Thursday, April 01, 2010

Five live

I have played in five live poker tournaments over the past ten days or so, which is highly unusual for me.


The first was last Monday at the Venetian. A reader generously offered to pay my buy-in for the nightly 7:00 tournament, to give him a chance to meet me and to say thanks for the blog. (He cleverly titled his introductory email, "Free money," which effectively got my attention.) This is a pretty well-structured tournament, except for one boneheaded part in which the blinds and antes increase way too much in one step.

My favorite hand was one fairly early in the game in which I called a preflop raise, along with about six others, with 7-9 of diamonds. The flop was 9h-8d-2d, giving me top pair and a flush draw. I checked. The original raiser bet, followed by a couple of callers, then I put in a big check-raise, which narrowed the field to just me and one older gentleman. The turn was the 6s. Now I had top pair, a flush draw, and an open-ended straight draw, with about half my stack in a very large pot. Well, duh! I don't need too many instructional videos to tell me how to play this. Shove. The other guy called. He had Ad-xd for just the nut flush draw. The river was the 5c, completing my straight, though just the pair was all it took to win. The gentleman shook my hand at the next break (he was left very short-stacked, but doubled up a couple of times to survive) and told me he realized what a dumb move he had made and that he should have known better.

But that hand was all I could do. There followed a long stretch without any forward progress. Before too long I was in fold-or-shove mode. I managed to steal the blinds about as often as I had to pay them, keeping myself afloat, but without making any headway. This happened ten times or so without ever getting called. Finally I did it from the small blind with 10-10, and was called by a doofus with 10-9 offsuit. The board came with a 7, 8, and J to give him a straight, despite me being an 85/15 favorite going in. And that was that.

The tournament also gave me the chance to meet one of my Twitter followers, youknoyoulov3me. She was at my table for the latter part of the tournament. I gather she is a dealer at Bellagio, and is self-evidently a fine player.

Thanks again to Matt for the freeroll!


Cardgrrl was in town, of course. One of her reasons for coming was a get-together of folks she knows from Poker Academy, an online site where she did much of her early poker learning. The group had a private tournament Wednesday at noon at Harrah's. The Harrah's structure is thin and fast, with virtually no room to recover from an error or bad beat. It's an amateur-hour luckfest.

I chipped up some early on, but within an hour suffered a pretty horrible beat. I called a raise with A-K. Flop came king-high. Original raiser shoves with K-J. I call. Jack on the river for the 3-outer. That left me short-stacked. Then I was in the big blind with Q-6 (I think; not sure of the kicker now). Under-the-gun guy had limped, so it was just us seeing the flop. It was Q-8-9, so I shoved. He called, having flopped the nuts with J-10. That left me in "any two cards" mode. I don't even remember what hand I put it in with, nor what I was called with, but it didn't turn out well.

Still, it was a fun bunch of people to play with. I even got to steal a pot holding the mighty 2-4, and showed it. After all, this crew is from "Poker Academy"--they're there to learn, right? They need to know about invincible hands.


Friday night at Treasure Island was the first of two tournaments sponsored by It was a kind of strange mixed-game format, with Omaha-8, deuce-to-seven triple draw, stud-8, and razz. The fun of this was that--let's face it--none of us really knew what we were doing much of the time.

My favorite hand of the tourney was at the final table when I was dealt "number one," 2-3-4-5-7, in triple-draw. I expect it will be a long, long time before that happens again. I didn't play it optimally. After David Stucke raised, I three-bet it, when it clearly would have been better to flat-call and let a couple of others in. The chance that anybody would even tie me for the pot was negligible. But the tourney ran much longer than the organizers expected (we ran several past the number of levels they had planned out), so we had been playing for seven hours at that point. To make matters worse, I had eaten something that rather unpleasantly disagreed with me, and had been focusing mostly on not throwing up all over the poker table (which I believe constitutes grounds for a time-out). Combine that with having next to zero experience with triple-draw, and it explains why I didn't play it better. David put in a few more chips and was all in. I called, obviously. (I wasn't quite so impaired as to fold the stone-cold nuts.) I made another mistake at this point, though not too critical: I put my cards face-up on the table. I'm just so used to there being no more decisions to be made after all the chips are in that I forgot that there remained three decision points in this hand, even with no more betting to be done. It didn't really matter, though. Even if you know that you have to improve all the way to #1 in order to chop the pot, it's awfully difficult to do, and the cards didn't cooperate for David. He finished in 8th place.

Four spots were paying, but we negotiated a chop when there were six of us left. I was second in chips by that point, and was one of two people to take $300. (Entry fee was $65.) Two others took $275, and the remaining two (including Cardgrrl) took $250 each.

More details, comments from the players, and lots of photos of both AVP events are available here.


The second part of the AVP bash was a no-limit hold'em tournament Saturday at the Mirage. Not much to report about it. I just never got anything going. On my last hand I got it all in pretty decently, with A-K versus 5-5 for my 10-BB stack, and couldn't improve for the double-up. Oh well.

Cardgrrl did extremely well again, finishing in fourth place (six spots paid). She was the only one to cash in both AVP events, which tells you something of her ability. She is a threat to win in essentially any tournament she enters. I was, as always, very proud of her.


Tuesday evening, after Cardgrrl had left, I was at Harrah's planning to play cash. But it was 7:30, and their nightly tournament was starting. It's the same rinky-dink structure as was used for the private Poker Academy tournament. But there were only five people playing, and looking at them I recognized all the classic symptoms of complete newbies--looking nervous as all get-out, not sure what to do with their chips, asking basic questions about rules, unclear as to seat numbers, etc. I watched them play one hand, and it confirmed my impression that not a single one of them had any idea what was going on. So I called an audible on myself, took my name off the waiting list for the cash game, and entered the tournament.

We finally ended up with eight players after a couple more late entries. I chipped up some, then made one bad call when I should have folded. As I said, this structure is completely unforgiving. That one mistake left me short. I lasted long enough to see three others eliminated. Once again, when I was down to exactly 10 big blinds, I got it all in good, with A-10, called by the big stack with A-6. I was in good shape, until a 6 on the turn did me in--killed by yet another 3-outer. Sigh.

So that's one cash in five tournaments--and, ironically, the one in which I made a little money was probably the only one in which I had essentially zero edge on the field. Total buy-ins: $390 (not counting the Venetian one). Total payouts: $300 (minus $15 for dealer tip). See why I don't usually play tournaments?

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