It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I consider NLHE to be my best tournament game. I felt relaxed and ready for action as the first hand was dealt. Coming off of a four thousand dollar win helped a bit to boost the ol’ confidence as well.
As the first cards were in the air, Jeff Calkins found his seat at the next table over. You may recall from my last post that I won a lovely pair of chopsticks from Jeff the day before.
“Ten dollar last-longer?” he said to me. I quickly agreed.
I got few hands during the first couple hours and hovered around 1K in chips, winning most of my hands by living up to my new moniker (“raising station”) and stealing blinds or whole pots. Still, after having 150K in chips in front of me the night before, my stack felt woefully small, and I was wondering if I’d get to experience that again at any point today.
My first chance came when I was dealt KcQc in early position. I raised it up and got called by the short stack and by the woman in the big blind. Unfortunately, once again I do not remember the specific action. I know the flop had two clubs and a queen, and I know the river was a third club. The short stack was all-in on the turn, and I bet the river and got called by the big blind. I won the side pot and was ready to rake in the main pot with my king-high flush…when the short-stack rolled over Ac9c. Sigh. Nice hand, sir.
I was moved to another table and found myself across the table from none other than my breakfast buddy Buckshot. ActionBob was hovering behind him, and I soon realized that Steve was more interested in busting out of this tourney and going to gamb00l it up with Rob than he was in accumulating chips. This was good information to have when I was dealt AQo in middle position. I was short-stacked at this point and moved all-in. Steve went into the tank. He said, “I have two over-cards,” so I knew I had the best hand. I then reached into my bag of tricks and did what I could to induce a call. (Sorry, I won’t reveal exactly what that entails – if you were there, you got to witness something truly special. j/k). In the end, Steve’s desire to bust and go gamb00l it up probably induced his call more than anything I was doing, and he rolled over AJ.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “the suck-out is coming.” This always seems to happen when the player who is behind wants to bust out (ie, players online who have to leave the tourney and are trying to dump off their chips). For once this didn’t happen and I doubled up. Woot!
I was moved to another table, this one over by the wall. The wall is actually mostly windows that separate the poker room from the hallway (read: smokers’ paradise). There was actually a crowd, some smoking, some not, pressed against the glass watching this table. Apparently there isn’t much to do in New Jersey at noon other than watch a $120 poker tournament. Feeling like a fish in the aquarium, I sat down and took stock of my new table. Players there that I recall were Eric Zak, Stephanie Sommers and TracyB. Others I remember are Matt Hawrilenko, Jeff Calkins, Bill Chen, Dave Fruchter, and 8-2 Chris. (Again, please yell at me if I forgot you).
Tracy had a sweet clock as her bust-out prize, and Jeff had another prize from China, this time a kick-ass wine cozy which was a miniature embroidered, traditional Chinese garment. I wanted it. I also wanted to win our last-longer bet! Soon I had my chance at both. (Jeff, let me know if I get this hand wrong.) I think I had pocket sixes on this hand, and Jeff had two overs (I think KJ). He was very short-stacked and pushed all-in. The price was okay and I had a decent stack behind, plus there was a Chinese wine cozy up for grabs and two red Taj chips with my name on them. I called and my small pair held up. For the second day in a row, I had knocked Jeff out of the tournament. Nothing personal, Jeff – you just have to stop bringing such kick-ass bust-out prizes!
So now I had chips. Here is the part of the tournament where I have chips and start raising like it’s going out of style. Unfortunately, today was also the day I decided to misread my hand. I was on the button and on a steal with Ad 6d. The small blind folded and the big blind, whose name I don’t remember but who plays very solid, called my raise. The flop came Kd Qd x. Beautiful! I lead out with an almost pot-sized bet. The big blind pauses thoughtfully, then moves all-in. Wonderful! I look back at my cards to check on my two diamonds…and see that Lord Voldemort has transformed them into two hearts!!! Cursing He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and my own fricking stupidity, I am forced to muck and surrender a huge chunk of my stack. Now I need chips again.
So anyway, steal steal steal, I hang around for a while. I’m dealt Qd Jd. Wary of suited cards (and dark wizards), I check the suits carefully and limp under the gun. Usually I would raise, but I felt like mixing it up, getting lucky, and doubling up in brilliant fashion. Alternatively, there was still time in the day to go to the spa with Ivy, so busting would be fine with me too. Dave Fruchter obliges me and raises, and I call. The flop comes 8d 9d 9x. I check. Dave, who has exactly two thousand chips left, bets a thousand. I raise and put him all-in. He shakes his head, thinks for a bit, and then…mucks?? I shrug and take down the pot.
The blinds are huge and I steal some more. Eric is getting sick of my “raising station” ways and starts to push back at me. I’m dealt QJo in the big blind when Eric raises under the gun. (I apologize once again for the lack of blind or stack sizes. Suffice it to say that the raise represented about one third of my stack.) I knew I had the worst hand but decided I might be able to outplay him with a stop and go. If he had a big pair, I would head to the spa. The flop was not bad: 2 3 4 rainbow. Not great if he had an ace, which he very well might, but I thought he might even fold an ace if I did this right. I pushed all-in for another 2800, which was about two thirds of his stack if I remember correctly. He thought for a long time and was muttering things like, “I raised under the gun. Under the gun! And you called…and then you pushed in on that flop…” etc etc. He seemed indignant that I would be so aggressive when he had raised under the gun. Eventually he mucked his cards. A la Chao Jiang: “I like play pokahhhh.”
Eric was to get the better of me in the end, though. With the blinds up yet again, I was short-stacked yet again after losing a coin flip to Bill Chen. We were about twelve players from the money when I picked up A4o in the small blind. It was folded around to me and I raised (big surprise). Eric didn’t surprise me when he moved all-in. He had me covered, but I needed chips, and my goal was to win this thing, not finish 18th, so I called. I was surprised when he turned up A8o. The flop came ace-high, but the rest were low cards and there was no split pot. I was out of the game in 32nd place.
Just like the day before, even more fun awaited me away from the poker tables. I first headed over to Red Square, a bar at the Tropicana. Matt, Ivy, Kevin, Rob, Steve, Dave Fruchter and his wife Leslie were all there and on their second round of appletinis when I arrived. The drinks kept coming and the conversation was lively, ranging from poker to politics, mixed with lots of laughs. We had an eight o’clock dinner reservation at Cuba Libre, but before that we decided to engage in some karaoke antics upstairs. I think we scared the crap out of everyone else in the place with our fervor for this art form. After showing everyone my very convincing Cher impression and ripping the hell out of “Love Shack,” I had worked up an appetite for some Cuban food.
We all trooped down to Cuba Libre and met up with the Kuznicks for dinner. Someone ordered mojitos for the table, but I couldn’t drink mine because it was way too sweet. I enjoyed some sweet potato and ground beef croquettes as an appetizer, followed by the “El Churrasco”, a delicious steak with garlic potatoes and yucca fries, washed down with a spunky 2006 Coca-Cola. Richard Brodie, eat your heart out.
Matt and Ivy were moving from the Taj to another hotel, so I helped them move their car after dinner. We had an unexpected adventure at the new hotel, which had its parking garage on the second floor. This garage was only accessible by a car elevator. Since I obviously lived to tell the tale, we can laugh about this now, but it was pretty touch-and-go as we maneuvered the car into the elevator and rode up to the second floor. While I’m glad I can cross “drive car in elevator” off my lifetime to-do list, I’m also glad I will probably never have to do this again.
Back at the Taj, I decided to check out the action in the Poker Stars hospitality suite, since no pink chip game was going in the poker room. Up in the suite, a rotation game had sprung up, $1/$2 HOE. Since Kevin and Steve were hanging around, I knew this could get silly pretty fast, so I grabbed a seat and joined in.
While I was there, Goldie was kind enough to bring me an ATLARGE hoodie, which I had been wanting all weekend. Now would be a good time to add my own accolades to those expressed on the ATLARGE listserv, because Goldie did a fantastic job of organizing and running this event. Thank you so much for all you did, Goldie – your energy and your dedication are just amazing. And thanks for the hoodie!
The biggest pot I won in the rotation game was one where I decided to straddle blind (hold ‘em round). Of course it was capped pre-flop, and on every street, and on the river the board was like J T 9 7 3. The pot was huge, but then Chris O’Connor bet the river and two people folded. I looked at my hand and saw I had a seven. I didn’t see how I could fold for one bet, even with Steve behind me. So I called. Steve mucked a nine face-up and Chris confessed with a grimace that he had absolutely nothing. I won the pot with my pair of sevens. Thanks for the “protection,” Chris!
We ended the poker action with a NLHE sit-and-go. We had ten players, including Kevin, Joan, Rob, Steve, Chris, Kenny, Matt Ivester and others. By employing my typical “raising station” strategy, I quickly had everyone pissed off. Kevin had the misfortune of running into one of my real hands, KK, and busting. He got another chance at me when Kenny had to leave unexpectedly and Kevin took over his stack. Too bad I had AA this time. And that’s how I was able to bust Kevin twice from the same tourney. ;0)
Eventually it came down to Steve, Matt, and me. We traded the chip lead around for a while, and Steve was rivaling me for the title of “raising station.” Finally I picked up AK against one of his crazy over-bet all-ins, and I called. He turned up 34. I rolled my eyes. It was my deal and I stared at the deck in my hand, knowing somehow that I was about to get outdrawn by this monkey. Sure enough, the turn paired him up and I was reduced to a very grim stack of chips indeed. I didn’t last much longer and ended up finishing third for a profit of $20. Woot!
After this I meandered down to idly observe one of the most absurd things you could ever see: professional poker players handing their hard-earned money back to the casino in a pit game. Kevin, Rob, and Steve played three-card poker while I rolled my eyes and inhaled second-hand cigarette smoke. Kevin of course had to go and turn a nice profit, so he learned nothing about the folly of pit games. We swung by the poker room to see if there was anything interesting going on there but didn’t end up playing. After some more late-night meandering it was time for bed. I had decided to shoot for Best All-Around Player, which after my poor showing in NLHE meant that I would have to kick ass in the next day’s tourney, a game I had never played before: Seven Card Stud.