Monday, April 07, 2008

One Person's Story

Whenever you play in a big tournament for the first time, there could be many different scenarios that arise that you make you scratch your head. You think it would be simple as just sitting down and pushing all in until you double up about three times.

However, tournaments are not that easy. From the moment you walk into the casino to the time you get busted out (or hopefully win) there is so much going on that it could be overwhelming.

Poker is supposed to be fun, so don't let the aggravation of pre-tournament antics get you off your game before you start playing. Once you start playing, the poker takes over and you never have to think about waiting around for hours. I don't have a good story to tell, but take it from Mark Matthews, who wrote this in Dec. at a WSOP event at Harrah's.

Here's the link and here's the story.

[I wrote this over lunch in early December, as an email to a few poker friends. They seemed to like the story, so I thought I'd post it here with a few additional edits.]

On December 8th I went to Atlantic City to participate in the 1st day of the December WSOP circuit events at Harrah's. I had some pretty good success for a first time try!

Getting into the Tourn
These are the WSOP official Circuit events… Harrah’s bought the WSOP tourney, and have been taking it to their casinos around the country. First day event... $300+40 buyin. Start time at 12pm. I get there around 10:15am… they had already sold out the first 704 seats. Then it was wait for “alternate” spot which means they fill in from alt list before consolidating tables.

So I decide to hang out in line and see where this goes. Was constantly thinking about bailing, because if you get your shot too late in the levels the buy-ins will gobble up your chips and its not worth it. Was also very frustrated with myself because I was actually up much earlier in the morning and instead of driving right to AC (about 50 miles from home) I found myself wasting time on stupid tasks around the house.

But I digress.

So I stood in line for about 2 ½ hours total before I got to the register and secured my spot. I was the 150th alternate! In the end there were 901 players total.

After the first 2 levels was a break, and players started dropping like flies… and I finally got a seat a table about 10 mins into the 3rd level. (45 min levels. Breaks every 2)

Tourn was split into 2 rooms… When I finally get my shot I was sent to the “real” poker room downstairs. Looking at the table my late start didn’t handicap me at all as there was not one super-stacked player. I hit a few decent hands… including early on having my pocket jacks turn into a flopped full-house that I got decent chips back for. Not too much significant unique play of note at the table, except for the guy to my right who starts playing "push all-in to steal blinds and antes", and gets caught after the 4th time…. Come on.. how many times ya gonna get away with that?

At one time in the early play I was about 18k. and lost 8k to a guy all-in who proceeded to eat up the table after that... he takes the next 4 hands from the table and is over 60k in the blink of an eye.

With 15 mins to go in the 4th level, my table is moved back upstairs (they want the real poker room free for cash games). My 4,000 start was now around 11,000.

After losing 5 mins to move upstairs, with the remaining 10 mins in the level, I win several hands in a row… including pocket aces that held up against pocket kings, knocking the guy out taking his 10k. In ten mins I went from 11k to close to 40k.

Goofy Side Story #1
The guy from earlier is still with me to my left… and he decides to have one of the complimentary massage professionals come over to loosen him up… “1/2 hour please”. I think this is insane... a half hour? After about 10 mins she starts pounding on the guy's back… he has his head down in a towel and his arms taking up twice as much space as he should… the temporary folding poker table is rocking like the boat on Gilligan’s island with every one of her smashes to his back… I was waiting for her to grab another chair and do an “Andre the Giant” from the top of the turnbuckle onto this guy’s shoulders…… I’m just trying to play frickin poker!!!! This guy knew half the dealers.. so he must be very comfortable and could keep focus.. but this is crazy. The table is polite… we don’t say anything too him… and its finally back to normal.

Goofy Side Story #2
A few dealers were pretty bad. You can tell the regulars dealers from people they pulled in from agencies. 64 tables going... and Harrah's apparently has a rule that they can't use their own dealers from Casinos under the same company (according to dealers in the tourn). Saw many mis-deals... bad counting of chips... not being able to count... The craziest story.. was a guy at my final table telling us a dealer twice in 3 hands dealt the FLOP without dealing cards to players!!! (The dealer had been dealing without getting the antes from the table... which is a no-no... When corrected by a player.. the dealer screws up twice because he was apparently used to dealing the flop after grabbing the antes.)

Blinds are getting bigger… and so are antes. I win just enough hands to keep me around 35k. Everyone is basically in that range until I get moved… sit down across from a 23yr old guy with about 60k in chips… and in my 30 mins sitting with him (before getting moved again..) he gets up close to 100k. When I leave later, the 2 chip leaders are him and another guy at 140k plus.
Anyway… my final table move… end up at a table next to the “featured table”. I can throw a paper ball at the final table. About 150 in the room (from 902) and only 3 women left. I know this because I sit next to one of them… decent player but she didn’t have enough chips to continue long.

So I have 35k… and I am still right in line with everyone at my table.

They announce the payouts. Paying top 90. Winner gets $67,000. Payouts start at around $350, and every 10 players or so bounces up another $70. You really need to hit top 20 or higher for real cash. When they get down to 91 players, they start playing “hand by hand”. Every table starts hands at same time to make sure they know the bubble-person. Play was slow, and players were tight. After the bubble is determined normal play starts again. At this point, all electronics.. radios.. Ipods.. had to be taken off.

Blinds are getting up there… 1500-3000, 400 ante.. and then 2000-4000, 500 ante. I don’t catch anything too exciting… float around 30,000 chips then start dipping lower… about 27k

Goofy Side Story #3
Guy across the table… friendly guy… he slightly out chips me. This guy proudly tells our part of the table that if he wins it all this would be his second time in the spotlight… the first being when he made “a movie you don’t tell mom about” with one of the 3 models that were part of the Spuds McKenzie Budweiser promotion in the 80s. Umm… In other venues I can be a fan of hearing about the oddities that other member's of our society bring into their lives... but I am feeling good about my chances of moving up in the tournament ranks so I'm not interested in his shot at an IMDB entry, and I'm now getting concerned about the germ content on the playing cards. I also don't think the young woman next to me cared either and I was expecting her to say “who is Spuds McKenzie?”. Thankfully, no one asks for details and the story fades.

Actually, he was probably the closest brush with a celebrity I had the whole day.

Nice little surprise bonus: At the dinner break (around 7pm) they give us a $10 food coupon to be used at any of the restaurants in the casino. There is a temporary food stand set-up in the tournament room, but I opt to catch up with a friend of mine and we end up at the new Harrah's Waterfront buffet. Price is $29 minus my $10 food credit... a very reasonable $19. This place is worthy of a blog post of its own, so to make it short... they have an AMAZING variety of very high quality food. Steaks to order. Crab Legs. Asian Food. Pasta. Desserts... I will be coming back with my family, probably in January and I hope to blog about the restaurant then.

Anyway…. on to my demise.... I am big blind. 4,000 + 500 ante already committed. I am dealt A-Q off. Table folds all the way around… till it gets to the position right of the button... to the previously mentioned Spuds McKenzie guy. He doubles the big-blind… 8,000. I think very quickly (one of my traits..) … consider just calling.. but I think he has high connectors, or low-mid pair… standard move for everyone in the tournament up to this point is to go all-in with high pairs... with my stack moving closer to the low side… I push all-in. He calls after 2 mins of thought.

He has Q-Q. (he didn't follow the rules, he should've pushed all in pre-flop!!) I have A-Q. I have straight option.. or mo’ Aces.

Flop comes Q-10-6… He "sets up"… I am toast.

I am out. 69th postion. I cash for $473…. 10 hours into the tourn… So I made a cool $13 per hour. Woo-hoo. Before taxes. weee. Subtract my $340 buy-in, and... ah, I don't even want to type it.

I beat myself up a little over my push all-in… but then realize if I had just called, the moment I see that Q on the flop (and my Ace kicker) I was pushing all in regardless…

So my fate was set regardless.

I am listed in the event winners...

And I now have a player profile page at the official World Series of Poker website.

Damn... I hope that doesn't count as my 15 minutes of fame.

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