Monday, December 19, 2005
WPBT Winter Classic December 2005: Imperial Palace
Part Three: Sunday
Part One: Friday
Part Two: Saturday
Sunday Sunday Sunday… This was my last real day in Vegas, as my flight was set to leave at 6:30am on Monday. (I had to work Monday night). April and I slept in, and at one point I had a dream about the AOL “You’ve Got Mail!” guy. Turns out, April woke up a bit earlier than I did, and was on the computer. I rolled out of bed around noon, after a late night of Storming the Castle.
My first plan of the day was to check out the poker room at Harrah’s. I’d heard it was nice, and I also heard that the NL game was quite soft. April and I headed across the walkway to Harrah’s and found the poker room (which was, in fact, nice). They weren’t spreading any limit games lower than 3/6, though, and April preferred 2/4. So, we headed back to the IP poker room, figuring that we could work off some of our hotel room fees with their fantastic comp rate ($3/hour).
I sat down at the $100 max 1/2 blinds NL game, and while waiting for a seat to open up at 2/4, April decided to head back up to the hotel room, as she wasn’t feeling well. We had eaten at the IP buffet with our free buffet coupons. It wasn’t a bad meal for free, and in a pinch I might even pay the $10 to eat there. I wouldn’t pay much more than that, though. The food was OK. Some was good (I liked the pork chimichanga things), and some was blah (the orange chicken was pretty blah). Desserts were good though – I’m a sucker for cherry cheesecake.
It was at the IP poker table that I again ran into Falstaff, winner of my “Coolest blogger I met that I didn’t already read” award. I must admit a small amount of embarrassed shame over the fact that he witnessed my two horrible hands of the previous day, but I sucked it up and figured – oh well. I suppose there are worse fates than Falstaff thinking I’m a fish. There were also 2 Canadians at our table. I had a good time talking hockey with the guy to my left, who was from Toronto. I’m so jealous of Canadians. What I wouldn’t give to live in a place that considered hockey to be the most glorious and noble of all human pursuits.
Back to poker. Falstaff let me in on an important facet of his strategy on this lovely Sunday afternoon: the strategy of “happy tilting” the table. There are several tactics involved in this strategy, one of which is the obvious Hammer bluff. Falstaff worked this table like a master conductor, playing up the “fact” that he was the “biggest donkey at the table,” and chatting it up as a way of displaying that his true goal at the poker table was to gamble and have a good time. It’s quite amazing to watch the plan in action, really, because as Falstaff donked it up, he simultaneously avoided leaking off chips, and in fact was collecting them en masse. The table loosened up more and more by the minute, and the proof was in the pudding as comments were soon being heard to the effect of, “I know you have me beat, but I’ll donate…” or, “Check to the bettor,” – telltale signs that the table’s constituency was now there to play a friendly game of poker.
The true epitome of happy-tilting a table comes when you get true civilian participation in the happy-tilting process. At the IP last Sunday, we had an idea that the plan was working when a couple of otherwise-tight civilian players started straddling the blinds (under Falstaff’s encouragement, of course). But the true moment of glory was realized with an act near and dear to our blogger hearts; there is nary a sight more beautiful than a civilian dropping the Hammer on a happy-tilted table.
I finally had a winning poker session Sunday at IP. My biggest hand was one whereby I was glad I understood the concept of pot odds. You know – sometimes, they actually do work out in your favor. I had a nice double-up hand against a sunglass-wearing man who reminded me a bit of Sammy Farha. He was a bit intimidating, and sitting across from him, I had many opportunities to catch his icy glare.
The hand went like this: I’ve got position on Mr. Sammy Wannabe (from this point forward, Sammy for short). A few people limp into the pot, and Sammy raises it up to $10 or so (a raise that was typically called at this table. $15 got people to lay hands down preflop, but most people were coming along for $10). Action gets to me, and I look down to see Ace Ten of diamonds. A quick glance to my left shows the handful of limpers, and I deduced that most would call the raise and see the flop. I decided to call. The flop came 10-x-x with two diamonds. There was one overcard, so I had middle pair and the nut flush draw. I liked that flop. In the absence of absolute recollection of the hand, I’m going to fill in the blanks by saying there were 2 other limpers in the pot besides me. (There may have been more – like I said, the table was happy-tilted, and juicily loose and passive). There’s $40 in the pot. It checked around to Sammy, who bet out $10. Well, Sammy, even if my fellow limpers don’t call this bet, I’ve still got 4:1 odds on my money, and two cards to come. That’s an insta-call. Sorry, buddy. I called, and one guy called behind me. There’s $70 in the pot. The turn came a blank, and Sammy bet out again – this time $20.
Now, I need 4:1 on my money to call, banking on the flush hitting on the river. I was fairly certain that Sammy was just trying to push us around – I didn’t put him on a made hand. The problem with his play, though, is that the weak-steal attempt is so vulnerable. If I had any balls whatsoever, I’d have raised over the top of him and forced him to make a decision about his hand, seeing as I didn’t put him on much of anything, and I still had outs to win the hand if he called. His bets weren’t big enough to drive anybody out of the pot, particularly the very obvious flush draw that had flopped. I opted to try and hit my draw cheaply, but in retrospect I really like the re-raise move here. If I trusted my read on him a bit more, I’d have made that move. All in due time… I’m still learning.
So, there I was facing a $20 bet into a $70 pot. It wasn’t quite laying me 4:1, but I’ve got second pair top kicker, and the nut flush draw. I wasn’t entirely sure that my 10’s were beat and thought I might even have the best hand at that point. I liked the implied odds here, and called Sammy’s $20 bet. Our other opponent dropped out, and we were heads-up to the river – the sweet, glorious river. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and when that third diamond hit the river, I was showered with glee. Sammy bet out another $20 at me, and I made the most obvious raise in the world, staring straight at him trying to look strong (hoping to induce the ol’ “she looks strong so she must be weak” reverse psychology tell on him). Unfortunately for him, he’d made his straight on the river (a-HA! You didn’t have anything that whole way! I shoulda listened to my poker gut and raised your silly ass!) He called my raise and asked, “Did you hit the flush?” I said, “Yup!” as I turned my cards up. He mucked his hand in disgust, shooting me a spine tingling glare. He was pissed. He muttered something about me calling him down to the river, and I said, “Look – if you wanted me out of that pot, you should have bet bigger. I had odds to call you all the way down,” or something to that effect. I know, I know – don’t give the fishes lessons. He took my comment as me giving him lip, and got even more agitated. Sammy took a walk, and didn’t last much longer at our table. I, on the other hand, nearly doubled up on that hand.
Around 6pm, I called up to the room to make sure April was awake to catch her plane home. It turns out that she managed to get her flight changed, and was staying in Vegas till Monday morning. Woohoooo! We decided to head towards MGM for our last night in town. Falstaff joined us, and we left IP and hopped on the monorail.
First course of action after arriving at MGM: food. As I explained to Falstaff (and he quickly sympathized), “this body don’t run on love!” Being the degenerates that we all are, we were looking for “fast” and not necessarily delicious or nutritious. The main course: McDonald’s at the food court (though on some days I could definitely argue that a Big Mac is delicious… my sincerest apologies to my liver and other vital organs that rely on my discretion at meal time to get by). April, Falstaff, and I had some quick grub and good conversation, doing the whole “get to know you” thing. Much like when Alan whipped out his Treo to take notes at the poker table, I was geekily impressed when conversation turned to video cards and online gaming (of the non-poker variety). There’s a certain sense of kinship shared amongst geeks, and I proudly wear the badge. We had to wake April up after that little segment, but she was quite kind in keeping from rolling her eyes at us.
After “dinner,” we strolled over to the MGM poker room, where we discovered that two of our very own were competing in the final table of a multi-table tournament: CJ and Joe Speaker. The final hand was an amazing display of CJ’s luckbox tendencies. Joe Speaker had gone out in 4th place, leaving CJ, an Asian woman, and a guy of about 30 years old. CJ had both of his opponents outchipped, with a slight lead over the other guy and a good lead over the woman. When it got down to 3 players, CJ and the other guy suggested a chop. I thought that was quite generous, as CJ was in fact the chip leader at the time. The other guy said that he didn’t mind chopping based on percentages or chip stacks. The woman, however, must have thought she could take down these two jokers. She stated quite boldly, “I’m happy with third place. I’d rather play it out.” Now, in print, that seems like a polite way to turn down a chop – and maybe I’m just overly sensitive somehow – but at the time, that statement delivered in the tone of voice she delivered it seemed to be quite rude. To me, it sounded more like, “I’m going to beat you both, so why would I want to take 3rd place prize money?” I don’t know. Is there some kind of proper etiquette in turning down a chop? The way she did it just rubbed me the wrong way.
So, they played it out. Not long after the chop denial, the 3 remaining players were all in, comprising a 3 way pot with the tournament on the line. It looked like this:
The flop: 5c 5s Qc
The turn: Qs
The river: As
Running this hand through PokerStove gives a nice perspective on exactly how likely it was that CJ would emerge the winner of this hand, and how his Luck just seems to grow exponentially with each flip of a card:
Preflop: 25% favorite to win (3:1 underdog)
Flop: 75% favorite it win (no dog here)
Turn: 100%. Put the checkmark next to CJ’s name, ladies and gents.
With that, our very own CJ went from being the 18th alternate (if my memory serves me correctly) to the first place finisher, netting a few thousand bucks for his efforts. Apparently, this hand was not the first display of CJ’s Luckbox Suckout powers. I was on hand as a post-tournament interview was conducted by Austin April. We will just have to wait and see what CJ has to say about his amazing luck (and fine poker play, to boot).
Once CJ was crowned victorious, it was time to play some cards. Falstaff and I got on the list for the $200 max buy-in, $1/2 blinds no limit hold’em game, while April went off to the other side of the room for some $2/4 limit. I was seated at a table with Alan and his Treo and lovely Hammer card capper. If I’m not mistaken, there was another blogger in the 6 or 7 seat, but I’m not sure. Within minutes, Falstaff was relocated to my right from another table, and not long after that, Austin April joined our table to his right. In the 1 seat was a kid in his mid-twenties, and eventually Poker Geek took the 10 seat. This was shaping up to be a blogger table, if I’ve ever seen one!
I must take a tangent here to say that I am most jealous of Poker Geek and his custom Full Tilt Poker jersey. I would pay such sick amounts of money for such a thing that I think FTP is missing out on a major cash cow by not allowing people to just buy the damn things. I am a slave to all things hockey, and those jerseys are so friggin’ insanely cool. Geek: you rule.
I digress. One of the first things I had to learn at this new blogger table was a game called “Vegas Hold’em.” Apparently, it had been invented a few days prior by some bloggers (please step forward if you have patented this game to receive proper credit). It goes like this: during a standard Texas Hold’em hand, when two players get heads-up, they can agree on the next street to choose one of their opponent’s hole cards to flip face up. Their opponent can do the same. The end result is complete insanity. I’m pretty sure that it’s harder to put a person on a hand when you can see half of their cards. Seriously. Try it sometime. It messes with your head in a mighty big way.
Falstaff was on his mission to happy-tilt the table again, and it was working – so well, in fact, that we had civilians dropping the Hammer in no time. April put the kibosh on that, though, as she pulled some major suckouts to crush the civilian Hammers. This, coupled with her tendency to will chips away from her opponents (blogger, civilian, or otherwise) with a bat of the eyelashes and a kick in the junk, earned her the nickname of Junk Kicker.
The L-to-the-forehead moment of the night (which actually shined as a moment of true geekdom to followers of that code) was when Alan was reading poker blogs on his Treo at the poker table. Yes, folks, he read blogs at a blogger table. What is this world coming to? Actually, the reason he was reading a blog at the table was because our civilian kid in the 1 seat, upon discovering that we had blogs, told that he had a blog of his own. It’s a literary blog and not entirely dedicated to poker, but we let him feel like he was part of the “in” crowd for a while anyway. He was a great sport, and even played a round of Vegas Hold’em against Alan (and kicked his ass).
Alan clued me in to a great tidbit about going pee during a poker session. Typically, I run to the bathroom after the button passes me, hoping to get back in time not to miss my blind. Alan suggested an alternative: leave for the bathroom BEFORE your blind hits, so that you get to at least play your blind in late position. *smack on the forehead* well, duh! Why didn’t I think of that? If I have to play a blind hand anyway, I might as well do it in position. My poker session bathroom habits are forever changed. Thanks, Alan!
As the 4am hour rolled around, I began to get sleepy. I had to leave for the airport in 2 hours, and while I could have just stayed up all night, April was craving a few winks of shut-eye, too. I hadn’t packed yet, so it seemed best if we headed back to the IP. We bid farewell to all of the remaining bloggers, and I had a true sense of sadness.
The weekend was a whirlwind blur of good times and good people. I can’t wait until the next event, and missed all of you the moment I left for home.
Huge thanks to Bill Rini, Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, the Imperial Palace, and everybody who was involved in organizing this event and making it such a great success. It was truly an unforgettable good time.