Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Tournament Was Savage

I can't tell you how many emails, tweets and comments I've gotten asking me, "Gee Rob, when are you going to tell us how you did at last year's WPT 500 at the Aria?  Surely you must have played it."

OK, so honestly, I didn't get any such feedback.  I therefore decided that until at least one person asked me about it, I wasn't going to mention it.  In other words, I'd probably never have to write that post.

However, with the just-announced exciting news the player pools on will be combined beginning May 1, so that players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware will be able to play with and against each other, I'm in such a good mood that I couldn't hold off any longer with this report.  I for one am looking to take advantage of the new larger player pools next time I'm in Vegas, which I expect to be in June.  And I'm sure that the folks at 888poker are excited and gearing up for it as well. This should be a significant step in the comeback of U.S. online poker.

I really like the WPT 500, and I've played it a few times in the past (see here for the start of the previous year's report).  So I plunked down my $565 and played one of many Day 1's.  Every day 1 ends after the players are in the money, which is nice.  There was a $1MM guarantee.  And a very nice structure (30-minute levels for the first 8, then 40-minutes). 

Plus you never know who you'll run into there.  In 2016, I played (ever-so-briefly) with Lacy Jones and (literally) ran into Mike Sexton.  So in 2017, I actually played at the same table with none-other than Matt Savage, who actually created the tournament and designed its structure in his capacity as WPT tournament director.  The first year Aria offered this tournament, Matt actually ran it for them.  That was under the previous Aria management.  Since the new team came on board after that first one, the great in-house Aria tournament team runs it, so Matt can actually relax and play it.   

Of course I follow Matt on Twitter as everyone who loves poker does.  And on the morning of the flight I played, I saw him announcing that he was playing it that day.  I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I was at the same table as he was?  At least for a little while, anyway.  Well, it turned out that I saw him put down his stuff at the same table I was assigned to.  And even when they broke our table, we were both sent to the same new table.  I was playing with Matt all day. 

Now the mention of Matt Savage gives me a chance to address something that I've been wanting to talk about for a long time.  If you follow Matt on Twitter, you know that players are constantly asking him for tournament (or even cash game) floor rulings.  They'll post a situation that came up in a game and ask for his take on the right way the floor should have handled it.  Now every so often, someone will re-create a tournament hand and say something like, "he bet $5,000."  And the first thing Matt will say is, "no dollar signs on tournament chips."  Well, he probably says it more politely than that.  But the thing is that Matt points out that you should not use a $ sign in front of a bet unless it is a cash game, since tournament chips don't represent actual dollars.

Well, if you've been paying attention, you will note that whenever I do one of my tournament write-ups, I usually do put the $ sign in in front of the chip count.  I'm actually surprised no one has called me out on it.  Yes, I know it is technically incorrect.  But it is a stylistic choice I made when I started talking about tournaments.  There are two alternatives that I know of.  One would be to put a letter "t" in front of the chip count.  Like, "he bet t5,000."  Or "I bet T5,000."  You see that in poker books.  But for some reason, I really find that unacceptable.  I just don't like the way it looks.  I find it clunky, for lack of a better word.

The other way is to just put the number of chips without anything in front of it.  So it would be, "He bet 5,000."  I don't like that either.  The number without a symbol in front of it just looks naked to me—and not good naked.  It just strikes me as wrong.

So basically, I find both alternatives stylistically and aesthetically unacceptable for my blog.  If others do it, that's fine (and again, technically correct).  But for my blog, I want the style I want, and even if it means I am violating some poker standard, that's the way I do it.  It just looks a lot better to my eye to do it the way I do it.  And since no one has complained, I guess it's ok (or, perhaps the sticklers have all stopped reading my blog—or never read it in the first place).  Besides, when I say, "I bet $25,000," no one thinks I bet $25,000 in actual cash money.

Anyway, I had seen Matt at tournaments a number of times, and a year or two ago I actually introduced myself to him and shook his hand when I played a tournament at Commerce (we'd actually had a lot of back-and-forth on Twitter in the lead-up to this particular tournament). Matt is also the TD at Commerce, if you didn't know. But I didn't expect him to remember me on sight.  Thus I took to Twitter to "say hello."  I tweeted about playing at the same table as Matt before the tourney started.  However, he never acknowledged my tweet (either on Twitter or in person). 

Spoiler warning:  I didn't cash.  That should be obvious anyway.  If I had cashed in big tournament you can be sure you would have heard about it well before now.

Thus I'll only mention a few hands.  In the first level I got the dreaded pocket Kings.  I raised and had a few callers.  The flop was Jack-high and I bet and got one call.  I bet again when the board paired a 5 and was called.  The river was yet another 5.  I made another bet and he folded Ace-high face up.

Winning a hand with pocket Kings so early in the tournament made me feel invincible.  OK, not really.  It actually made me feel relieved.

A few levels later Matt made a standard opening raise and I called with Ace-Queen of hearts. It was a pretty good flop: Ace-Queen-8, two diamonds.  Matt made a c-bet and I raised nearly 3X his bet.  It folded back to him and he tanked for a good long while before folding.

A level or two later, I again called a Savage raise with Ace-Queen and we were heads up. I was the big blind.  The flop came Ace-Jack-x.  For some reason, I donked out a bet.  I don't recall why I did that and I didn't explain it in the voice notes I made the next day.  But when Matt raised me 2.5X, I got very concerned.  I tanked for a good long while and remembered why it's not a good idea to call a raise with Ace-Queen out of position.  It's a hand easily dominated.  Eventually I decided to fold.  But I couldn't resist doing something I almost never do.  Since it was Matt, I said to him, "Ace-King, Matt?"  He smiled at me and said, "I'll show one."  And with that he flashed me one card—it was a Jack. I couldn't tell if he checked his cards to make sure which card he showed me. That was the only time all day I saw Matt show a card he didn't have to. I will go to my grave believing the other card was either an Ace or Jack.  No way he had King-Jack or worse there.  Right?

Then there was the standard "if only" hand.  In the big blind with pocket 6's, I folded to a raise and a shove.  It was pocket Kings vs Ace-Queen.  The flop came Ace-6-x.  Would have been a nice triple up for me if only I'd made a terrible call.

The guy on my right was a really poor player who basically liked to see every hand, almost always limped in and stayed too long.  He was also a slob.  He was an older guy and kept ordering coffee (or maybe tea).  He would throw the sugar packets—among other things--on the floor.  When he inevitably busted out, he left all kinds of debris behind.  It was so bad that the cute young lady that was sitting on his right took the time to clean up his area after he was gone.  I looked at her as she was doing this and she gave me a look that said, "Can you believe this mess?"

I lasted through the dinner break and also through our table breaking. There was the guy there that made a kind of mental error that really cost him his tournament life.  First he put out a big stack, but there was oversized chip mixed in with his stack—his bet was a lot more than he intended.  When a guy shoved over him, he must have felt he had too much in the pot to fold.  He had pocket 7's and was facing pocket 10's.  He didn’t improve. He confessed that his initial raise was a mistake due to the his biggest chip being hidden among the others.  Very  next hand, now short stacked, he shoved and was snapped called.  This time he had the pocket 10's.  The snap caller had pocket Aces and the Aces held.

I was actually pretty happy with the way I played but I just couldn’t get my stack built up enough.  And so on level 12, short-stacked,  I looked down at pocket Queens.  There was a raise in front of me, Of course I shoved.  It folded back to the raiser who snap called.  He flipped over two Kings and boy did I dread them. To rub it in, there was King on the flop.  The turn card was a Queen which was a cruel joke.  Could I go runner-runner Quads?  No.  I was done. I have to admit, losing set over set was bad, but imagine how much worse it would have been if the Queen was on the flop and the King was on the turn.  That would have really the ultimate poker-tease.

It was an enjoyable tournament though—as enjoyable as losing without cashing can be, I suppose. BTW—Savage cashed and advanced to Day 2. Apparently directing all those poker tournaments has taught him something about how to play the game.


  1. Nice to see you win with the Dreaded KKs. :)
    FWIW, I do prefer the tournament chip amount without the $ sign. Poker players understand what "25,000 raised to 80,000" in a tournament means. Anyone who doesn't understand isn't getting any better understanding the the dollar sign added. JMO.

    1. Thanks, David.

      It isn't a matter of anyone understanding what I mean if I leave off the $ sign. I know it will be clear if I leave it off. I just don't like the way it looks. It is a stylistic thing and I think people understand that I'm not talking about "real" dollars.