Monday, April 25, 2016

Full day of poker

Yesterday Nina and I went to Harrah's Cherokee to play in the second WSOP-C seniors event. (The first was April 17.) I did decently well in it, going out with about 150 left out of 568 entrants, but not well enough to make the money (last 63). As is often the case in such things, winning instead of losing one 50/50 race would have made all the difference.

Next I played in a cash game for a while. It's actually been three years since I played a $1-2 NLHE cash game with chips and a dealer instead of PokerPro machines. I kept forgetting to tip the dealer when I won pots. I started well, but eventually made a bad all-in move and lost my buy-in. The game was already breaking up, so I decided not to start over.

But they were assembling a 10-player, $125 sit-and-go for $1100 cash, winner take all. I don't think I've ever done a tournament format like that. The closest I've come has been some WSOP single-table satellites. I figured I had a couple of hours of good poker left in me, so I signed up. Nina came by when there was just one seat left, and I persuaded her to take it.

I picked a seat card at random and ended up sitting next to a blog reader, who lives in Durham. He recognized me and introduced himself. (Hi, Matt!) It wasn't too uncommon to run into readers at the poker tables in Las Vegas, but this is the first time it's happened since I moved to North Carolina.

I started the tournament epically card-dead. Just could not pick up a real hand to save my life. And every time I thought a good steal opportunity was coming my way, Matt, on my right, beat me to it.

The structure was fast. 2000 in starting chips, blinds going up every 15 minutes, starting at 25/25, then 25/50, 50/100, etc. The whole thing took less than two hours. So after losing some chips to blinds and speculative hands that went nowhere, I had to do something. When there were a few limpers but no raise, I decided to shove with A-3 offsuit and hope for the best. It worked. Matt thought a long time about calling, but finally folded with the rest of them, and I was back to my original stack.

Then card-dead again, until I finally made a stand with pocket 8s, flopped a set, and tripled up. Then I finally had enough chips to start really playing.

We had four women starting this event, and three of them, along with me, were the final four. That's right--I was the last man standing.

One got knocked out and it was down to me, Nina, and an odd older woman. She looked rather like a caricature of everybody's grandmother, including a hat that looked like it was meant for gardening. She was impossible to figure out--not because she was particularly skilled, but because she was so random. She would show up with hands that made no sense to have been playing in the spots she was playing them, and she made bad calls that somehow worked out almost every time.

Nina went out in third place, and I was left heads-up with Grandma. She wanted to chop the prize money. I gather that chopping the last two, three, or four places is pretty much de rigueur in these events, but I politely declined her repeated offers to do so. I wanted the whole $1100, I started heads-up play with more chips than she had (1200 to 800), and I was absolutely certain I was the better player. Besides, the tavern poker league I've been meddling in for the last year or so has given me a decent amount of experience heads-up with weaker players at the end of fast-structured tournaments. As long as I didn't do anything too stupid and didn't get too unlucky, I should be able to win.

And I did. The final blow came when I had pocket queens on the button. She called my raise. The flop was all low, uncoordinated, perfectly safe-looking. She checked, I shoved, and she insta-called with king-high, no pair. That was all she wrote.

Grandma shook hands politely, but walked away muttering something about my unwillingness to chop.

I liked the format. Not a huge time commitment, not too much of a financial investment, but a handsome payoff. It felt good to win.


Memphis MOJO said...

Congrats on the win and the moolah. I'm going to have to report Nina as I'm quite sure she's not 50 yet.

You were card dead early, but that's okay. I've found in these things that it's right to play extremely tight early on, even though that may feel counter-intuitive. Being card dead was effectively the same thing.

Adam said...

Congrats on winning.

A couple quick thoughts. I did some analysis several years ago and concluded any tournament with 15-minute rounds is a crapshoot, which depends almost entirely who gets cards and very little on skill. I'll play them for entertainment value only.

The whole mindset on chopping is silly -- you have 2/3 of the chips but I want half the money. What she should have offered and you probably should have accepted is to take $300 or $400 off the top and play for the remaining money. You both are guaranteed winners and still get to play for a significantly larger pool. That may feel silly given you won, but given stack sizes, she's 25-30% to beat you.

I share the following true story as a reminder that being better and having more chips isn't a guarantee. I got down to heads up at the old Sahara tournament. Other guy wasn't very good and had made some dumb plays at the final table. I had a 14:1 chip edge and he had 1-2 big blinds. First two hands play themselves with him all-in PF and he doubles up twice. Third hand, I shove PF, he calls and wins again. He now has an 8:7 chip lead! Yes that was unlikely and unlucky, but there's a chance. As it turned out, I flopped trips the next hand and crippled him again and this time busted him. But it was 50-50 before that.

Memphis MOJO said...

any tournament with 15-minute rounds is a crapshoot

I find it interesting that (no doubt) the two best players at the table finished first and third. I agree it's a crapshoot, but there's still skill involved. My 2 cents.

Rob said...

You wouldn't chop with Grandma, huh?

You dirty rotten s.o.b. You realize that she had to live on dog food for a week as a result of your meanness?

Still the Grump, I see!

BTW....did that venue get rid of their electronic tables, is that why you weren't used to playing 1/2 with live dealers?

Rakewell said...

The PokerPro tables are not quite gone, but they're being phased out. Now used only in small tournaments, almost never in cash games. So yes, those tables were the reason it had been a long time since I had to tip dealers.

Anonymous said...

@Adam - Last year in our league homegame tournament I was HU and got down to exactly 1 100 chip. There was about 5200 in play. I actually got back to even with my opponent. I didn't finish the comeback and have a great story, but I was quite close.

Still I never will chop HU. If I feel I am a favorite I will never chop HU.