We arrived just as the tournament registration was finishing up, and since I couldn’t check into my room until noon I decided I might as well pass the time reuniting with fellow ARGErs at the poker table. Matt finally convinced me by offering to take half my action. I told him it was a lousy investment, outlining my reasons from above, but the long drive and lack of breakfast must have addled his brain because we ended up making this deal anyway. After a mad scramble to get a Taj card, I signed up for the tourney and took my seat. I was about to play my first H.O.E. tournament.
I found that the rotation game format really kept me paying attention in this tournament. Having to think about a different game every half hour or so kept things interesting, and I really enjoyed it. (Anyone know of any rotation tourneys online?) I found that my Omaha game was on par with the players around me, and I muddled through the Stud rounds without spewing too many chips. My basic strategy in Stud early on was to fold almost every hand except the ones I was 100% sure were playable, pinpoint the players at my table who seemed to understand the game, and watch them play theirs. (I also saw a fair number of examples of what not to do…)
My stack remained healthy through most of the early rounds. As the blinds increased, I started to worry more about the fact that I would not be able to make it deep in this tournament without winning some Stud hands. The pots in Stud were the largest being played, and I needed to get my hands on those chips sooner or later.
My first huge pot was not in Stud, but in Omaha. One player limped and I limped behind with A4xx double-suited (sorry I don’t have more precise hand histories). The flop came with two low cards and one diamond. I held the Ax of diamonds. The turn paired the board, and I donked along to the river, where I hit my flush. I called one bet, as did the limper behind me, and when we turned up our hands I was up against a smaller flush for the high and ended up with half the low as well.
I was accumulating chips nicely and never had much concern for my chip stack. Until I was moved yet again and found myself with Jeff Calkins and Bill Chen on my right and Rob “ActionBob” Hwang on my left. And oh, good, the Stud round was beginning.
Bill wonders if he’ll make it to his speech on time.
I don’t know much about Stud O8, but it seemed to me that as long as I went for the low, I could sometimes back into a decent high and still win. I scooped two huge Stud pots at this table, both with two pair. How could this be?? On one hand, no one had a low, and on the other my two small pair were good. Is this common in Stud? My only other experience with split games is Omaha, and two pair are rarely good for the high in that game.
Stacking my chips, I looked up and saw that Jeff had a pair of chopsticks as his bust-out prize just as Lauri had. I wanted them. During the Hold ‘Em round, I looked down at two red sevens. Jeff was short-stacked and called my pre-flop raise. The flop came ten-high and he moved in. I wanted those chopsticks real bad so I called. Jeff showed two overs (ace-jack, I think?) and got no love from the turn or river. Jeff was out and the chopsticks were mine! Woot!
Now I had a serious stack, and entered my favorite part of a tournament: the part where I have chips and start raising like it’s going out of style. During the course of this tournament, someone gave me the nickname, “Raising Station.” I took that as a compliment. I was able to steal some blinds/antes/pots during the next few rounds (and to be fair, I was also getting smacked with the deck) and built my stack even bigger. One by one, players were getting knocked out around me (and sometimes, *by* me!). I started to think I might have a shot at going really deep in this thing.
The raising station (center).
Thank goodness I’ve built up my tourney stamina online during the past few months, and thank goodness that the deeper you get in a tournament, the less the specific game matters. Nine hours after we began, I found myself at the final table. The blinds were insane, and any given hand could turn the short stack into the chip leader (and vice versa). I made this swing a couple of times myself as we remained eight-handed for nearly an hour. Then there was a rapid series of bust-outs and we were four-handed: Rob “Suddenly” Catlett, Bill Chen, Gabe DeVitto, and me. It was approaching 8pm, when the banquet was supposed to begin, so we had a pitiful number of sweaters. They were busy admiring the Poker Stars ice sculpture upstairs.
Since I was a moron and didn’t record any of this sooner, I have no remarkable hands to report. Bill busted fourth, followed by Rob, and that left Gabe and me to duke it out heads up for the trophy and the money. After some brief confusion, Gabe and I decided to switch to NLHE, since it would make everyone’s lives easier. After several hands, I thought it would be sporting to mention to Gabe that I’d won the Fossilman heads up NLHE event at FARGO in October. Upon hearing this he decided to come over the top of me on most of my (steal?) raises and put me in some very tricky situations. The blinds were 5K/10K and there were only about 150K chips on the table. This couldn’t last much longer…could it??
Gabe had the chip lead and I held KQo. I raised and he pushed all-in. I only had about 3BB in my stack so I called and he showed ATo. The flop treated me well: KQx. No help came for Gabe and I was back in it. We traded the chip lead back and forth and played heads up for about half an hour. By 9pm it was all over, and I had emerged victorious, scoring my first official ARG tournament win. This meant several things:
1. I was a HOE champion (NOT a champion HOE).
2. I got a fascinating plaque.
3. I was in the running for “Best All-Around.”
4. I owed Matt Matros two thousand bucks.
So apparently the theory still holds true that I should play any tournament Matt tells me to (I always win them). Apparently I am also a good investment. Interested? 🙂
I don’t know why I even went on so long about this frigging tournament since the real fun began once it was over. Gabe and I sashayed over to the cashier to collect our winnings and then set off to find the banquet. Ten hours of playing makes a girl hungry! The food was excellent, and we even made it in time to hear Bill and Jerrod speak. After feasting in celebration of my victory, I met up with Ivy Janet and we headed over to the Showboat for drinks. Then we found Matt, Kevin, and Buckshot and continued the fiesta in the Taj’s lounge. The conversation was great and the company was even better. It’s so nice to have so many friends gathered in one place. It just doesn’t happen that often, and I really feel blessed when it does.
After one last late-night cameo in the poker room, and some pit game nonsense with Steve and Ivy, it was time to retire. My awesome roomie Joan and I recounted the evening’s adventures and then got some shut-eye in preparation for the next day’s event: No Limit Hold ‘Em.