Wednesday, January 30, 2019

"They Were Wearing Practically Nothing"

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 4

Returning now to the story of my car troubles in December.  By the way, since I am breaking up this story with other types of posts, I've created the label "Stranded in Vegas" for all chapters in this saga.  So you can just go to that label to find all the chapters. The previous chapter is here.

I didn't sleep well that Wednesday night, thinking about my predicament.  No car, no place to stay Friday night of NY's Eve weekend if I didn't get my car back.  I had reason to suspect that my car wouldn't be ready Thursday.  So the first thing I did in the morning was call the hotel manager.  I explained my situation to him.  He said he could extend my stay if I wanted, just let him know.  I was really concerned about the place being booked so he just locked it up for me.  So much for the hotel being booked solid.  What do they do with the folks who already reserved my room?  Oh well, not my concern.

There was one problem—there was no way he could give me the rate I was paying for the two weeks I'd been there.  He had to charge me more—about 20-30% more each night.  I didn't argue, because that was still a ton less money than the woman at the front desk had told me they were charging for rooms for this weekend just yesterday—assuming they had rooms, which they didn't.

So that was a weight off my shoulders. At least I was covered and wouldn't be homeless over the weekend.  Of course I could always sleep in my car except….well, if I had a car, I wouldn't need to sleep in it, I could drive home.

But that was just the failsafe, I really wanted to get my car this day and drive home on Friday as planned.  I didn't need the extra expense of staying over the busy weekend. I felt like I needed to push TC to get to work on my car.  So I called him late morning.  It wasn't ready and honestly, it sounded like he hadn't even started on it.  I gave my sob story, which had elements of truth in it.  I reminded him that I was planning on driving home to L.A. tomorrow and that I needed to pack up the car first thing in the morning in order to do so.  I told him I had no place to stay if I was stuck in Vegas (well that was true as of yesterday) and that if I had to find a place to stay over the big weekend, it would cost me a fortune.  I even told him if I had to pay for a room over the holiday weekend, I wouldn't be able to afford to pay for the repair (fortunately that wasn’t true).  So he said, "OK, I work on it right now.  Be ready in two hours."  Yeah, I was pretty sure if I hadn't called and really pushed him, there would have been no chance of it being ready that day.

So I called a couple of hours later, in the early afternoon.  He said it would be ready in a half hour.  "I can pick it up in half an hour?"  He said, "Ready in half-hour." OK, so I decided to just go over there.  It'd take me almost 1/2 hour to get there and if I was there and he wasn't finished, maybe my presence would help motivate him.

I got a Lyft over there and I saw him working on it.  So I was standing outside in the cold while he finished up.  And it was really cold.  There was a fair amount of wind and it really cut through you.  I was still wearing my mid-weight jacket which wasn't enough.  I couldn't get to the back seat of my car to get my heavier jacket.  It was unpleasant. 

It did occur to me that maybe it wasn't such a good idea that I was there.   After all, I didn't want him to feel rushed because I was waiting for it. I wanted him to do it right.

I did see him add coolant to the reservoir. This was important, something Woody warned me about.  He told me to find out if he had to dump a lot of coolant out to do the repair.  You see, as I found out a few months earlier when the Lexus nearly overheated, there is a bug in the design of the radiator for this model. When you need to fill the radiator with coolant, it is a bit of a process.  The coolant doesn't drain into the radiator from the reservoir all at once.  You have to fill the reservoir, warm up the engine, and then it will empty into the radiator.  You have to repeat this process multiple times in order to fully fill the radiator.  When I had the problem during the summer, I had to add coolant about half a dozen times before it filled up.  By the way, the Lexus nearly overheating months before turned out to be a fairly minor issue to fix (The Wiz took care of it, of course).   

So I asked TC if he had to dump a lot of coolant.  "I added coolant."  I said, "Did you have dump a lot?"  "I added coolant."  Ok then.

Just remember what I'm telling you about adding coolant for future segments (that's called foreshadowing, folks).

TC showed me the old part and I asked him for it (Woody wanted to inspect it to make sure it was actually bad). 

Woody was concerned with the quality of the replacement part.  So he told me that the first thing I should do when I got the car back was "stress it."  He said the part would most likely either fail almost immediately or be fine.  He suggest a trip on the freeway to Red Rock and back would be a good test.

So finally TC told me it was ready and I paid the agreed upon price.  I was very happy to drive off in my Lexus.  I headed for Red Rock.  Except not Red Rock.  I really had no reason to go to Red Rock.  However, across the way from Red Rock is a big shopping center.  Among the stores in that shopping center is a Costco.  Perhaps the best bargain in all of Vegas—or all of America for that matter—is a Costco hot dog at the food court.  For $1.50 you not only get a pretty big hot dog but they throw in a soda for free.  And the soda is all you can drink. Furthermore, they also sell excellent pizza by the slice for $2.  So I just figured after all I'd been through with the car, I deserve a little treat, right?  Woody told me to drive out there anyway.

So I headed to Red Rock, I mean Costco.  There was a car problem I noticed almost immediately, however.  The "check engine" light was on. It wasn't lit when I dropped the car off.

I should have turned around immediately and taken it back to TC, except for one thing.  That damn check engine light had come on a few times recently and it was always the same thing.  Something to do with a Catalytic Convertor sensor.  Well I had actually replaced that, but the check engine still came on with the same code.  I had just used a code reader myself to check the code and reset it because there was nothing wrong with the damn CC.  So when I saw the check engine light come on, I kind of assumed it was just the damn CC sensor with another false positive.  However, by the time I parked at Costco, I decided I needed to play it safe and double check the code in case it was something else.  So right there in Costco parking lot, in the freezing cold I plugged in the code reader and checked.  But the code that came back had nothing to do with the CC.  Nope, it said something about a faulty Crankshaft sensor.  Oh shit.

Well that was a new development and I knew I had to get my ass back to TC asap before he closed.  No pizza and hot dog for me.  I headed back to TC's shop. 

Then, just as I was just about an 1/8th of a mile or less from his shop, all of a sudden, the battery light came on dash board panel.  That didn't seem good.  So I pulled into the shop and told him about the check engine light and the battery light.  And he immediately went to work on it.  I noticed that the first thing he did when he looked under the hood was rip out some kind of belt.  Yikes.

I watched him work for awhile.  The car was in the driveway and I could at least easily access the back seat and get my heavy jacket.  I even got a sweater out of there to put on underneath the jacket.  But I was still freezing.  The weird thing was that the door to his office/waiting area was locked.  I realized why that was.  The only way the door would stay closed was to lock it.  Otherwise it stayed slight ajar, blasting cold air inside with each breeze, and it was plenty breezy.  And there was always someone inside.  In addition to possibly one or two of his employees, there was an elderly lady who was always there.  I'm guessing she was TC's mother who had nothing better to do all day but sit in the office while he worked.  She sat there reading stuff on her cell phone.  She didn’t speak a lick of English.  But they kept that door locked to keep her warm.

But TC did unlock the door and he told me wait inside.  I could see what he was doing from the window.  But I couldn't go outside and talk to him without unlocking the door.  I was actually sort of  a prisoner there—locked inside, with no car to escape with anyway.

As I said, the car was in the driveway.  It appeared TC had half the engine apart.  So one time, as it was getting dark, I saw someone drive the car—with the hood still up, blocking the windshield—into one of the bays.  Yikes that was scary.  But I guess one of this workers was guiding it in there, since the driver couldn't see anything.  Still wonder how they got the car moving with half the engine missing!

At one point he came to me and told me that that it needed a new gasket.  Do I want to just replace the gasket, which was very cheap, or the gasket and the thermostat?  I had no idea.  Fortunately Woody answered my call and I had him talk directly to TC.  I believe Woody decided that just the gasket would do for now.  TC told me he didn't have the gasket but he ordered it and it would be delivered soon.  I later saw a woman drive up and hand him a part, which I assumed was my new gasket.

TC's shop closes at 6pm.  At least that's what he told me and that's what it said on the sign.  But it was now getting to be past 6pm and he was still working on my car.  Obviously he intended to get me out of there that night.  But it was past 6:30 and there we all were.  At one point the woman let me out to check on it and there were actually four different people huddled around the Lexus, all working on it.

Meanwhile I was starving, and had gone too long without food.  I had been trying to think of what I was going to do that evening, two different plans, one for if I got the car back and the other if I didn't.  But it was getting to the point where I had to eat really soon.  I had noticed there was a Subway just up the street from the shop.  I decided that as soon as I got out of there, that was my first destination, either on foot or by car.  It was literally just a few hundred yards from his shop.

Finally he told me the car wouldn't be ready that night.  He said the belt didn't fit.  It was too small.  He had to order a new belt and it would be there at 9am in the morning.  The car would be ready at around 10am.

Well ok, that's that then.

I immediately walked over to the Subway in the freezing cold.  It was pretty deserted.  The nature of the neighborhood (a lot of car repair places and similar businesses) made it obvious that wasn't a popular place for dinner.  But I bet it did a landmark lunch business.

The sole employee working there was a character. As usual, I asked for "a lot" of toppings.  He asked, "Do other Subways put on this much toppings for you? Or is it just me?"  I said, "No they all do.  Well one did give me a hard time, but I complained to corporate and they ended up having to give me a free sandwich."  He said, "Really?"  I assured him I wasn't joking (see here).

But then he asked me something odd.  "Are you gonna eat all this in one sitting?"  Yes, it was a foot long.  My usual.  I said, "I sure am….I'm a growing boy."  But I did kind of find the question somewhat insulting.  He shouldn’t be implying that his customers are pigs, right?  Anyway, since it was just the two of us in there for most of time I was eating, he was cleaning up a bit and saw that I was done and asked, "Was everything ok?"  I've heard that question many times at restaurants, but never at a Subway.

Anyway, with the car still not in my hands, I knew I wasn't driving home the next day.  Truth be told, once I secured the reservation for the weekend, I had been thinking about staying at least one extra night even if I had been able to pick up the car Thursday.  I mean the rate I got for Friday wasn't that bad and I thought with all the lost time I'd wasted with the car, maybe I deserved one more Friday night in Vegas.  It started sounding like a good idea to stay Friday and then head home Saturday.

So I probably would have decided to do that even if I had my car back.  Now that I wasn't going to be able to get the car at least until late morning Friday, well for sure I was staying in Vegas Friday night.

Meanwhile, I had to decide where to play this night (Thursday).  I had spent a good portion of the afternoon freezing.  Even when I was inside TC's office, well, it was warmer than outside but it was still a bit chilly.  And I had spent a lot of time outside in the cold.  That brief walk to the Subway was really cold.  I was about to be outside in the cold waiting for a Lyft ride.  So I decided where to play based on what poker room I thought would be the warmest.  Seriously, I did.  There were two good options, at least on the Strip.  Either the Wynn or the Mirage.  I opted for Mirage because the Wynn is 1/3 and since I hadn't been to an ATM in a few days (because, lack of car), I didn't have sufficient cash on me for 1/3).  So it was Mirage.

I requested the ride and went outside to wait.  And froze.  If it was freezing cold during the day, you can imagine how cold it was now that the sun had set hours before.  It was only a few minutes but it seemed longer than that in the cold.  But the car did show and I got in and I found heaven.  The car was warm inside.  Wonderfully, blissfully warm.  It was awesome.

The driver was a young black woman and she was quite chatty.  And a total delight.  The first thing I said to her when I got in was how great it was that car was so toasty.  I think I said, "This is the best I've felt all day.  It's great in here.  I think I'm gonna just stay in your car and ride around with you all night. Is that OK with you?"  She said sure. "You can be my riding buddy."  I told her about the experience I had with the very cold Lyft car the other night.  She said she would never do that to a passenger.  "You're supposed to make sure the riders are comfortable."

I told her how I'd been cold all day.  Then I explained why I was going to Mirage.  I said it was the warmest poker room in the city.  And I said, "If anyone ever asks you what's the warmest poker room in Vegas, you can tell them it's the Mirage."  She said she'd remember that.

She told me about some passengers she'd recently had.  First, she told me about the guy from North Dakota who was wearing shorts.  And even then, he was too hot.  He was sharing the ride with a woman who was sitting in the front seat.  She had the car nice and warm and he was begging her to turn off the heat and put on the A/C.  She refused because the female passenger was enjoying the warmth.  So the guy insisted on opening his window, and the lady started complaining about the draft on her neck.

Then she told me about the two young girls she had just dropped off.  "They were wearing practically nothing."  Wait, what?  Young girls wearing minimal clothing in Las Vegas?  That's a thing now?  Who knew?  She continued.  "Short dresses, no coats, one of them had her stomach exposed, one had cutaway leggings."  And she had dropped them off at T-Mobile Arena for the hockey game.  I asked, "Were they going to a club after the game?"  She said, "Exactly."  Now how did I know that?

She warned them that they were going to freeze to death dressed like that, but one of the girls said, "Oh, I'll be fine once I get a few drinks in me."  I pointed out that the arena would be pretty chilly too, as I'm led to believe they keep the temperature cool for a hockey game so the ice stays hard.  She said she told them that.  I said, "Well, I guess she can get some beer at the game."

So….a woman, a total stranger, basically telling yours truly about the Slut Parade?  What are the odds?

And with that, we close another saga in this long-running saga.  The next chapter can be found here.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Long Day at Commerce (Part 2)

Part 1 is here.

I started level 8 (1200/600/1200) with $8,900. And even tho my dinner was definitely going to be at Commerce, I still didn't mind the thought of busting before the break, as I thought I was dead anyway and also, if I did bust, I could possibly find a few better food options at Commerce than the snack bars upstairs by the tourney.  Which maybe explains why open shoved 9-8 off.  But no one called and I was still alive.

And that took me to the break for my hot dog dinner.  Had no choice but the snack bar wienies, scarfed down during the break.  Don't ask me how they tasted, I ate them too fast to notice.

Back from break for level 9 (1,500/1,000/1,500) with only $8K, I was beyond desperate.  I had an M of exactly 2. I had one foot and a few toes from the other foot out the door.  But at least I'd be driving home on a somewhat full stomach.

When I looked down at 9-8 again, I opened shoved.  And again no one called.

The very next hand I had Ace-Queen off.  This time there were limpers in front of me. I shoved.  One of the limpers called.  He had a big stack, and he had been at the table with me from the beginning.  I believe that after one of my earlier shoves he had said (after the hand was over) something about me not having played a hand for two hours).  Now he thought about it awhile before finally calling, it wasn't a quick decision.  Then he flipped over King-Jack. He groaned when he saw my A-Q.  He was unhappy.  "I thought he was making a move," he said.  I didn't say this, but I thought, "No, that was last hand."  After a blank flop, and Ace hit the turn and ended the suspense.

I had my double up, to 26K.  That was nice, but I was hardly out of the woods.  Thus, after another orbit or so, same level, when I looked at King-Jack under-the-gun, I thought a shove was the right move. Maybe it was a bad risk, but it felt right at the time.  Well, I got called by a big stack, than the guy on my right, also a big stack, shoved.  The guy who just called tanked but eventually called.  It was now a three-way all-in.

The first guy showed a pair of Queens.  Ugh.  The second guy showed a pair of Aces.  Double Ugh.

I swear I muttered under my breath, "I need a straight."

Ahem.  The flop came Queen-10-9!  The board didn't pair so the guy with the set of Queens was runner up.  He took the chips from the guy with Aces that I didn't get.  And the guy with Aces was done.  He walked away shaking his head, saying, "I had the best hand."

Nothing like a triple up to get you back in the game.  Suddenly I stopped thinking about how soon I was going to be heading home.

That was the last hand of the level, so I started level 10 (2K/1K/2K) with $75,500.

The guy with the Queens indicated he was surprised I had shoved with such a weak hand, especially since I had "just gotten some chips."  I'm sure the guy with the Aces felt something similar.  I didn't say anything, but in my mind, I was still short and desperate.

And the guy who had previously doubled me with K-J to my A-Q said, "Look at your stack now.  You were dead.  You had nothing.  Now look."  And then he muttered, "And I gave him that double up."  Honestly, with my stack, his stack and the fact that he was already in for the big blind amount, I don't see how he could have folded there with King-Jack. 

Now I want to discuss two other players at the table.  For the past few levels, there was this older gentleman there, mid-80's, who kind of put me to shame.  He seemed to be handling the tournament discomforts a lot better than I was.  He wasn't tired, he didn't seem concerned about meals or drinks or bathroom breaks.  I must feel older than I am.  He was a real chatterbox too, very friendly, and actually, very entertaining.  He was talking about his life and since he was on the other side of the table I didn't hear complete stories, but he seemed like he'd led a interesting life.  At one point one of the younger guys at the table said, "You must be from Queens.  Queens or Brooklyn.  You're obviously a New Yorker."  But no, he said, he was born in Los Angeles and lived here all his life.

Then he said, "I went to Dorsey High (a local high school anyone from L.A. has heard of).  I was on the baseball team.  You know who was on that team with me?  Sparky Anderson."  Well that was cool.  I did remember that Sparky was from L.A. and I even remembered that Sparky went to Dorsey—at least when he said it, it came to me.

When he busted out (after he crippled himself with a really bad bluff) he stood up and said, "Whenever I bust out of a tournament, I always say the same thing as I leave the table.  Gentlemen, it has been a great pleasure playing with all of you. But go f*** yourselves."  This had everyone at the table in stitches.  Even the dealer, the only female at the table, cracked a smile.

The other player of interest was the guy who replaced the guy on my immediate right whose Aces.  He was a young guy, brought a good amount of chips to the table from the one they had just broken, and he was a tough, tough player.  It didn't take me long to see that he was really good.  I soon realized I was lucky that he was on my right and not on my left.

Now, after I got that triple up with the straight, I went back to being card dead, and since I had a decent stack to play with, I wasn't looking for shoving opportunities, I could actually play poker again.  And the most amazing coincidence happened.  It seemed like the only times I got playable hands, the kid on my right had open raised the pot. So most of these times, I called.  I didn't have nearly a good enough hand to three-bet him but I had a hand I was willing to call a raise with, especially since I'd have position on the guy. Usually it was with a low pocket pair, which I could afford to play for awhile.  Or maybe just big cards.  But during this period, I don't think I once played a hand where he hadn't raised first (except one time when he was the big blind and I was UTG).  And I never played a hand that he had folded.  If he folded, I always had garbage that I threw away.  I was just playing the cards I assure you, it wasn't intentional. 

But the guy definitely noticed.  He started commenting on it every time I called him.  Or even when I folded after he folded.  At one point I said, "It isn't intentional, I swear."  He acted like he didn't believe me.  "It's every time.  Sure."  Another time, I said, "I really wanted to fold when I saw you raise but I just couldn't."  And he said, "No worries.  I want the action."

Those hands I played against the good player on my right hadn't panned out so far, so I got to level 11 (3K/1.5K/3K) with 57K.  I finally got a big pocket pair, UTG, but it was only Jacks.  I opened to 8K and got two calls, including the guy on my right was the big blind this hand.  The flop was Ace-high and I checked, it checked around.  The turn card was nice; a Jack.  I bet 15K and took it down.

In the small blind, I had Ace-Jack of spades.  It folded to the tough player on my right on the button and he made a big raise—8 or 9K.  I thought about three-betting as I was thinking he was just making a move.  But then I thought, this guy is a better player than me, he might come over the top and put me in a tough spot.  So I just called.  The flop was Ace-high with one spade.  I checked because I planned to check-raise over his inevitable c-bet.  But he checked behind. 

The turn was another spade, giving me top pair, good kicker and the nut flush draw.  This time I led out for 15k.  He surprised me by going all in.  Gulp.  Did he really have something?  Even if he had a set, I had outs to the nuts.  I had to call, so I did.  Turned out he had something like 8-5 off but he did have a gut shot.  The river blanked and I had a nice double up—against the toughest player at the table.

That took me to 148K, which was what I had for level 12 (4K/2K/4K).

Unfortunately, I didn't take good notes about where the money bubble was or when they finally broke our table.  But my best guess is that when we took the break that came after level 11, we were really close to the money.  They were paying 103 and I think we had 106 at the break.  Players at my table were joking about being close to the money—and a whopping $40 profit.  See, it isn't just me who thinks the min cash is too min.  I believe we played one or two hands after the break, and they were about to stop us and go hand-for-hand when a couple of people busted out at virtually the same time (including one from our table) and they announced we were all in the money.  So I had at least won enough to pay for my gas down there and the hot dogs I'd gobbled down.  It was a pretty amazing turnaround from like three levels before when I was virtually on my death bed. 

When we made the money I had enough chips to think I could really build my stack and make it to day 2 with a stack worth coming back for. But playable cards were hard to come by and the blinds were really putting a huge dent in the stack.  I didn't write down a hand from level 12 and was down to 93K when level 13 (6K/3K/6K) began.

I got pocket 5's and my friend to the right of course raised (didn't note the amount, it was a reasonable raise).  The flop was Ace-5-4, two hearts. He bet 20k.  I shoved and he folded.  That got me to 133K.

Under-the-gun, I bet $15K with King-Jack of diamonds.  Only the big blind, my buddy, called.   The flop was Queen-10-4, rainbow.  I bet $30K.  He tanked for a bit.  "I guess you must really have something good.  You did open UTG."  I thought he was gonna talk himself into a call but he let it go.  He asked me what I had and I didn't tell him.  I think he'd have been surprised I bet so much with just a draw.

Then they broke our table.  At the new table, I was the short stack, everyone seemed to have tons of chips, and there was always, always a raise.  I had nothing to three-bet with and nothing to open with on those rare times I could have opened a pot.  I seemed to get 5-2 offsuit three or four times in a row when I could have opened raised.

I was following the pay jumps.   It seemed like earlier, it hadn't taken long to get past the $160 spot and into the $200 payout.  But it did take a long time to finally get to the $250 payout, which was the highest payout for day 1. But I did survive into the $250 payout range. If I wanted more, I'd have to survive the day and come back Sunday.

Before that, as the blinds were eating away at my stack fairly rapidly, I had become somewhat cautious.  It seemed like if I didn't take any big chances, I could likely fold my way to the $250.  Obviously you can tell I did take some risks but they were limited.  Once I got back down to a fold-or-shove stack, I was tight until I hit the larger payout.  Of course, the cards I was getting made it easy to do.

So after not playing a hand in level 14, I was down to 63K for level 15 (12K/6K/12K).  Believe me, I tried to find a hand to shove with before that but just couldn't get one.  Before the big blind came to me (for the second time this level), I knew I'd be committed with any big blind hand, so I really hoped to get something decent or even semi-decent to shove with.  But I kept running into 5-2.  I think I saw 9-3 in my UTG hand.

I was very happy with my big blind hand. Queen-10 of clubs.  I knew, since almost half my stack was already in the pot with the big blind and the ante, the rest was going in there no matter what happened before it got to me.  There was a raise, two calls and I shoved.  Two players called. One had pocket 9's and the other had Ace-10.  Ugh.  I needed exactly a Queen—or another miracle straight.  Instead a useless 10 hit the flop.  Then a 9 hit the turn.  And another 9 hit the river.  At least I can say I busted to quads.

I busted #40, just 15 away from the top 25 who advanced to day 2.  Not bad.  You know, usually in this format, 8% or maybe 5% advance to day 2.  This tourney, only 3% did.  I finished in the top 5%.  Not bad at all, but not good enough for this particular format.  Considering how card dead I was most of the time, it was a rather impressive finish.  Of course a few nice flops saved me and then there was that fantastic result when I took out both Queens and Aces.  But to get this far in a tournament, you have to get some lucky run outs like that.

It was nearly 10pm, about eight hours of poker.  I was exhausted when I got home.  I probably would have had to have played another hour or two to get to day 2, and I think I would have been so tired I likely wouldn't have been able to play very well on Sunday.  So I was pretty happy with the maximum day 1 cash.  By the way, the min-cash on day 2 was $450.  So only $200 more than what I got for my one-day tournament.  Oddly, that made me feel better about my prize money for day 1.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Long Day at Commerce (Part 1)

Note: This is the first of two parts.

Taking a break from my Xmas horror story, I want to tell you about the tournament I played last weekend.  Commerce started their L.A. Poker Classic series with a $120 buy-in, $500K guarantee event.  You read that right.  Half a million buck guarantee for a $120 buy-in.  Sounds pretty good, right?  How about if I add the fact that they were guaranteeing $100K for the first place winner?

Well to me, the guarantee for first place actually reduced the appeal of the event.  You all know how I feel about those top heavy payouts in tournaments.  And such a large guarantee for first seemed to insure an even more top heavy pay scale than normal.  I frankly think huge first place guarantees are a terrible idea, but I guess they figure it will somehow attract more players   But only one person is gonna finish first and get all that money, and there will just be less money for the rest of the field.  Since I was voted most likely to place in the rest of the field (if I placed at all), it wasn't really to my advantage to have the big first place guarantee.

Let me just give you some of the final numbers to prove my point, even though it means I'm telling the story a bit out of order.  They ended up with 6,454 entrants, so they smashed the guarantee and had a total prize pool of $603K.  Despite beating the guarantee by that much, first place was still "only" $100K, they didn't increase it all.  But they were able to bring second place prize money up to $50K.  Imagine what it would have been if there had been an overlay. Third was $32K and fourth was $25K. Only 81 players got four figure payouts. 

The details are that they had four starting flights for this tourney for four consecutive days, concluding Saturday.  Day 2 was Sunday and for good measure they had a final day 1 flight Sunday morning at 8am (a turbo).  The regular flights were at 10am, 2pm, 6pm and 10pm, with the 10pm having 20-minute levels, the others having 30-minute levels.  At some point on day 2, the levels would increase to 40-minutes. 

Each individual starting flight would play past the money bubble.  One in eight players would be in money, with only 3% of the each field advancing to day 2. 

When I looked at these details I made a few observations.  For one thing, with such a big guarantee and relatively small buy-in, I knew the turnout would be huge and they wouldn't have much trouble hitting the guarantee.  I also knew that those day 1 payouts would be very small, and the min-cash would really be somewhat pathetic.  I knew you'd really have to hit that 3% who advanced to day 2 to have any chance of making any serious coin. Honestly, there haven't been many tournaments I've played, especially with huge fields, where I've lasted down to the final 3%. 

Through Twitter, I asked the Justin, the tournament coordinator at Commerce, what the day 1 payouts were. Justin use to run tournaments at the Aria by the way, and I knew him there.  He told me it was $160, $200 and $250.  So the dreaded min-cash would be essentially your buy-in back plus another third of that buy-in on top.  Well, I knew it wouldn't be close to the "double your buy-in" amount that I think is fair.  I asked him what the day 2 min-cash would be.  At that point, he didn't know because that would be determined by the number of total players.  He said it would be at least $300 but probably considerably more.  That was important to me because it is pretty much a pain for me to drive down to Commerce, and a second trip the next day needed to be worth it.

It was tempting to skip it, truth be told.  I mean it's a great tournament and you don't get an opportunity to play in events like this all the time in L.A.  But driving all the way down there for most likely a very small pay day gave me huge second thoughts. I probably would have had a much easier decision if Commerce was close to where I live and easier to get to.

But for reasons I don't want to get into, this was really my only viable poker option on this particular Saturday.  And I hadn't played since New Year's Day. So I headed down there.  Of course I opted for the 2pm flight, which I suspected (correctly) would be the largest flight of the tournament.  That wasn't the reason I picked it, it was just the most convenient for my schedule.  They were saying the day 1's were running like 8 hours but I figured that this one would run longer for sure.

Traffic getting down there was just horrendous—on a quiet Saturday afternoon when nothing was really going on around town.  Just unbelievable.  I recently got criticized for using Waze or Google Maps to get around Vegas, but the latter was a life saver.  I mean, I know how to get to Commerce but Google actually had me get off the damn freeway at one point to get around a major bottleneck.  Shaved 20-minutes off my drive. 

Then it took me forever to find a parking spot, and it was a long ways from the casino (and that parking lot is terribly designed, but I won't bother you with an explanation).  By the time I finally entered the casino, I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I really was tempted to get right back in my car and head home, but there was no way I was ready to face the freeways again so soon.

I realized that years of working from home has softened me up. I think if I was still doing an awful commute twice a day, five days a week, the drive through downtown wouldn't have bothered me so, it'd likely be better than my daily drive.  But now that I only have to walk downstairs to get to work, I just have no tolerance for the damn traffic—or the horrible condition our roads out here are in.  I mean, half the time on the drive it felt like I was riding on railroad tracks.

I had an very unproductive thought at that moment.  I wasn't sure I even wanted to make day 2.  I mean the thought of doing that drive again was so unappealing to me.  I was actually thinking I'd prefer to bust-out early than face that again.  Great attitude to have before a poker tournament, right?  Well, I managed to talk myself into wanting to come back.  But only with a really big stack.  No short stack. No way I wanted to come back and just get the day 2 min-cash, it just wouldn't be worth the wear and tear on my mind, my body, and my car.  Go big or go home.  Play reckless near the day 2 bubble and either bust out or build a huge stack that would make me a contender for a pay day worth that doing that horrible drive a second time in two days. Sounded good in my mind, anyway.

I was about 45 minutes early.  I purchased a bottle of diet 7-up from the gift shop, had a nice chat with Justin and was ready to go.

I must say it was quite a project running all these flights the same day and the Commerce handled the logistics of it flawlessly.  I was watching and wondering how they figured this all out. The tournament is held in a big ballroom of the hotel, I believe they had 68 tables. I kind of laughed when I thought about that, although I've played in the exact same location before.  Commerce is the largest poker room in the world.  There are more poker tables in there than any place else on the planet on a normal day.  Yet to run this series they needed to bring in 68 more tables?  Amazing.

Anyway, they had 527 entries for the 10am flight.  So by the time they started the 2pm flight (my flight) they were breaking tables from that flight pretty fast.  Late reg was only open for four levels so the field was shrinking.  Still, I think I saw that they had over 200 players left by the time our flight started.  Meanwhile, they eventually seated 821 players for our flight.  Talk about a huge field!  So they had every table in use when our flight started.  And still they had alternates. I think everyone who was able to register by 2 was seated right away, but at some point I was able to see a long line of alternates just waiting for bust-outs to start playing.  At one time, like 3pm, the lines for both registration and alternates were both really long (my table was very near both lines so I could see).  Yet the TD's had everything running smoothly.  They were replacing busted players with alternates with almost no loss of time.  I swear, when we lost players a new one showed up in what seemed like a minute or less.  It was impressive.

And of course, every time they were able to break a table from the 10am flight, they wasted no time in setting it up for our flight.  How they kept track of all this, I have no idea. Must have mapped it out in advance.  But then I started wondering if they knew at what point they had to stop turning 10am flight tables into 2pm flight tables and start saving them for the 6pm flight?  Or were they sure there'd be enough players gone from the two flights that they didn't need to hold any open?  I dunno how they would know that.  Because anyone who registered by 4:15pm was allowed to enter even after late reg closed, there were still alternates to be seated during level 5, and maybe even level 6.  Not sure.  My hat's off to the management of the tournament for running this huge event so smoothly.

What didn't go smoothly was the tournament for me.  Same old story, totally card dead.  But this time it was even worse than usual.  I think I set the indoor record for garbage hands.  I started looking for spots to be creative but the dynamics of the table made it difficult.  I thought it was pretty obvious early on that I wouldn't have to worry about returning to Commerce on Sunday.

For a tournament with such a big guarantee and a three-figure buy-in, the structure was not all that player friendly, mostly due to the 10K starting stack.  That's kind of small these days for this price point.  Like all Commerce NLH tournies these days, it featured the Big Blind Ante.  The blinds started at 100/100 with the ante (which is always the same as the big blind) kicking in on level 2.  So you only start with 100 big blinds.

The only hand I noted on the first level was when I was the big blind with Queen-6 and no one raised.  I lost some chips as it was a Queen-high flop but someone flopped two pair.  Fortunately he played it kind of weak and it didn't cost me too much.

Started level 2 (100/100/100) with $8900 and already my tournament life was about to be on the line.  I called a small raise from the button with King-10 of diamonds.  Three of us saw a flop of King-10-2.  It checked to me so I bet $2,300.  The preflop raiser then check-raised enough to put me all-in.  It folded back to me and I wondered if he had a set.  But his overbet made me think he wanted me to fold.  So I called.  He had King-Jack.  My two pair held and I had some more chips.  

I didn't note any hands for the rest of that level, or for the next two after that.  I made it to level 5 with $12,600.  The first hand of the level I opened King-10 off to $1K and had two callers.  The flop was King-high and my $2,500 bet took it.  The very next hand I was under-the-gun and opened to $1,200 with Ace-King.  Only the small blind called.  I bet out on a King-high flop and took it. 

And then I went back to being card dead.  During the whole tournament, I only saw a pocket pair higher than 9's only once (I'll get to that) and I think Ace-King maybe twice.  I didn't see that many smaller pairs either; fives a few times, nines once, threes maybe once and eights.  That was it.  Suited connectors?  What are those?  Two Broadway cards?  Almost never.  Even suited Aces were virtually non-existent.

So level 7, $10,600 (800/400/800) I open shoved Ace-6 off from the button and didn't get a call.

That didn't help much and I was really convinced my tournament life was just about over.  And that wasn't so bad.  It'd be past 6pm at the next break (after level 8) and I'd have to shove some dinner in my mouth.  Of course there were no dinner breaks for this tourney.  And only the first two breaks were 15-minutes.  After that, they were only 10-minutes.  I had to take advantage of the big blind ante format for both my bathroom breaks and my meal break.

The only Men's room on the mezzanine where the tournament was taking place had only three urinals (and four toilets).  That was to serve 68 tables full of poker players.  This made the lines at the WSOP Men's room seem short.  So I waited to play my button and my cut-off and then headed over to the restroom when nature called. 

Dinner was trickier.  I had a good lunch at home before the tournament, but I knew if I made it to level 8 I'd have to eat then.  The ballroom had a small snack bar with a very limited menu.  The closest thing to dinner cuisine were the hot dogs.  They also had chips, cookies, bananas, pastries and soft drinks (maybe beer, not sure).  Perhaps they had some other hot items but nothing that I would eat.  Actually they had another snack bar on the same floor too, a specific snack bar for the free food coupon they would give you.  All items were $7, which is the value of the food comp you get for playing in a tournament.  They had a $7 hot dog (much bigger than from the other snack bar) and maybe a premade sandwich of some kind and a chicken salad and a few other things.  Again, only thing there for me was the hot dog. 

Except that for this tournament, there was no food comp.  I asked Justin about that.  He said that because the juice was so low ($100 of the $120 was going back to the players), management wouldn't let him give players the food comp for this particular tournament.  Damn, I was kind of counting on a free meal at least.  Also made me wonder why that snack bar that just was for the comps was open. They don't even have prices on their menu (tho I think everything is $7, the value of the comp normally).  Weird.

Anyway, that snack bar would be real busy if I waited to the break at the end of level 8.  It might take me more than 15 minutes to get my hot dogs, let alone eat them.  So as I spied the clock, I had to plan for getting up early before the break and grabbing my dinner then if I could.  Fortunately the big blind cooperated and I saw that I could get up about 2-3 minutes early, beat the rush, and even have time to eat before the tournament resumed. 

Well that was one plan anyway.  But as the last few levels had gone on, and as I had been failing magnificently at accumulating chips, I had another possible plan.  Just bust out of the tournament and go somewhere nicer than the Commerce snack bar for dinner.  It seemed like it was inevitable that I would bust out long before the money anyway. To me, the worst scenario would have been to be alive just by a thread, having to eat there and then bust out right after that.  A crummy meal for nothing.

But as the 8th level started, I realized I was too hungry and had gone too long without food for that plan to work.  I knew that even if I had busted out before the break, I wouldn't be able to wait until I drove somewhere to get a nicer meal.  It would take too long (especially with traffic that time of the evening).  So at a certain point I was committed to eating there no matter what.  I should have busted out during level 6, the latest.

And that's where I'll leave part 1.  Part 2 can be found here.