I almost didn’t play in a WSOP event, but more about that later.
On Thursday, about noon, Chris W., Chris H., Walter, and I headed to Tunica. We planned on playing in a little warm-up tournament at either the Gold Strike or the Horseshoe that night. We arrived at Harrah’s about 4:00 pm. We quickly checked-in and took the shuttle over to the Horseshoe/Gold Strike (they’re located beside each other).
I like the Gold Strike poker room, its located upstairs, away from the main casino and all of it’s traffic. I was on a relatively limited budget, but also wanted to play several non-WSOP tourneys. So, the Gold Strike’s $35 - 6:00pm tournament seemed like a good place to start. All four of us went up and registered for the tourney, and then grabbed a quick bite to eat.
The tournament had about 30 players. For me, not much exciting happened early on. I won some hands and lost some. After being moved to another table, I immediately noticed a lady with a lot of “Ante Up” apparel on. Chris H. was sitting next to her and learned she was Jennifer Gay, a columnist for Ante Up magazine. She promised Chris and Walter some Ante Up SWAG, but we never saw her again. When we went to two tables, I had about an average chip stack. I was card dead, with the blinds and ante’s rapidly reducing my stack. With the blinds at 200-400, and 25 antes, I had about 600 in the big blind and shoved with J-8 and got two callers. Two 8′s hit the board and I tripled-up. In another hand, I had 5-5 that held-up against A-J and won a nice pot. At the final table, in one hand, I was able to limp with 8-9 and the 5-6-7 flop made my straight. Then I got two callers when I bet out, and eventually won a nice pot. Later, I had a lucky hand; we always need a few to go deep in a tourney, when my K-J beat a J-J. In my final hand in this game, I had about 14-15K in chips and picked-up A-K off-suit. A player in front of me, with about 5K, pushed all-in. With a couple of players behind me yet to act, I decided to shove, and the big stack instantly went all-in. The first player turned over A-Q and the big stack had J-J. His J-J held-up, and I was the “bubble boy”, finishing in 6th place.
On Friday, I played in the noon Gold Strike tournament. Here are a couple of significant hands. I limped with Q-rag on the button. The flop came Q-Q-rag. The first to act bet 300, got one caller, and I raised to 600, and both players called. A king came on the turn. The first player bet, the second went all-in, and I folded. It was a good fold. The first player called and turned over Q-rag (but better than my rag), the original all-in player turned over kings, which is what I put him on, for the full house. Another hand, I had A-K in early position, and raised about 4x the BB and had one caller. The flop was Q-rag-rag, I bet and the caller went all-in. After tanking for a short while, my instincts said he didn’t have the queen, so I called. He turned over A-K also, and we ended-up splitting the pot.
Finally, I picked up K-K, I’ve lost more tournaments with this hand (at least five), than any other hand. Preflop, I bet 300 (blinds are 50-100, and I have about 8K), a loose player re-raised to 1200, I went all-in and was called. The other player turns over queens. A queen came on the river, and I only had a couple of hundred left. I won a couple of all-in’s, but then was knocked-out a few hands later.
The last Gold Strike tournament I played in was the Friday night Deep Stack. A player seated two to my left struck up a conversation just before the tourney began. I learned his name was Randy, and that he lives a very short distance from me. He expressed interest in joining “The Boblagio” home game, and gave me his business card. Now, back to poker. I was doing pretty good, winning some pots. On one particular hand, I won a nice pot when my A-K beat 9-9. I lost a nice pot, but not a “back breaker” when my queen’s lost to aces. And last, I was starting to get short-stacked, when I was dealt Aces. I pushed all-in, and was called by this older guy (with a Florida Gators card guard, no less - I’m a Vols fan) who had been playing well over half the pots. He turned over J-9; the flop was 5-6-7. Guess what the next card was? The 8, of course! And, I was on the rail.
Walter had a worse run than I at the Gold Strike, and had decided to try his hand at Blackjack. After a couple of hours, he was up about $5, but he did get comped two dinners at Paula Deen’s seafood buffet. So, at least I finished the day on Friday at about 10:00 pm with a really nice dinner.
Chris W. and Chris H. also played in some cash games at the Gold Strike and the Horseshoe. They were joined later by two other players from our home game, Hal and Greg. In one hand, Hal won a large pot against Kevin (aka “Ben”; you’ll read about him later in this post), when he had pocket Aces. The bad beat stories in our group, from both tournaments and cash games, were rampant. In one cash game, Chris W. was in a $1-$2 NLHE game. He had A-K on the button, everyone folded, he raised an additional $10, and an aggressive Asian woman in the BB called. The flop was 2-A-4. She bet $25, Chris tanked, trying to decide if she had A-2 or A-4, but eventually called. The turn was a 5, and she bet $50, and Chris insta-shoved for about $80-90 more. She then insta-called, and turned over A-J. When she saw Chris’ A-K she yells “JACK”! And she hit her 3-outer with a jack on the river to scoop the $350 pot. Chris moved to the Horseshoe to try and change his luck. He got in a $1-$3 NLHE game, and was involved in another $300+ pot. He flopped a set of 10′s when the flop came: Qh-Th-6s. He moved all-in and had two callers. When hearts came runner-runner, the villain turned over 6-6, and didn’t even realize his six of hearts gave him the flush!
I hate to relate the next experience, but it was a memorable one from my weekend. Going back to Thursday night; after busting out of the Gold Strike tourney, both Chris’s and I decided to go to Harrah’s and check out the WSOP room. They were running 10 player sit-n-go’s at different levels of buy in. It was late (about 1:00 am), and I was pretty tired, but we decided to play in a $65 level game. At that level, the payout is $500 in “tournament chips” which can only be used to buy in one of the WSOP tournaments, and $50 cash. The house makes $100! And, they’re pretty much turbo’s, starting with only 1,000 in chips, blinds beginning at 25-25, and 12 minute rounds. Our dealer told us that his “record” in these SnG’s is having four players bust-out in the first four hands. One of the first few hands, I won a small 300 or so pot. Then a couple of hands later, I get Q-J, both spades and limp. With one or two other players (I don’t remember exactly) the flop is 2 spades and a rag. I checked, a player behind bets 300, and even though I didn’t really have the odds, I called; because it was a turbo you had to really gamble. The turn was the ace of spades. I checked, the other player bet about another 300. After thinking a little, I went all-in. He tanks, and says “Oh well, if you have the flush I’m beat, but I’ve got a set, and have to call”. He does, and I announce “flush” and turned over my Q-J. Just as I turned them over, I noticed one very important detail; the jack wasn’t a spade, it was a club! I then announced “Oh SH*T”!, and proceeded to leave the table when a spade didn’t come on the river. Almost as unfortunate for me was the fact that my friend Chris W. was also at the same table! I’m certain there will be future ramifications from that hand. That’ll teach me to play when I’m tired; that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
The $345 Event began at noon on Saturday, and five players that play in my home game were in it: Chris H., Kevin, Chris W., Robin, and Greg. Due to a last minute “no show” from one of our own satellites, We had to go wake Chris W. just a couple of hours prior to the start (he had played cash games all night and had just gotten in about 6:00 am), because he was the alternate in that game. That event had 1,032 registered players. It paid 108 places, and 1st place was $54,747. Greg was the only one in the group to cash; finishing in 98th place. Chris H. finished around 200th place, and I don’t know where the others finished. Randy, that I met at the Gold Strike tournament, finished 36th.
So, Saturday while I was “railing” my friends in the $345 event, I was trying to decide whether to even play in a WSOP event, since I had been running so badly. I’m usually pretty decisive, but even on Friday, I said I was going to play in the Saturday $235 event, then changed my mind; then a couple of hours later, change my mind back, and then back again. As I mentioned earlier, I had come with a limited bankroll and did not want to exceed it. I had assumed I’d cash in at least one of the Gold Strike tourneys, and should have. But, the main reason for the whole trip for me personally was the WSOP experience. I considered the $120 buy in event, but the starting chip stack was relatively low (3,000). I rationalized that for just over a hundred dollars more, the $235 Event offered more bank-for-the-buck. In it, you started with 5,000 chips and the levels were 30 minutes each for the entire tournament. About 2:00 Saturday afternoon, I decided I would play in the 4:00, $235 tournament, and before I could change my mind, went and registered. And, at that time found out it had been moved back to 5:00, due to the lack of tables, and they needed some more players to bust out of the noon event.
I grabbed a sub at the Quiznos just outside the tournament entrance (I hadn’t eaten since the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet the night before), and then headed in to take my seat about 4:45. I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect in this big “WSOP” event. I was the first one at my table, and was greeted by a cute young dealer, but don’t recall her name. The other players quickly joined us. It turned out to be a VERY congenial table. One player in particular, a truck driver, said he was “just passing through” on a run, and decided to stop and play. He was a hoot! His first words to the dealer were “I heard we can’t cuss”, to which she replied “that’s right, you’ll get a penalty”. Then he asked “what if I cuss at myself?”, and she just smiled. Then he asked if he could tell dirty jokes, which she again replied “no”. He then proceeded to tell the one where a penguin walks into a bar with ice cream dripping from his chin…
The trucker kept our long-legged, “very” healthy cocktail waitress, Brandi, pretty busy with refills of Crown and Coke. Of course, he wasn’t the only one drinking; he was just the most memorable. I was drinking water.
Anyway, even though it was a very friendly table, the poker was very serious. This particular tournament began with 163 players. I didn’t have any significant hands for awhile. I won some small pots, folded a few times when I missed the flop, but generally got a lot of rags. As the blinds increased, and I gradually became shorter stacked, I had to start shoving some. After a couple of hours, Ben Affleck was moved to our table to fill a vacated seat. Well, it wasn’t really Ben Affleck, he just looked almost exactly like him (except when he took off his ball cap off to reveal his ”lack of hair”). He mentioned that he had been told that numerous times throughout the tournament. It turned out that “Ben” is an attorney, and lives in a small town not far from me, so I was trying to recruit him for my home game. I won a nice pot from him later, when he called me with a relatively weak hand because he had miscalculated my chip stack.
I was all-in with A-J and won the hand. I had another all-in where my A-8 beat A-J. My A-K lost a nice pot to K-J when the jack completed a straight. I won a big pot when I was all-in with 9-9. I later lost a big pot with 6-6-6-x on the board and I had A8 and my opponent had A5, and a 5 came on the river. Later, I picked-up 4-5 in the big blind, and no one raised. The flop was 4-5-K, and the trucker was all-in with his K-x, and I insta-called. My 2 pair held-up and he was back on the road.
I was wearing my “theboblagio.com” bowling shirt. Several people asked what that was. And, were eventually calling me “Boblagio”; even the dealers. Like, “Hey Boblagio, post your blind”, or “Boblagio’s all-in”.
One of my biggest moments came when we were down to 20 players. They paid 18. I was once again becoming short-stacked, about 10 BB’s as I recall, after going card dead for awhile, and the blinds and ante’s chipping away my stack; I got K-Q, both diamonds, while UTG (or maybe UTG+1), and decided to push all-in, once again. To my dismay, I got two callers. I had both covered, but barely. So we all flipped our cards. One had A-6 and the other A-4. Since we were at the bubble, the railbirds crowded around and players from the other two tables were watching, with most of them pulling for me, hoping to bust two players. I hit a straight on the turn, and the remaining players were in-the-money!
Since we were at 2 tables, we were moved across the room as they shuffled the coinciding tourneys around. I don’t recall any specific hands, but I won some more pots and eventually made the final table. Ben Affleck (his real name is ”Kevin”), who played at the table with me earlier in the tournament, also made the final table. He went out in 10th. When we were at 7 players, I went all-in with A-9. The second biggest stack thought for a long time and then called with A-7. Another player felt he was priced in, and also called with suited (I think) middle cards. I had the best hand preflop, but when a 7 came on the flop, I didn’t improve, and was out in 7th.
On the ride home, everyone was sharing their bad beat stories, and I was daydreaming about making the final table in “The Big One” someday.
All-in-all, it was a great experience, and we’re already planning our trip next year.