If you have not yet heard about the next live WPBT event in Vegas, scroll down to the next post before reading this.
The coming days would find me converting dollars to euros in my head, trying to figure out whether I was spending $75 or $150 to enter the single table tournaments. The coming days would find me face to face with some of Europe's top pros in a game of Hi-Lo 7-stud, cringing when a player named Badgirl called my hand on fifth street and jumped up and down in her seat when I tabled my hand. "See! See? I told you he had the queens." The coming days would find me taking third and second in the one table tournaments, silently hating myself for entering games where only first place paid. The coming days would find me hopped up on $30 beers and $20 club sandwiches and tracking a tournament from 245 players down to one.
But on the first night, I found myself at a two-table tournament...naked.
In fact, I was wearing clothes; a blue button-up shirt, black pants that hugged the crotch in a very European way, a black sport coat hung over the back of my chair. But clothes make little difference to nudity at the table. Even sunglasses wouldn't have covered my most private of parts.
To be sure, the stakes werenâ€™t worth talking about. It was a tournament made up of journalists, marketing executives, and celebrity European players. It was a two-table No-Limit Holdâ€™em freeroll. The winner would get $500, second place $300, third place $200. I was immediately a little sad with my table selection. While I knew a couple people, a majority of the players on Table 2 didnâ€™t know much about the game. Whatâ€™s more, two of my favorite European players, John Gale and Isabelle Mercier (sheâ€™s actually Canadian, but who is counting) were sitting at Table 1. I had a strong feeling that I was going to face a major suck-out early-on from one of the inexperienced players and go back to working on the blog.
We started with 1000 in chips. I played tight for several orbits, posting my blinds and folding to raises. On level three, with the blinds at 50/100, I found AK suited in late position and raised the bet to 300. The blinds, two inexperienced players both called the bet, putting 900 in the pot. The flop came out A7x with two diamonds (not my suit). Both blinds checked to me and I pushed in the rest of my stack (a little more than 600). I already knew what was going to happen. It was either going to be somebody who made two pair or somebody would suck out the flush. Sure enough, both players called my bet. I flipped up my top pair-top kicker and waited for the carnage to begin. The small blind turned over Q7 with no diamonds for second pair. The big blind turned up A4 with no diamonds. I didnâ€™t smile like I wanted to. Instead I waited for the suck-out that never came and ended up raking my triple-up pot.
When the blinds got back around to me, I got moved to balance the tables. I feigned disappointment, saying â€œBut, Iâ€™ve already established my table image here.â€ Truly, though, I was overjoyed. While Gale had busted out early-on, I was getting moved to the seat immediately to Mercierâ€™s right. Again, I feigned disappointment. â€œAll I need,â€ I said, sitting down. â€œYou on my left.â€ She smiled a familiar half-smile she puts on at the table. Itâ€™s a smile that gives nothing away, but expresses just enough friendliness to scare you.
If thereâ€™s one unexpected benefit Iâ€™ve received from my new job, itâ€™s the hours I get to spend watching World Class Players at the tables. Iâ€™ve learned more about the game in the past eight weeks that I did in the entire year previous. And if watching the players play has helped me, I donâ€™t think I have to tell you what actually playing with them has done.
Within about 15 minutes, weâ€™d wound our way down to ten players and we consolidated to one table. We re-drew for seats. I drew the three seat, again, immediately to Mercierâ€™s right.
With a slightly below-average chip-stack, I knew I was going to have to start making some moves soon. When a tight-passive player came in for a call in EP, I figured her for some paint, but not a big pair. When it folded around to me on the button, I found a pair of deuces and raised for about half my stack, forcing out the blinds and getting me heads up. The lady called for the rest of her stack (I had her pretty well covered) and turned up A7o. I was a slight favorite, but she flopped her ace. Right read, wrong result.
That left me in an ugly chip position. With seven players left, I was down to just a few hundred in chips and I made a decision I rarely make. With a raise and three calls ahead of me, I pushed all in from the small blind with 67s.
The thought process, likely flawed, went like this: A raise and three calls ahead of me? Likely a bunch of big cards. I had to figure my six and seven were live cards. There was enough in the pot that if I did take it down, I would have enough chips to play the game until the end. So, I pushed.
Mercier said, "Good luck" and the flop came out seven-high. There was a side pot going, so I didn't know if I was winning, but I loved the flop. By fifth street, there was another seven on the board. My trips ended up besting AQ and a pair of tens.
So, I survived on my suck-out
I don't write all of this because it was a particularly interesting game. By all accounts, it was pretty silly. I write all of this as a prologue to what happened when we were down to five players.
It was folded around to me on the button where I found KTo. Mercier sat in the small blind and had been playing rather aggressively. I knew that if I folded or limped, she would move all in. The big blind was an inexperienced player who had survived this far, but had a much smaller chip stack. She'd tightened up a bit and I figured I could steal both blinds if I moved all in.
I paused, steeling my face for any obvious tells.
I moved my hands toward my chips.
And for as long as it takes to move one's eyes in a direction and back--maybe a quarter of a second--I took a glance at the big blind's stack.
Less than a second later, as I placed both hands behind my chips, I heard in my ear...
"Tsk, tsk, tsk."
What in the Canadian hell was that?
I peeked to my left and Mercier was almost imperceptibly shaking her head.
Tsk, tsk, tsk? What does that mean? It's so proper, and yet...so incredibly scary. It's like something a Hollywood hero says in jest just before he kills the bad guy.
And then I started laughing.
From across the table, my boss asked what was wrong.
"Um.." I said, still unable to control my laughter, "Isabelle scared me."
And with that, I folded my hand.
True to form, Mercier immediately pushed all-in and stole the big blind.
For half a second, I went from amused to embarassed. All it took was that one little glance at the big blind's chips. All these years of playing poker and I had just been read like a book. I'd broadcasted my naked tell about two feet to my left...so loud that Mercier felt bad for me.
And how did I know she felt bad for me? Well, for one, she warned me with her "tsk, tsk, tsk" advance warning system.
Well, second, as the dealer was pushing the pot, Mercier flashed her cards at me...
If I hadn't already been one of Mercier's biggest fans, I became one at that very moment.
I ended up bubbling in the tournament. The blinds went up pretty quickly and I ended up pushing in with a naked ace...against my boss' pair of aces. Later he would suck out on both Mercier and a photographer at the table to win the whole thing. He donated his winnings to a later tournament prize pool.
A final thought: One thing that impressed me about almost everyone with whom I played this past week: No matter the stakes, little or big, the pros played to win. That is, with the exception of helping out a lowly player like me from time to time, they played their cards like they would if they were playing in a high-stakes game. That really impressed me. It's not like the jokers online or in your homegame who feel like since they are only playing for 20 bucks, they might as well push in with J3o every time.
Next stop....Vienna Austria for the European-WSOP and some rambling with BadBlood.