hand, I said, "You willing to make a deal?"  He asked what I had in mind.  "How about a chip-chop?"

And he surprised me by saying, "I dunno.  What is that?"

Wow.  He didn't know what a chip-chop was?  How could that be?  He was obviously an experienced tournament player.  Anyway, I explained to him what it was—that we'd combine the first and second place money and distribute based on the percentage of the chips we each had.

I'm not sure he actually fully understood, but he said, "As long as I get the bigger payout, I'm fine with it."  I assured him he'd get the most money.  So we called the TD over and told him what we were talking about and then he did a count of chips.  I didn't make a note of the stacks, but basically Cliff had 70% or so of the chips.  And then he did the calculation and it came out that Cliff would get $3,105 (down from something like $3,600, the original 1st place prize) and I'd get $2,535, (up from a bit more than $2K, the original 2nd place prize).  That was certainly ok by me and Cliff was happy with that too.  We shook hands and the deal was done.  I had just agreed to my biggest tournament payout of my "career."  This surpassed my previous high, which was also from the Binion's tournament.  So you can see why I was so bummed that they discontinued this tournament.

While we were waiting for the paperwork to be completed and our payouts to be delivered, I was thinking about Cliff's reaction to my suggestion of a chip-chop, and then his response that he was fine with it as long as he got more money than me.  I realized I very likely could have made a better deal.  I guess I should have suggested we split it and that he get a few hundred more.  Maybe I should have said, "Well let's split it, and how much more than I get would you be happy with?"  I think if I knew he wasn't familiar with a chip-chop, I could have gotten a few hundred more.  It sounded like he was going to be satisfied with anything as long as it more than I got.  So he would have been happy with $5 more than me?  I'm sure that wouldn't cut it.  But as I said, I might have gotten a bit more.

But I didn't mind.  I considered that Cliff had outplayed and deserved every penny he got.  Plus he was a heck of a nice guy, I didn't begrudge him the money. And I had gotten around $500 more than second place money at a time when I was at a huge chip disadvantage.  It was a good deal for me.

When they gave us the money, Cliff surprised me by saying, "What do we tip, $200 each?"  Wow, I thought that was a bit too much—at least for me.  I said something to that effect, "I think that may be high."  He said, "What about $100 each?"  I said ok.  What I wanted to say was that he should tip more than me, he got more money, but I didn't want to say that in front of the guy who would be collecting our tip and also didn't want to piss of Cliff (if that would bother him, I have no idea).  Anyway, they paid me off with some purple $500 chips, which I rarely get my hands on.  I had to hustle over to the main Binion's cashier so I could get cash for it.  Then I got the hell out of downtown. I couldn't wait to get back to my room so I could roll around naked in the money. 

Really turned out to be a great decision to skip the Venetian two-day for this.  But as I said at the outset, a real bummer to know this tournament no longer exists and I don't even have a chance to have another score like this at Binion's.


  1. Hi, I just want to correct something that can be important for you and all your readers.
    What you did here is not a chip chop, it's an ICM chop:
    you took 30% of 1st place (1000) and 70% of second (1500), and him the opposite.
    CHip chop is the unfairest chop if everybody does not have the same stack; never accept it if you are not chip leader or have a plane to take, and is basically what you describe: pool the money and split it by chip percentage. If you did that, you would have get 30% of 5640, which is around 1700 so less than 2nd place! And he would have got more than 1st place!
    I hope it is clear



    1. Thanks for the comment/correction, lalush. I apologize for the confusion because I left that part out of my explanation. I assumed that I had explained that before, but yes, when you do what we did, you first allocate second place money to BOTH players, then distribute the first place money as a percentage of their chip counts at the time.

      Obviously there is no incentive for second place to accept LESS than second place money, he could just intentionally bust and get more!

      I believe I explained that to Cliff (or perhaps the TD did).

      But from my experience, what we did IS called a chip-chop.....that's the way we've done it every time we've made a final table deal and called it that.

      I honestly don't know what the difference is with that and an ICM chop, I don't have enough knowledge of ICM, I know I really should learn more about it. But from what I understand (limited, I know), there is a difference with ICM from what we did.

  2. Well written and a great job getting a great pay day.

    1. Thanks very much, Dale. I really appreciate comments like this!

  3. Nice score Rob. A good place to get headsup experience is via Sit-n-go single table tournaments which normally have a structure that produces a winner in 60 to 90 minutes. Back in the good old days I read a theory book specific to SNGs and did very well. But the point in your case is to hone headsup skills. I never offered to chop 1st/2nd place money but would entertain a chop offered to me. So playing those SNGs headsup to the bitter end at least gets you second place money. Litterally in the first 3 or 4 hands of any headsup you can tell if you will be able to outplay the other guy. But you need to see a good number of accumulated hands playing headsup to get a good feel for it.

    1. Thanks, Lester.

      Now that you mention it, when I first started with poker, I played a lot of SNG's online and did get some experience playing heads up....but that was many moons ago.

      I knew I was in trouble with Cliff right from the beginning. That's why I was eager to negotiate for more than second place money.

      I guess you could argue that since I was the one who brought it up, that was kind of an admission that I felt I was in trouble and made Cliff resistant to deal. But he was a nice guy and satisfied to accept what he ended up with.

    2. I guess that any of the chops negotiated by my opponent headsup while fair I don't think my opponent ever thought I was a nice guy. LOL...

    3. This was actually a congenial group of players throughout the tournament. Although, as mentioned, Cliff did somewhat annoy me by calling all my bets for awhile there.

  4. Great job! Obviously, your observation of my cash game play has helped you become a better tournament player. ywia

    1. Thanks.

      Yeah, I'm sure that it was just from watching you crush cash games with Q-10 that I improved my tournament game. Makes total sense.

    2. Q-10 AKA the HoChunk nuts *never* loses in Wisconsin...

    3. Ha. Never heard Lightning mention that room but he should move there!

  5. Well done Rob. The PQ now has a mental image of you rolling around in the money and a sour look on her face.

    1. Sorry about the mental image. Wait, what? Am I being insulted? :)