I'm back from a good weekend of poker and nonsense in Las Vegas at the Four Queens Classic.
I got into Vegas late Thursday night and checked into the Four Queens, where we had two pre-comped rooms thanks to a little blackjack bender me and a buddy went on last time we were downtown.
The room itself was pretty poor quality, even a little worse than I expected (and I've stayed in the old Circus Circus rooms). Lots of stains on the carpet, nicks in the wall, poor temperature control.
But just as you only need a chip and a chair to win a tournament, all I really require in a Vegas hotel room is a bed and a shower. At least the room didn't smell.
Thursday night was a typical first night. I met my buddies over at the Bellagio for some hard-hitting table game action and drinking which quickly took its toll on the old bankroll. A fun time was had by all, but we asked ourselves why we weren't playing in the juicy-looking 15-30 game in the poker room. No answer was obtained, either that night or the other occasions we threw our poker winnings and more into that lethal combination of House Edge and Gambler's Ruin.
We got to bed late, but were able to get in a good 6-7 hours of sleep before 11 the next morning for tournament registration. We intended to have breakfast in the Four Queens cafe, which I strongly recommend if you like good greasy bacon and eggs, but the line was too long so we settled for a very non-poker-friendly Burger King breakfast.
The Four Queens does not have a regular, year-round poker room; that fact makes the quality of this tournament and the dealers they got doubly impressive. I found the quality of floor decisions and dealers to be significantly better than what I saw at the Orleans Open this year. The former may just be luck, the latter was certainly due to just hiring better dealers (although many of the dealers there were at the Orleans Open too).
We registered for the tournament, $200 buyin no-limit hold'em with one rebuy. The registration desk had very small, quick-moving lines with friendly, efficient, jovial staff.
I've felt increasingly confident in my no-limit tournament play over the past two years, even though I've yet to make the money in a big tournament. On Friday I was feeling clear-headed and ready to bring my A game. I took my seat and was ready to play. It took me about three rounds before I got comfortable with my opponents and the style the table had. The table was fairly conservative and passive. I began to play more aggressively than I usually do in the early stages of a tournament. Because this was a rebuy tournament I expected others to do the same, but at least at my table what it seemed to cause was more passive play -- more callers pre-flop, more 3- and 4-way pots and a fair amount of checking the flop and turn. Most hands where I came in for a raise, I would either win it pre-flop or with a bet on the flop. I slowly built up my stack until I was about 2 1/2x the buyin.
Right near the end of the rebuy period (I think 2 hours), I got tangled into a pot. There was a big stack who had been seated at my second table who was raising at least 3 times each go round and was winning a lot due to fear of his large stack. In this hand, it was folded to him in middle position, he raised it to about 1/4 of my stack (about 2-3k off a 800 buyin), and it was folded back to me on the button. I look down and saw pocket tens and moved all-in. I was surprised when he quickly called me, and flipped up AQo. I'm a small favorite until an ace hits the turn. "REBUY!"
The next hour I played the same game I was playing, built my stack up a little but was barely keeping up with the increasing blinds. Most of my stack growth came from when I busted two small stacks up in the same round, once with my AK against his AQ and the other time with my JJ vs a very questionable early-position raise with Q3s.
On a new table, there was a middle-large stack who had just gotten seated at my table and was instantly letting his presence be known. He raised his first three hands he sat down with. I've played with the guy before at a few other tournaments; his name is Mohammed something, I think. I once watched him play $100-200 heads up hold'em in the Bellagio. I remember seeing him in Card Player this year too, he won a tournament, I can't remember which. Every other time I've seen him he was wearing a big yellow jacket, but not today. Anyway he was coming out blasting and doing fairly well, he lost a couple to small stacks but was gaining. After he had been there about 30 minutes there was a hand folded to him in middle position, and he came in for a sizeable raise. I have only just under 3k at this point, he has perhaps 11. I'm on the button. It's folded to me and I look down to see QQ. I went all-in, folded to him, and he instantly called. He flipped over 33 and was dismayed to see my QQ. Unfortunately for me, the first card out of the dealer's hand was a 3, giving him a set and I got no assistance. That's what we gamblers call an aiya and a half, but that's NLH for ya.
After that tournament, I was still feeling good about my game, I felt like I played about 80% as well as I could have. Certainly the last hand was a no-brainer but I thought that generally I needed to make my raises a little larger, try for more steals pre-flop and bet flops more aggressively into weakness (which I'm decent at sniffing out).
It was about 4pm by this point, so I bought into a $1-2 NLH side game with $100. I focused on my aggressive play, and it paid off bigtime. The table was fairly weak, and within an hour was seething with the combination of fear and hatred towards me that is pure cash money in a game like that. I was up well over $200 by 6pm. My best hand to get me there was when I played 66 against a guy who had built up a lot more hatred than fear against me. I raised pre-flop, he made a 1x reraise (which I think is never a good raise preflop), I called and the flop came A63 rainbow. He bet the pot, I raised him all-in and he instantly called with A7o. When you've raised almost every flop, you'll eventually get almost unlimited action with your premo hands.
Right before 6 I got into another hand. This was against a guy who looked like Benicio Del Toro but played poker like a drunken Randy Quaid. He was under the gun and called the $2 BB. Folded to me in late position, I made it 8 to go with AQo. Big blind and him both call. Flop comes AJ3 rainbow. I look at the big blind and he checks, telegraphing middle / small cards with no taste of the flop. Benicio bets $25, which he's done in every situation like this. He has about $150 left, I have just under $300. I raise him all in, BB folds, and he looks at me for one minute and calls. He flips up KTo for an inside straight draw and looks at me with a smile on his face. A queen came off on the next card making his broadway. I was contemplating not buying into the evening tournament, this game was so good with him in it especially now that he had doubled up. To my dismay he got up right after that hand and cashed out. Smart guy.
So I left that game $120 up, but it should have been more. We got a bite to eat and I registered for the evening tournament. I was feeling "poker-limber" after my side game workout and ready to bring it. And bring it I did. I won virtually every pot I was in for the first couple of hours, raising like it ain't no thang (and it isn't). By two hours into it, I was the huge chip stack at my table and possibly the tournament, I know I was at least top of the 8 or so tables I could see around me (out of 20 or so).
After the first break, I got pretty cold pretty fast. I lost a big one when I had AK against A-little who made two pair on the turn. My lead dwindled to where I was the 3rd or 4th at my table when this hand came. Big stack is under the gun and raises it up. He's been doing that a lot but every time he's called he has had a decent hand. It's folded to me, once again on the button. I look down to see AA, raise all-in, folded back to him, he calls and flips up QQ. Well, once again the poker deities did not shine on me, and he made his set on the turn while my rockets got no assistance.
So I spent the rest of the night fairly dejected. I was 90% happy with my performance in the second tournament -- I busted out with about 50 left of about 200 -- but to lose the same way in two back-to-back tournaments was a really tough blow.
The rest of the night, we cavorted around the Bellagio. I played some terrible 15-30 and ended up -$600 on the night.
On Saturday, I played in the daytime $200 limit hold'em tournament. I rarely play both a limit and a no-limit event back-to-back because I have to adjust my play so much, and this experience just hit home that I like no-limit tournaments a LOT better. I think there's more latitude and reward for skillful play, and although one bad turn can bust you more often than in limit, getting in with the best of it also pays off bigger. My record in limit tournaments is also much worse than in no-limit tournaments. This one was no exception, I played few hands, lost a few, got blinded down and in the third hour was on my last legs. I decided to make my move with A7 in late position, opened for a raise and the button called and the big blind re-raised. Oops. I only had just over one bet left, so called. On the flop, something like AK5, the button and big blind get it all in, and the button flips over 55 and the big blind flips over AQo. If you're going to bust out, being last the whole way actually makes me feel less robbed :)
I played another short session of $1-2 no-limit after that, and ended up +$40 by the time my buddies came to drag me to the Bellagio. We played $15-30 over there and I had a banner session, ending up +$1100 in about 4 hours of play. My buddy MZ and I seemed to be on a seesaw; the previous day he had won $1400 during my -$600 session, and Saturday he lost a small amount when I had my big win. The evening was topped off by my favorite poker food in the entire world, the Buttermilk Chicken Wrap from the snack shop in the Bellagio.
That's about all the relevant poker stories on the weekend. It was a fun tournament, and I plan to do it again next year although I'll probably stay somewhere else unless they comp the room again.
One last thing -- celebrity sightings. Tom McEvoy was at the tournament, I don't think he played in the events I was in but was promoting his book. Bonnie Damiano, who you probably remember as "that lady in the hat" was the tournament promoter and was there. An Tran was at one of my tables and got busted out unceremoniously. Other than that, there were probably some others there but it was much less star-studded than when I was at the Orleans Open for similar buyin (although many more players) events. Not sure why.