Thursday, April 26, 2007

Running Diary Part II

I took some notes while playing event 3 of the WSOP Circuit Tour thing. So with a shout out to Bill Simmons and his "running diary" format I humbly offer you good reader an inside look at my tournament experience yesterday afternoon at Caesars Palace.

12:03 p.m. (PST): I arrive in the poker room a few minutes late due to traffic related to the construction on Frank Sinatra Blvd. Frank Sinatra is the easy non-tourist way to travel anywhere on the West side of the Strip. Unfortunately "they" are building a some sort of village behind the Bellagio. From what I hear it'll have housing, shopping, etc. But most of all it seems like it'll just make navigating Strip traffic even more of a nightmare. I guess I'm finally a Las Vegas native. I've only been living here 4 months and already I'm complaining about the expansion. It's sure not the Vegas of January 2007 that I once knew.

12:08 p.m. (PST): I buy in and get seated. I'm at a table with late entrants and so no cards have been dealt yet. The main tournament room is full so my starting table is out in the cash area. I'm not sure why they have different sized poker tables at Caesars some are definitely smaller than others. This one was definitely meant for 9 people and not the 10 they have squeezed in here. Maybe this table is fine for a bunch of skinny Europeans but us fat supersized Americans need a bigger table. If anyone should know that it's Vegas. Your average poker player needs more space, not less. Aren't we fighting a war so that we can have poker tables that Americans can fit at?

12:09 p.m. (PST): We start with 2000 in chips. Blinds are 25/25. First hand I get 9 10 suited in the big blind. Guy in middle position raises to 100. Small blind calls. So do I. 75 to win 225 baby! Flop misses me. Middle position bets. I fold. Down to 1900.

12:13 p.m. (PST): Limp in with 4,6 suited on the button. Flop flush draw. Checked to me. I bet. Two callers. Turn misses flush but gives me straight draw too. I check behind them. If they have a pair that was worth calling on the flop, it still looks good on the turn. River fills up my straight which is even better for me than the flush because it doesn't look obvious. Early position player bets out 200. Second player folds. I raise to 500. Early position folds. I'm sure that person was wondering what the heck I could have that I would have checked the turn with but then raised on the river. If they asked me I would have said "Oh, I sensed weakness in your bet."

12:49 p.m. (PST): Our table breaks. I have 2300 chips as I walk to my second table.

1:08 p.m. (PST): Blinds are now 25/50. I flop a set of 6's in an unraised 4 player pot. I bet 150. Guy to my left raises to 400. Two other players fold. I can't see his chips but from the way he threw the 400 in he ain't going anywhere. Neither am I. I overbet and toss the rest of my stack in front of the betting line. Other guy raises his arms to show he has nothing left. The 400 bet was an all in. So what does the dealer do? He takes all of my chips and drags them into the middle along with the other guys 400 chips.

Say it along with me....."FLOOR."

The 400 chip guy has two pair so while we're waiting for the floor to come I tell the dealer to deal out the turn and river. If I win the pot the whole thing is a non-issue. I only need them to count out all the previous bets if I lose the pot. Dealer follows along, deals out two rags. I take whole pot and win my stack back.

1:29 p.m. (PST): Unfortunately they break my table again. Too bad too cause the players made me look real good. I'm up to 3300 chips.

1:43 p.m. (PST): I win a couple of big pots at table #3. We take a ten minute break. I now have 6000 chips. I'm cooking.

2:28 p.m. (PST): Been pretty card dead. I've folded every hand for the first two orbits at the 50/100 blinds of level 3.

2:44 p.m. (PST): We start level 4 by going to 100/200 blinds. I have 5600 chips.

2:52 p.m. (PST): I'm on the button and excited to see a playable hand: King Jack suited. Guy to my right pushes all in for last 900 chips. I think he might be pushing here simply because no one has entered the pot in front of him. I think this call was also one of those "gee I haven't played a hand in an hour"calls since I'm trailing any ace. But losing 900 chips won't kill me. And winning 1200 will give me some cosmic momentum.

I was right about his pushing because no one entered the pot in front of him. He ends up having only queen high. The problem though is the big blind (bigger stack than me) also calls the 900 out of position. The flop comes 2,3,3 with only one of my suit. The big blind bets out 1500. I have to fold.

Big blind turns over his pocket queens and eventually takes the pot. Of course the way poker works the turn and river complete a runner runner flush for me. Fascinating. The correct move would have been making the incorrect move. Obviously I should have pushed preflop.

3:08 p.m. (PST): With blinds at 100/200 I pick up pocket queens in middle position. I make my standard raise to 600. I'm obviously not picking on the big blind but he's this really loose aggressive player so I'm real happy about the coincidence of my "stealing" his blinds. As expected he calls.

Flop comes 10, 8, 7. Two spades. This smells like potential trouble. Using
the power of negative thinking TM I can visualize him having jack 9. Or 10 8. Or pocket 7's.

He checks to me and of course I have to bet. I bet 900 into the 1300 pot. He calls.

Turn is 7 of spades and completes the flush. He checks to me. Some players continue bet here. It's one of those "depends" situations. I still have plenty of chips and decide that if I bet here I'm committing my entire stack to this pot. Since I have no spades I want to take a look at the river. So I check.

River brings a blank and he fires out a 1600 bet. But then again he has to. I've shown weakness on the turn. Whether or not he's hit his hand his bet is appropriate. I count out my chips. If I call and lose I'll still have almost 2000. Not a complete disaster. In fact by not pushing all in on me, this gentleman is making the call easier to make. It feels good to knowing that I'll still have enough chips to try to double up with if I lose.

But lets go over the hand. He's loose aggressive. He's not afraid to bluff. If he's missed his draw he has to bet since it's the only way he can win the pot. I don't think he has trip 7's. The hand I fear is jack 9 and that he flopped a straight. But if that's what he has then good for him. I decide to pay him off. I call. He turns over king high. I win nice size pot.

I will admit it would have been a much tougher call for all my chips.

3:35 p.m. (PST): Our second break. End of 4th level. I have 7100 chips. Average is 5200.

4:01 p.m. (PST): Level 5 is 100/200 with 25 ante. I get pocket aces. They hold up. Up to 9500 chips.

4:23 p.m. (PST):
I'm basically taking one pot per orbit in position to stay around the 10,000 chip mark. Twice I take the blinds and antes with raises from the button. Whenever I raise from the button I feel like I'm stealing even when I have a hand.

4:31 p.m. (PST): I have ace jack off in the big blind. Medium stack raises from the cut off. I think I can get him to fold with a reraise here. Sure I'd have to play the hand out of position if he calls but unless he has a big hand it's a very hard call for him. But before I can put my raise into the middle I feel some pressure from my bladder. What is my bladder trying to tell me?

I'm not sure if my bladder is saying he has a bigger ace or what but it doesn't matter. I don't screw around. I immediately fold.

My bladder helping me out of bad situations is almost unfair.

4:33 p.m. (PST): UNOFFICIAL VEGAS FACT: When playing poker I wash my hands in the bathroom before I pee since my fingers have been touching the cards and chips I'm sharing with all of these random dirty gross disgusting people. However when I'm at a table with a couple of really good looking women I might lick my fingers when I get to the bathroom.

4:35 p.m. (PST): Back from the bathroom, my clean hands pick up ace 5 suited and join the limped action from late position. Flop is 2,3 queen. One of my suit. We all check and the loose button fires out a 500 bet into the 1250 pot. Everyone else folds but I call. I think he'd make this move using his position with any two cards. I figure I also have at least 7 outs not including the runner runner flush that might come. Turn is a blank. I check to him and he checks too.
This is good news. I looked him up on the flop and his check is telling me he may have bet with nothing. River is another queen. I bet 1200. into the 2250 pot. Maybe it's a little small but I'm trying to bet here like I would if I had a queen. I assume he doesn't have a queen since he checked the turn. I guess I could have bet closer to 2000 but if I actually had a queen I'd WANT to get called. And a 1200 bet is asking to get called. It's begging to be called. And for all I know I'm actually ahead in the hand and not bluffing. Maybe he has 4,5 and bet an open ended straight draw on the flop.

Loose guy calls and shows me 2,4 for a pair of 2's. Wow. Amazing call. The only hand he could beat is a busted draw which is exactly what I had. Since I played the hand just like I would have if I had the queens I guess we can say he has no idea how weak I play. He correctly assumed I didn't have a queen because I didn't bet the flop. Boy is he confused. He needs to brush up on my school of tight weak poker.

4:44 p.m. (PST): It's a big increase in blinds for level 6. We go from the 100/200/25 ante to 200/400/50 ante. So instead of 550 an orbit, the price to play is now 1100 an orbit. My chips fluctuate from 7000 to 10000. I can never get my stack above 10k. Now 7 to 10k was plenty to play around with at 550 an orbit. But suddenly with the price doubling and my M dropping below 10 I can feel the pressure of playing a hand. There's no more goofing around. If I play a hand now I almost have to be willing to go bust on it. For example with blinds now at 200/400/25, lets say I raise preflop to 1200 with ace king. Now if I continue bet on the flop (regardless of what hits) I'm suddenly committing half my stack to the hand.

In some ways this is freeing. Suddenly hands like top pair top kicker become legitimate.

4:52 p.m. (PST): Caesars announces the tourney data. 522 players entered this event. They'll be paying 54 of us. First place is 73 thousand.

5:08 p.m. (PST): My table breaks once again and I get moved into the main tournament room. We started with 52 and now we're down to 10 tables. I only have 6200 chips left. I pick up ace 9 suited under the gun in my first hand. The blinds are going to crush me. I can't fold here. I come in for 1200. Everyone mucks. I take a much needed pot of antes and blinds to get back up to 7300.

5:33 p.m. (PST): Another ten minute break. Blinds for our next level are 300/600/75. 1650 a round. He he.

6:27 p.m. (PST): For the past 45 minutes I've been picking up one pot per orbit by pushing all in. Since I win the exact amount of money that it costs to sit at the table for 10 hands, I am basically stuck on 7300 chips. This amuses me to no end. I can't double up if I don't get called. Yet I also can't be eliminated if no one calls me.

6:28 p.m. (PST): My table breaks again. We're down to 70 players. At my new table I get moved right into the big blind. But then in my second hand it gets folded around to me in the small blind. I'm one on one with another small stack. My cards don't matter. I push. He folds. I mention this hand because it's one of those hands that you usually don't remember the next day. Just one of many hands that wasn't shown down. But if he wakes up with anything playable here this easily could have been the end of me. Best part is the guy tells me afterwards that if I had made a smaller raise he would have called and I could have won additional money from him. I think what he was really trying to say subconsciously was "nice raise."

But he brings up a good point. If you actually have a hand you want action. Thus that's why I think everyone folded at my last table when I came in under the gun (with my ace 9 suited) for only 1200 when the blinds were 200/400/40. A standard 3x the big blind raise at this point in the action screams big hand. Kind of like limping in or mini raising under the gun. And likewise the all in bet late in the game often screams "weaker hand" that doesn't really want any action.

6:35 p.m. (PST): The level is over. They're racing off the smaller 25 denomination chips and then we have our dinner break till 8pm. I have 7800 chips. 65 players remain.

7:05 p.m. (PST): I order the hot turkey plate with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. I went with the creamed spinach side dish instead of the mac and cheese that Allen Kessler highly recommended when he ordered in front of me in line. But don't hate Allen for liking the mac and cheese. He ordered the mashed potatoes to go with his turkey just like me so you can see we're not completely different people.

(EDITORS NOTE: Kessler will go on to win this tournament so perhaps the mac and cheese is part of the dinner of champions.)

8:01 p.m. (PST): Back at the table and blinds are now 400/800 with the 100 ante. 2200 a round. He he. One thing I find really amusing about the way poker tournaments work is that I have close to the same number of chips I had over 6 hours ago. And my point of view on what 7k is worth keeps changing. 7K seemed like alot in level 2. Then it started to not seem like enough in level 6. And now here we are in level 8 and I'm psyched to have 7800. Average is around 16k and so if I can double up just one time, I'm suddenly back on par.

See? Everything in life has no meaning. Or to put it another way, we decide the meaning of things in life. Our perception. I can feel rich with 7800. Or I can feel poor. But either way it's still 7800.

Meanwhile it's just amazing to me that I can go hours without winning a real pot (other than stealing the blinds) and still be okay here with just one double up.

8:26 p.m. (PST): My table breaks again. I haven't moved this much since I drove around the country in an RV with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver. 58 players remain. 4 more eliminations and we all make money. The crazy/frustrating thing is I want to push all in. I want the chance to double up. I want to get chips to be able to actually make a move in this tournament.

I am so willing to be the bubble boy who gets eliminated and makes nothing. If only I could find a hand to do it with. I'm not talking pocket aces. I'd move all in here with MUCH worse. Any pair. And two picture cards. Any two suited connectors. Just something that I won't embarrass myself with when I get called. And I am going to get called. I only have 5700 chips and sit at a table of pretty big stacks. My chips are bleeding away. It's painful to watch. But every single hand someone raises in front of me and I look down and see 2,6 off suit. And so I fold.

8:27 p.m. (PST): My big break comes. Boy do I get lucky. It has nothing to do with cards. Instead what happens is I walk over to my new table and see that the big blind is in the seat to the left of me! I sit out one hand and then I come in behind the dealer!. No blinds for 7 hands!

I really can't discount the importance of this. This alone might catapult me to the money.

8:37 p.m. (PST): It gets better. Too good to believe. I'm at a table of dunces. They each take a few minutes to make every single decision. We're still on the first hand!

Basically what happens is whenever it's someone's turn to act they stare at the other player. Then they count out their chips. Then they ask for a count of their opponents chips. Then they bet.

Then the other players repeats this action.

It's awesome.

8:42 p.m. (PST): It's still happening. We've played 3 hands in the 15 minutes I've been at this table. We're down to 55 players. If I was a bigger stack I'd be freaking out over how long these players take to act. They're killing all the time in the level. The blinds are about to go up to 600/1200 and 200 ante. It makes no difference to me and my small stack. I'd actually like the blinds to go up so there will be more money in the middle for me to win when I eventually push.

But if I had a medium stack I'd be freaking out right now. I'd be calling time every hand. And I've never called time on anyone. Ever.

8:47 p.m. (PST): This Confederacy of Dunces continue to rule my table. On the last hand (in a 4 player pot) a guy across from me shows three of us his cards as he mucks. Then the woman next to him says "show one show all" and tells the table that he has ace king. Uh...there are still 3 players left in the hand. One is all in. And he's showing cards. And she's calling them out. The floor comes over and warns us all that we cannot discuss hands in progress and that the next player to talk during a hand will get a penalty.

8:49 p.m. (PST): Someone gets eliminated. We're down to 54 players. I make the money. How did that happen? I haven't played a single hand since 6:28 PM when I pushed all in from the small blind before dinner. I shouldn't have made the money. I should have been blinded off.


8:51 p.m. (PST): Blinds go up to 600/1200 and 200. We're nine handed now so it costs 3600 a round. 3600 is bigger than my stack. Please give me anything to play. At this point I'd take any two connecting cards.

9:01 p.m. (PST): We're still moving very slowly. I know I have to play a hand before it becomes my big blind. Guy under gun raises to 3600. Guy second to act calls. I look down and see 10, 3 off suit. I face an interesting math question. I consider calling. My reasoning is that in addition to the 3600 in the pot there is now two more "3600's" for me to win. So if somehow someway my 10, 3 can win the pot I'd have over 10,000 chips. I go back and forth on it. I eventually fold figuring I'm way behind two early position callers. I also think it would still be good enough for me to double up to 7,000ish if I can get cards on any of the next couple of hands. But if I had something as weak as 3,4 off there I would have called. I didn't like giving up my potential straight outs with 10,3.

9:21 p.m. (PST): There are 44 players remaining and incredibly I'm still here. Funny thing is I've moved up a notch on the payout scale as 54 to 46th place make less than 45 to 37th. It took another 20 minutes to play the last couple of hands. I'm now under the gun and ready to push with anything. Even 10,3. I have 2700 chips left after paying my 200 big blind. I look down and see jack, 10 off which at this point in time is a monster as far as I'm concerned.

I toss my chips out there. I almost bet 2600 instead of the full 2700. It's a good trick I've learned. When you go all in the dealers announces "all in." But if I throw 2600 chips out there the dealer only says "Raise to 2600" and there's a chance that someone not paying close attention might fold a hand for 2600 that they would have called me with if they knew they were only risking 2700 total.

It made no difference. The guy to my left gives a whole speech and then pushes his chips in. He's got aces. He has to. His speech was too long and too bad. You know. One of those "Whose turn is it to act? Who bet what? Ah, what the hell, I'm all in...." His aces hold up despite an exciting looking flop and I go out 44th.

Interesting day. Many pros never end up short stacked because as soon as their M gets low they make a move. They don't sit around and fold like I did. Yet looking back over my hand history, there really wasn't a chance to do anything. If someone comes in for a raise in front of me it's really hard to do much with two rags. I wish I could watch a really aggressive player play my cards post-dinner. Maybe they just push with any 2 cards in that first hand after dinner. But when I'm sitting on the bubble pushing with any 2 feels like I'm throwing money away.

9:29 p.m. (PST): I get paid from the cage. As I look down at my watch I can't help but notice that the 11pm tournament is starting in just 90 minutes.

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