Friday, December 16, 2005

WPBT Winter Classic December 2005: Imperial Palace

Part Two: Saturday

Previous Posts:
Part One: Friday

Saturday and Sunday sort of blur into each other, but I will do my best to sort out the details. Saturday morning was the event we’d all been waiting for: the WPBT Winter Classic Tournament of 2005. April and I woke early and headed down to Betsy’s for some breakfast grub. I enjoyed some Frosted Flakes and an apple danish, while April had herself a blueberry and cream cheese pastry of some kind. The old-time rock n’ roll music playing in the cafĂ© was just what I needed to shake the cobwebs from my brain.

After eating, we went upstairs to the poker room and found bloggers starting to gather. Factgirl was running around on her covert operation to collect money for her cookie jar (the Bill Rini Gift Fund), and we chatted a bit. A peek into the Royal Halls conference room, where the tournament would play out, revealed a long series of tables covered in goodies and free swag: PokerStars and Full Tilt t-shirts and hats, IP mouse pads (did anyone actually take those?), and prizes donated by the likes of Daniel Negreanu. The buzz in the air was electric, and soon there was a line forming to pay entrance to the tournament.

While waiting in line, I ran into Russ Fox, whose book I’d just purchased a few weeks prior on good ol’ I’d been looking for some texts on no-limit cash games, and his is one of the few out there. Having already exhausted the NL section in Super System II, Russ provided some useful nuggets. Also while waiting in line, my Blackberry buzzed to indicate the arrival of a text message. It said, “Which one are you?” I scanned to room to see if I could locate the source of the message. Unfortunately, my Blackberry is a bit retarded when it comes to SMS messages. When I receive a text message, it doesn’t show the originating number or who sent it. All I get is the message itself. I also can’t send text messages, so replying is impossible. (The only way I can send a text message is to email through the cell company’s mail-to-message feature, and without knowing the phone number, I was stuck). It was like having my very own stalker! So – to whoever sent that message – my apologies. I had no way to reply (

Several people spoke to us before the tournament, most notably Barry Greenstein. His recount of Charlie and the WSOP bracelet he won for him was moving. He also had an inspirational message for us as poker players – that being, we should sit down at the poker table feeling just as worthy and capable of winning as anyone else in the room. I’m a big fan of the “attitude is everything” philosophy, so I much enjoyed Barry’s talk (even though it was a bit hard to hear him with all of the ruckus going on in the registration line). After his speech, Barry wandered the room and watched the other speakers from the rail. At one point, he was standing next to me, and I thought, “This is my chance… if I’m going to meet this man, now is the time.” I turned to Barry and said, “Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us, and for everything you did for Charlie.” I don’t even remember what he said in reply, as he stepped forward and gave me a hug. As we watched the rest of the speakers, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful human being Barry Greenstein is.

We also got to hear some stories from Michael Craig, author of “The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King.” While he was entertaining, by this point the tournament was late getting started, and I was anxious to get the cards in the air.

To work off some of the anxiety we were feeling, Austin April and I traded fantasies of what we’d do if Phil Gordon were to walk in the room. He was on the list of invited guests, and I had his Little Green Book up in the hotel room, just in case he graced us with his presence. We were both disappointed that he didn’t show, and not even thoughts of him autographing our bodies with his tongue distracted us from the empty void in our souls created by his absence.

Finally, it was time to pick our seats for the tournament. I chose table 9, seat 6, and our lineup looked like this (stolen from Chilly, who obviously has a much better memory than I do):

1 - Michael Craig
2 - Chilly
3 - AlCantHang
4 - PokerKat
5 - Human Head
6 – Shelly (me)
7 - Eva
8 - DonkeyHunter
9 - Landow (Al's buddy)
10 - ????

The first thing I thought:

Kick ass! I’ve always wanted to actually meet Eva!”
My next thought:

Sweet! It’s Human Head!”
One of my greatest disappointments last June was not getting to hang out with Human Head and the Mrs., and while time was still short on this trip, we got to chat a bit. Head also managed to drop a hammer on me (as he was sitting to my right), so that makes up for everything.

My play in the tournament itself was not very notable. Early on, I took a small pot with AK after raising preflop and getting one caller, then hitting a King on the flop. I did a lot of folding (as did the rest of the table; I swear, this was the tightest table I’ve seen in a LONG time – except for Michael Craig, who took a liking to raising big preflop under the gun with hands like Ace Six Offsuit. A monster it is not, but kudos to him for repeatedly stealing our blinds. Us pussies should have fought back and defended). Towards the end of the first round, I managed to double up when my QJ hit a straight against Landow, I think it was. Him or Donkey Hunter. I can’t remember which.

On break, I ran up to the hotel room to grab my penguin card capper and my iPod. Poor Eva’s brand new kick-ass 60GB iPod was toast. So sad. We discussed the joys of rebooting the thing, and flashing its OS, and trying to salvage the music in disk mode, all of which did nothing to save her new toy. I had much sympathy. Eva is one cool chick (but I’m biased, because geek chicks rule the earth, IMHO).

In the next round, one hand stood out as an example of very poor play on my part. I was quite disappointed in myself, and I think this hand speaks to my greatest weakness in this game: passivity. I’m in the big blind, and I look down to see pocket Jacks. They’re a touchy hand, and I know they must be handled delicately. One of my primary objectives with Jacks is to get as much information about their strength relative to my opponents’ cards as soon as possible, so I can either push ahead or dump them. Eva, to my left, limps into the pot, and Michael Craig raises. It folds to me, and I re-raise, 3x his bet. I figured Mr. Craig would call me, but I was very surprised when Eva called. Shit. I do NOT want two opponents against my JJ. The flop comes Q-x-x. My gut told me to bet out strong here, but the chicken in my squealed, “What if they have a queen!” and I did the unthinkable. I checked, giving my opponents the opportunity – even if they didn’t hold a queen or better – to bluff and steal the pot from me. Eva checked behind me, and Mr. Craig bet out. What to do? I could raise over the top of him, but if he has a Queen (which isn’t an unthinkable holding, considering the hands I’d seen him raise preflop with), I’m dead. I can’t just flat-call the bet, because that tells me absolutely nothing about the strength of my hand relative to his.

So I folded.

What do I wish I had done? I wish I had bet out strong on that flop. There’s some folding equity there, and I could have taken that pot, or at the very least, I’d have been able to glean some information from what Mr. Craig did (be it call my bet, or raise me). At least I could have died knowing whether or not my Jacks were beat.

That was my worst hand of the tournament – or the one that bothered me the most, anyway.

From there on out, my tournament was pretty much doomed – not because of the Jacks, but because I kept getting shuffled from table to table. My first table broke during the 2nd round, and I was moved to table 8, which broke less than an orbit later. I was then moved to table 6 or 7, which broke soon after, and I ended up at table 5 (after having to pay the big blind twice in a row, depleting my already short stack). I’m pretty sure in my belief that the people who get seated and get to stay put at one table for most of the tournament are at a definite advantage against those who move from table to table. It’s all luck of the draw, of course, but it’s next to impossible to get a read on people when your opponents have new faces every orbit. Through my table shuffling, though, I did get to spend a brief moment in time with Factgirl and Austin April, which was cool.

My tournament life ended when I was down to 2 big blinds. I pushed all in from early position with A8 of hearts, and was called by TeamScottSmith, who was already half invested from the big blind. His 5-7 offsuit spiked a 7 on the river to send me to the rail. I finished the tournament in 39th place out of 107 participants.

The most striking impression I got from this tournament was the ridiculously high quality of the poker play exhibited by most of the bloggers. Holy shit. You guys and gals can play some cards - even when drunk and/or hung over. What a great group of people we’ve got.

Big props go out to the Imperial Palace, as the tournament was run very well. The dealers were good, and the free open bar was fantastic. I have no complaints about the tournament whatsoever.

Once I busted out of the tournament, I figured I’d play a little poker in the IP poker room, so as to be nearby when the tournament ended to see the end result. I sat down to the $100 max buy-in $1/2 blinds no-limit hold’em game. This is where I first met Falstaff. Worst hand #2 of the weekend went something like this:

New donkey at the table, seated 3 to my right. (I’m in the 10 seat). He’s one of those twiggy dorks that probably has a great D&D collection at home (ie., probably a lot like me, except for the twiggy part). Before even looking at my cards, I think to myself, “I want to beat this kid on this hand.” I don’t know why. I rarely play with bull’s-eyes on people, so I don’t know what in my twisted ego made me want to win this hand. The Twig raised it to $5, an insta-call raise no matter what I’m holding. I also had position on him. Falstaff smooth-called, and I looked down at my cards to find AA. Well yee-haw! (Sorry, rodeo was in town). I smooth-called as well. (I know, I know – slow-playing Aces makes Baby Jebus cry). The flop looked innocuous to me. Falstaff bet out. I raised big, 3 or 4 times his bet (committing myself to the pot, based on my remaining chip stack). I thought I was making the, “Dude, seriously, get out of this pot – I’ve got a monster and you’re losing chips if you stick around” bet. Ha! The Twig folded, and that just ruined my whole plan. At some point I got myself all in, only to find that Falstaff had 88 and had flopped a set. Nice to meet ya, Falstaff! (

I’ve actually replayed this hand a few times in my head. Let’s say I raise to $15 or $20 preflop (7-10x BB, but not much more than the average preflop raise at this table). Does Falstaff fold his pocket pair preflop, after already investing $5? I don’t know what he would do, but in his position, I’d call it and see a flop. The implied odds if I hit my set are fantastic (especially with 2 other people in the pot), and I want to see that flop. I think it’s a call either way, especially at this donkey-poker limit. I doubt he’d have called an all-in raise preflop, but with AA, I think I want some action; I don’t want to knock everyone out of the pot to scoop the blinds.

Anyway… so I felted myself on that hand. Bad play on my part – but at the same time, I don’t think I was getting away from it, even if I hadn’t slow-played preflop.

I made another less-than-stellar play at that table, whereby I had a plan and executed it, but realized afterwards that my logic was completely faulty. Even worse, I’d explained my logic at the table (thereby discovering its ass-backwardness as it came out of my mouth). Me = poker moron.

It went something like this: the pot is raised to $5 preflop (the insta-call raise at this table). I find QJo in the pocket. I call. I’m heads up with the raiser (mistake #1 – the only thing I can hope for my QJ is that I hit a solid flop with a good straight draw or two pair, and heads-up, there’s no reason to even bother drawing at it. There’s no money in the pot, and in just about every scenario I can think of, I’m a huge dog here. Plus – I’m out of position). The flop came Queen high. What did I do? I checked. (Did I not remember the Jack’s scenario from the tournament? Apparently not). My opponent bet out small, $10 or so. I think to myself, “Well, it’s not too likely that my top pair, mediocre kicker is good here, but there are two spades onboard. Maybe I’ll hit a 2nd pair on the turn, or maybe another spade will fall and I can pop it representing the flush.” The turn paired the board, and I had two thoughts: first, I had to bet out, because my weak flop play had given me zero information about my hand, and it’s time to get some, and two, a bet here from out of the blue might look like I hit the board on the turn – ie., the boat.

I bet out. My opponent (a tight, rock of a player) thought quite a bit, and then reluctantly put me all in. Ironically, I didn’t think his reluctance was an act – I think he really thought he was beat – but I’ve only got $30 or so left in front of me, and I’m getting well over 3:1 on my money to call off the rest of my chips. I called.

My opponent asks me, “Did you hit a boat? You have Queen-Six, don’t you?” Well, my representation worked, but it didn’t move him off of his pocket Kings. “Nope,” I said. “Just a crappy Queen.” He was quite surprised, but said that he’d have been even more surprised if I played Q6 for a preflop raise. (It appears he had been taking mental notes on my hand selection).

Oh well. Felted again, due to a horrifically flawed thought process on my part. Hey, practice makes perfect, right?

With that, I decided it was time to get the hell outta dodge. In the meantime, Gracie had gotten herself heads-up against StudioGlyphic in the tournament, and – no offense to Glyph – I was SO rooting for Gracie to win! Ladies, represent! I missed the final hand, but huge congratulations to everybody who made the final table. Glyphic won the thing, and Gracie served the women of the WPBT well with a 2nd place finish. I’m so proud of you, girl!! She and Pablo were on a rush this weekend. Pablo went from – what – 14th alternate, to deep in the tourney? Nice work!

By this time, hunger pangs had set in, though the free finger sandwiches at the IP were helpful in staving it off. April and I headed around the corner to the Burger Palace to get some greasy grub. I'm almost ashamed to admit, but I liked those burgers. They were probably my 4th favorite burgers - the others being:

1. Outback Steakhouse - Mad Max burger
2. Fuddrucker's - 1/2 pound Three Cheese burger
3. Fatburger - no mustard, everything else

A bunch of other bloggers were also grabbing some grub, and I learned some neat little tidbits about Pauly. My favorite: he used to play hockey. Pauly - I'd call you my overlord for all of my remaining days (stealing that title from Kevin Smith) if you posted a picture of you playing hockey. That would be too freakin' insanely cool.

Next up: Storming the Castle, Part Deux.

When we got to Excalibur, April decided to play in the $2/4 limit game, while I got on the list for the $2/6 spread limit game. The place was already hopping with bloggers, and I spied Wil Wheaton at what appeared to be a NL table with BadBlood? Hank? (can't remember) and others. Pablo and Derek were at another table, and Chilly at another. Alan of Geek and Proud was at yet another blogger-anchored table, and I saw Austin April wandering around. I saw Helixx and Pauly, and Falstaff showed up for the party as well. I know there were more people there, but I’m drawing a complete blank.

Not long after we arrived, April got to spin the wheel after dragging a monster pot with Quads. Sweet! I hoped that I would get a chance to spin the wheel.

I finally got seated at a table with Pablo and Derek, and in a whirlwind of activity, I found AA in the pocket in one of my first hands. I max-raised it preflop, and had one caller (a calling station in a big bucket hat from the other end of the table). The flop came 3 diamonds, and I thought to myself, “Well, if I lose, at least I get to spin the wheel!” I bet it all the way, and was called all the way. Turns out, my opponent had pocket ten’s and hit his set on the river. Wheel spin!

I walked up to the wheel and informed the nearby blogger table that I was a wheel virgin (so as to activate as much prop betting as possible). I spun the ever-popular blue for a measly $25, and walked back to my table to a chorus of mixed praises and curses. It didn’t quite make up for my losses on the hand, but was fun anyway.

From there on out, I proceeded to catch very good cards preflop, and then miss each flop completely. I didn’t drag a single pot the rest of the night. By the time I was in for $160, I decided to save my last $40 for the video poker machines, which were treating me quite well to that point. (I have a nightly ritual of sticking $40 in a video poker machine before bed. I’m also a big fan of drinking at the bar, playing video poker – thanks to Randy!) I left the table and cashed out, in search of a video poker machine to be kind to me.

I weaved in and out of the nearby slot machines, waiting for a machine to call my name. Finally, one did, and I fed it my $40. Here we go! Max bets, 25 cent game. Before long, I’d hit two four-of-a-kind’s for a cash prize of $350. That’s all I needed to see! Cash out! I made back my Excalibur losses, as well as most of what I’d lost at IP, bringing me back up to even for the day.

And that, my friends, is all I remember about Saturday. Coming up next: a late-night blogger table at MGM: the most fun you can have with your hammer on.

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  1. jremotigue said...
    The text message was from me. Don't worry, I only cried for twenty minutes!
    April said...
    I totally forgot about the autograph comment. I'm shameful first thing in morning, huh?
    TeamScottSmith said...
    57off. Sorry to take you out with such crap. I had to call. I wish the 5 had been a 2 so it would've been a better crappy hand. You would have probably rather written up "Taken out by The Hammer." 57o ? Ugly.

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