Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Live from the World Series of Poker

My Shot at the World Series of Poker

I arrived in Las Vegas at 4:00 PM and checked into the Hard Rock Hotel. I was pleased with the room even though I had some initial trouble getting the TV to work. After freshening up a bit, I went down and caught a cab to the Rio.

The World Series of Poker 2006 is being held in the big convention center at the Rio. It is a poker player’s wet dream. There are over 200 tables in action in the main convention center. There are tournaments, satellites, cash games, tv final tables, and spectators. Outside the main room, the online poker sites have set up hospitality suites where you can sign up for their site and even meet some of the pros.

I started by walking around the room and trying to get a lay of the land. I saw too many poker celebrities to mention. I finally stopped a floor person and asked how to sign up for the $1,060 mega satellite. I was directed to the cashier cage where I forked over $1,060 in cash and received my table assignment. I still had an hour to kill, so I wandered around the hospitality suites. I picked up some free swag and wandered back to the tournament table.

As it was getting closer to the start time, I was becoming disappointed because it was obvious that there were not going to be a lot of players. The final total was 34. I figured on a Friday night, there would be a big crowd, but I guess it’s not close enough to the Main Event yet.

Play started at 7:10 PM and I must admit I was a little nervous. I was in the 1 seat so I could only really chat with the players on my left. I introduced myself to Justin, who was a younger man. I found out he had almost finished his economics degree at Carnegie Mellon, but he had put off taking his finals to play in a World Poker Tour Tournament in Southern California. Uh oh. He immediately ordered two Coronas. I would later figure out that the satellite did not mean nearly as much to him as it did to me. He bluffed off a lot of chips and was short stacked for quite some time.

The rest of the players seemed rather average. In the early rounds, I saw a few mistakes in people overplaying top pair, and raising preflop with some questionable hands. My strategy was to play very tight early and use that to my advantage later if needed.

I won my first pot by raising from the button and winning the blinds. My heart was racing and I knew I was going to need to calm down to play my A game. I decided ordering a beer was not a bad idea, so I jumped on the Corona band wagon. That really helped and I immediately felt more comfortable.

A couple of rotations later I picked up pocket fives and limped in for 50. The big blind raised to 200 and the other limpers folded to me. I decided to call and hoped to flop a set. As the dealer burned a card and dealt out a stack of three cards to turn over for the flop, I chanted to myself, “five, five, five!” The flop was 5-8-J. The raiser bets 1000, which is a bit of an overbet on the pot. I calculate how much it would be to raise, and how much I would have left. I decide to just push all in for 2500. Some how he thinks he has the odds to call and all he has is Ace-King. I double up and I am feeling really good.

A little later I flop another set with pocket Jacks. The board is 9-T-J I lead out for about ½ the pot and get called by one other player. An Ace comes on the turn and bet all in. I don’t want any draws to keep going. I have him covered by about 2,000 and he finally mucks. Now I am up to 8600 after this pot.

Things were going really well. At level 4 we were cruising along and suddenly it’s the last hand. I have Kh Qh on the button. There are two limpers for 200. I raise to 600 and they both call. The flop is 9-T-J. I flopped the nuts! The first limper now moves all in. Wow! The second limper folds. I double check my cards and say, “I call.” The first player had 9-T for two pair. The turn and river do not fill him up and I am up to 14,000 in chips by the second break.

That feeling was the absolute highlight of my poker career. For the next 10 minutes on the break I was leaving messages for Jon in Arizona and dreaming of playing in the Main Event. It really felt like it was going to happen. I was catching great cards and even better, others were catching good second best hands.

I did the math in my head and figured out that with 3,000 in starting chips and 34 starting players, that there were 102,000 chips in play. I now had 14,000 in chips at the 2nd break. If I could just maintain my stack by winning an occasional pot or stealing the blinds once in a while I could make it to the final table with an above average stack. I liked my chances in a one table sit and go paying 3 spots.

If it was at all possible, I was going to play even more conservatively, because I could afford to. The blinds at level 5 were 100-200 with a 25 ante. When we got back, there were a few people that had not made it back to their seats. I picked up pocket 4’s in the cut off and I decided to steal the blinds. The big blind was a shorter stack with about 2100 in chips and decided to reraise all in. I was getting 2-1 on my money so I called hoping for over cards. He had pocket Jacks and I lost a small pot there.

When the big blind came back around, I think we were at 100-200 blinds with a 25 ante. With 9 players at the table there was 525 in every pot in the beginning of the hand. It was folded to the small blind. Earlier he had tried to steal and I jokingly told him as my cell phone was ringing, that it was a blind stealing alarm. I need to defend. This time he only limped in. I had K-3 offsuit.

The flop came down K-J-3. The small blind led out for 600. Thinking that I am ahead, but I don’t want to let a draw play cheap or take the chance on getting counterfeited. I decide to raise to 2000. The small blind thinks for a little bit and then raises to 5000 total. Decision time.

This player had raised with weak aces before and had made some aggressive moves earlier in the tournament. I had not seen him get out of line for the last hour though. The only hands I thought someone could reraise me with were K-J for a better two pair or trip Jacks. I decided to lay it down and protect my stack since he had almost as many chips as I did.

Looking back, this is the one hand I really felt I misplayed. I even called the Bluff Radio show and asked Kenna James to analyze the hand. He said my first mistake was not raising preflop. There is 625 in the pot, why not take it. K-3 is a better than average hand, plus it would define my opponent’s hand. If he had been limping with JJ, I would have found out pretty quickly. Then after he bet on the flop, I should have just smooth called. He could be betting with a King or a Jack. I don’t think he would lead out that big with trips because I had not shown any strength at all. He would try to keep me in the hand. I can smooth call the turn and make sure a Jack doesn’t come or and Ace or 9. If I dodge those, then I am almost a lock to win the hand. My guess now is that he had Ace-King. He tried to slow play in the beginning and then was trying to take all my chips with the reraise.

After hearing the opinions of Kenna James and others on the 2+2 board, I think I missed a great chance to break him here.

From this point forward, I pretty much went card dead. I did pick up Aces once, but only picked up the blinds. I also reraised all in with AK after a tight player raised in early position preflop. I figured she would lay down anything but Aces or Kings and if she did not, then I would race for a decent chance to double up.

At the end of level 6 I had been chipped away to 8000 with the blinds going up to 400-800 with 100 antes. We had made it to the final table. I wanted to push all in against the stacks that were my size thinking I could get them to fold a very high percentage of the time. The problem was that the medium stacks were also calling stations so I wasn’t as comfortable that they would realize they should fold hands like King Jack.

The other problem is that my cards were so awful that I did not want to go bust with a hand like 10-5 offsuit. I just couldn’t live with myself. I was very patient and finally picked up 66 under the gun. I raised all in and one player called for all his chips. Before I turned it over, he asked if I had Aces. I had been playing so tight, he thought he might be beat. He turned over Kings and I did not improve. I did not have enough to even pay the big blind the next hand. I went out in 7th place after my Jack-Ten did not improve.

So the so called good news was that I made $208 back from my $1,060. When I left, I felt like I had played the best I could. I was very patient and remained focused for the entire tournament. Obviously I could have made a couple of better decisions, but I cannot fault the effort that I put into the tournament. I think that’s all I can ask of myself.


Anonymous said...

Hey Larry. How's it going? Its T.B. from San Jose. I check in once in a while to read your blog ... I wish I was in Vegas right now! Too bad 'bout your 7th place finish ... How long are you going to be there? Time to break out another "G" and win yourself a buy-in to the big game!! Come'on ... I need someone to cheer for!
with 8k players, top 600 or so will be in $$. To make top 600 should be piece of cake for you huh ...

best of luck

Poker Bully said...

Thanks TB. I am not going back unless I win my way in online. I have a couple of last gasp efforts this weekend, so we'll see.