Friday, April 13, 2007

Bellagio $1590

I guess Friday the 13th wasn't my lucky day. Go figure.

I spent it at the Bellagio playing event 6 of their "2007 5th Annual Five Star World Poker Classic." It's two weeks of poker tournaments leading up to their main Bellagio event which is the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship.

654 players bought in creating a prize pool of $951,570. The top 50 finishers get paid. First place was awarded a cool $303,320. The other incentive to win this thing is they also give a bonus $25k free entry into their WPT event.

As if 303K isn't already a good enough afternoon.

When I arrived at the casino to buy in there was huge line to register. I ended up being alternate #76. I wanted to beat myself up for not buying into this thing in advance but players like Eric Seidel and Marcel Luske were behind me in line. So if they can screw up and buy in late I guess so can I.

The good news was people were knocking each other out of this thing like it was on the internet so I didn't have to wait long. Also since the field was so large and the blinds started small and lasted an hour per level it wasn't such a disaster to come into the tournament late.

We started out with 3000 chips and the average stack was still in the 3300 to 3400 range by the time I sat down. No big deal.

What was a big deal however was not getting any real hands to play today. The best I saw the first two levels was ace 10. I picked that up on the button in a unraised pot and joined the party. An ace came out on the flop and a guy in early position bet 300. I called. Everyone else folded.

He checked the harmless looking turn and I bet 550. This is a tough poker moment for both of us. Neither of us has alot of chips nor really knows where the other is at in the hand. If he reraises me all in I probably gotta fold. But then again I could have a set or two pair so he has to be careful. After some deliberation he decides to call.

River is another harmless looking card. He checks to me. This is that situation where I'm only going to get called if I'm beat. If he was on a draw he's gonna fold anyway so I check and turn over my ace 10. He taps the table and says good hand.

This pot puts me up to around 4000 chips and I'm happy to be there.

I limp into a couple of pots with suited connectors and get to see flops but don't connect.

Then right before we're about to go to the 100/200 level they break up our table. I get moved to the other side of the room. My new table gives me a nice view of David Singer to my right and Yehia "Joe" Awada to my left.

These guys have great tournament records and they play the game like you're supposed to. It's a treat to play with guys like this. I know what moves they're going to make before they make them. In many ways it's easier than playing the weaker players. Like when it gets folded to Awada on the button you know he's going to put in a raise. Or when Singer raises preflop you know he's going to fire out on the flop no matter what hits. The real key is either having cards when you get into hands with them or taking a chance that they are indeed just making a move and not holding the goods.

One funny thing that entertained me to no end was Singer getting frustrated with not having enough elbow space. 10 of us are crammed in to a 9 person table so of course it was tight. He was in the 5 seat and seemed to think he should have more space. Normally the 5 seat is right in the middle facing the dealer. But with 10 players at the table, the 5 and 6 seats shared the middle.

Every couple of minutes he would bring it up again. The fact that he was touching elbows left and right. I was going to make a joke about how at least his elbows were on the table and that arms were forced to be by my side but I tried to stay focused. Meanwhile I couldn't help but think of the subtle effects of what he was doing. Was he literally "bullying" the table into giving him space?

Or perhaps this space issue was all real and made him not want to be there. You decide.

Here is the hand he went out on:

Singer raises with ace 10 suited. Gets a caller. A loose player who just won a pot he shouldn't have by not quitting with his ace 6 offsuit and then winning when an ace came on the river.

So when this flop comes 10,9, 6 and Singer bets out and this dude doesn't fold, I just think he may have caught something.

Singer bets again when a queen comes on the turn and this loose guy reraises all in. Much to my amazement Singer calls for the rest of his chips. Maybe he just decided that there were too many chips in the middle to fold. Because I really can't think he thinks he's ahead here. The guy could have a queen. I had a funny feeling the guy had king jack for a straight.

He ended up turning over Jack 8 suited for a lower straight. It was a loose call preflop but by the time we reach the turn he also had a flush draw which hit on the river. The description of this hand said Singer's "(his) two pair ran into his opponent's flush" but it really should have said "Singer called with middle pair when he decided he didn't have enough elbow room."

As for me, I kept getting crap.

I finally picked up pocket 7's, raised preflop, won the blinds but that only delayed the inevitable. By this point I've bled back down to around 3000 chips. Around half the players are out of the tournament so the average is now around 6000. I know full well what is about to happen. I'm going to play a big pot and either double up to a healthy 6k or go home. It's absolutely necessary. It's just a question of when.

Poker is funny. Like when I played Tuesday night I saw pocket kings twice and pocket aces once. I even saw pocket 9's.

Today my best hands were ace 10. And pocket 7's. Yep yep yep. Come watch me fold.

Sure there was the occasional chance to make a move. Like there were one or two times when I had something like 6 9 suited and no one had raised in front of me. But today I chose to fold those. My thinking was that since I planned on playing a big pot when the opportunity presented itself I may as well have as many chips as possible for that moment. So if I raise with 6 9 suited and then get reraised and have to fold I might only have 2000 chips by the time I get a big hand. And then if I double up I only have 4000. But by protecting my 3000 chips I'm giving myself the opportunity to double up to 6000. Either way I gotta win a coinflip.

And the moment finally comes. We're at the end of level 3. Blinds are about to go to 100/200 with a 25 ante (550 an orbit) when I look down and see ace king. After the previous 3 hours it honestly looks like aces or kings. I can't tell which but it sure looks good.

A guy to my right raises to 800. I have 2850 left. Lets discuss my options.

I can't fold. Can we agree on that?

I have position on him. If I were out of position (like in the blinds) some might say I can call here and then do some sort of "stop and go" by pushing my remaining 2050 into the middle no matter what comes on the flop. But since I have position and he raised preflop I expect him to bet the flop. So I can't do the stop and go.

If I call and miss the flop and he bets I guess I can just fold and be down to 2050 chips.

I can raise.

If I raise to 2850 and he folds that's great. I'm happy to win his 800 + the 300 in blinds. That would be fine.

If I raise to 2850 and he calls that's no so bad either. As long as he doesn't have pocket kings or aces then we're going to race. Pushing all in here guarantees my seeing all 5 board cards. No decision to make on the flop.

If I raise to 2850 and he calls it also means that he has to pay me off the full 2850 even if an ace flops. If I just call preflop and the flop comes ace king 3 he might check and fold.

So all things considered, I push all in. This is my moment. All I ask from the universe is that he doesn't have pocket aces or kings. But I really don't think that he does. His preflop raise to 800 (4x the blinds) tells me that he probably has something like a medium pocket pair. People tend to bet bigger with those hands since they have no clue where they stand post flop when an overcard hits.

So I throw all my chips in the middle and raise.

He counts out his chips. He's not exactly a big stack. If he loses this hand he'll be pretty low. But he tosses them in the middle and turns over his pocket jacks.

I can live with that. I turn over my ace king. If I can hit an ace or king then the past 3 levels of having no cards will not matter. I will have a healthy average 6000 chip stack heading into level 4. And with blinds at 100/200/25 that will be plenty to play poker with.

Flop comes 10, jack, rag. He hits a set. But before I can act disappointed I realize that I still have four queens in that deck to make a straight. It's just the way I want to win too. Who wants to hit an ace or king when you can hit a queen for a gutshot straight?

It doesn't come on the turn or river. My day is done.

It's been said many times that to win poker tournaments you have to win the ace king battles.

This means winning with ace king when you go against a pocket pair.

It also means you have to beat ace king when you are holding the pair.

I think one of the years that Johnny Chan won the main event he won all 12 of these battles.

No matter whether he held ace king or the pocket pair, he managed to win.

Today I couldn't do it once.

1 comment:

dave said...

Some days you play it right, and it just don't matter none.

Keep your head down and you will hit the breakthrough.