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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

December 22, 2004

The Holiday Classic, through Otisian eyes

by Otis

When we last left Otis, he had just survived a meeting of Robin Iggy and his Merry Men at the Sherwood Forest. Otis awoke after a 45 minute power nap to repeated kicking in his ribs and stomach. Weary, but invigorated by the possibility of playing against some of the top poker bloggers and professionals, he rode the elevator ten floors and returned to the scene of the morning's crimes

The bar didn't look much different than when I left it less than an hour before. A few more people had shown up and the pre-tourney buzz was tip-tapping through the assembled bloggers and their friends.

This is not how I'd planned it. My plan was originally to sleep a little late, roll into the meet and greet around 11am, then play with a fresh head in the tournament.

Instead, I was going to be on time, bouyed only by a power nap and the excitement of the day's events.

I wore an Otis elevator work jacket and a custom O...tis hat. Later, I'd run into Felicia and she'd remark, "I liked you better without the hat."

I couldn't disagree with her. I was a mess and the hat wasn't doing anything to obscure my increasingly green face.

But that comes later. There's the matter of getting to the tournament, courtesy of Big Mike's Chariot Service.


If there had been a slow motion camera mounted outside Tower 1 of the Excalbur Hotel and Casino, it could've captured the next promotional advertisement for the Vegas Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The motliest of crews strode through the door, drinks in hand, eyes wild with excitement and adrenaline. In the commercial, each of them would exclaim in slow motion as they saw the bohemoth stretch Excursion, white like a good cowboy's horse, as long as the night we'd all just survived.

I was among the first to climb in. I crawled to the front of the passenger cabin and plopped into the seat. I had MapQuested the distance between the hotels before I left. I thought I remembered that it would only be a six mile journey. I figured there wouldn't be time for another good power nap, so I settled in to enjoy a few quiet laughs along the ride.

I'm not exactly sure what happened next. The Excursion seemed very full. Someone passed me a CD and told me to give it to the driver. I passed the disc through the portal and asked the driver to give us some privacy. The ensuing ten minutes are something I still haven't completely been able to get my head around. The CD had been a gift from BadBlood to Al. Though I don't have notes on this, I'm fairly sure it was titled the Devil's Greatest Hits (All Lucifer's Love Songs).

I don't think I talked much during the ride. The rest of the trip is just a few mental exclamations, psychic warnings that I was entering a level of debauchery that even Bacshus himself never envisioned for 10am.

Computer generated disco ball lights swam around my head, death metal pounded from the speakers, someone asked for Sinatra, Al hung from the windows and threw the goat to a state patrol officer, and somewhere in my professional head something screamed, "There are cameras in here! Someone is taking pictures! Jesus, there's a video camera! Damage control! We need damage control! Somebody get Major Tom on the phone because ground control just asploded!"

And then it was quiet. The ride--seemingly endless--continued. I pulled my hat over my face and acquiesced.

Whatever will be, will be.

Ill-equipped to meet or greet

After disembarking from the chariot, we stood and waited for Al to sign autographs (I guess this is true. It's what I've read). Like a line of school children heading to recess, we made our way to a ballroom where Dick Gatewood and the men from LasVegasVegas had put together a fine spread of food and drink for the weary travelers.

I found myself getting a little sad. I looked around the room at the famous faces, heroes who I'd intended on engaging in meaningful, thought-provoking conversation. Charlie Shoten was there and offered a fine line of philosophical thought. Tom McEvoy was there with his uber-strategic mind. Marcel Luske was there, his personality in tow. Ron Rose, the man who can't fail at anything, was signing copies of his book and ripping out pages that didn't meet Felicia's approval.

It was more than I'd hoped for and I was in no condition to engage anyone. For several minutes, I hated myself. What a degenerate I had become. I felt like apologizing to the Joes, but decided I wasn't in any condition to do that either. Instead, I poured myself a glass of juice and drank it on one drink. A glass of ice water met the same fate.

As I stood along the food table, trying to decide if I felt like eating (I hadn't had a bite since the non-gumbo off the buffet in the poker room), an angel appeared in the form of Mrs. Can'tHang.

She stood in front of me, her eyes awash with understanding and empathy. She pulled a bite from her coffee cake (it might've been a muffin) and directed it into my mouth. When she did it again, I decided I was going to be okay. Though I hated my degenerate side for ruining a good opportunity to network and learn, I felt at ease. I owe the Mrs. for that.

I saw Daddy sitting across the room and decided that a brief sitdown would be good for the soul. As I made my way in his direction, I found myself nearly running into Marcel. It felt as though a conversation was unavoidable. And before I could stop myself, I found myself talking.

"I like the way you sing at the table," I said.

Looking back, this was, perhaps, the stupidest thing I said all weekend (although something I said in an upcoming post about Sherwood Forest Pt. 2 runs a close second). I like the way you sing at the table? What in the hell had become of me?

Whether he took it as a compliment (which it was) or was merely humoring me, Marcel entertained me for a few minutes by talking about how singing is a calming influence when he's playing. He even talked about how much he liked to sing when away from the table. Though I felt like an idiot of the first order, looking back, I enjoyed that conversation more than I would've imagined.

Our conversation broke when the Poker Prof called the meeting to order and introduced Charlie Shoten. I found my seat behind Daddy and listened intently. With the good vibes coming from Mrs. Can't Hang and Marcel, I felt like I was on my way to recovery. Everything was going to be okay.

As Charlie spoke, Evelyn Ng walked in the door. My mind again shifted. The lack of sleep started getting to me again. I could tell that Daddy recognized this from his seat in front of me. More than recognizing it, I felt like he empathized. He vocalized what was going through my head. Loathe to misquote him, I only remember that his first few words were, "In terms of weird..."

He continued, but I already knew where he was going. Here we were, a couple of schlubs, surrounded by some of the greatest pros, on our way to a private tournament set up in our honor, working on a few minutes sleep, after a rock-star night and morning that we shoud not have survived, and Evelyn Ng just walked into the room on a virtual hydrofoil of beauty.

In terms of weird, indeed.

That's when I broke down. It all just became too much for one tired Otis to handle. I felt myself breaking up and didn't want to disturb Charlie's speech. As quietly as I could, I slipped out a side door into the faux open air of the Sam's Town Casino courtyard.

The wait (perhaps, The Weight)

G-Rob followed me. I think he was in much the same fix as I was. We wandered the casino until we found a bar, where I ordered a series of ice waters and Red Bulls. I don't really like Red Bull, but it seemed to be my only hope of making it the reamaining two hours until the tournament.

I got up to go to the bathroom and when I returned, G-Rob was gone. By some act of charitable fate, I found him and we wandered again until we found the food court. I was still feeling nourished from the Mrs.' coffee cake/muffin. G-Rob ordered a calzone from Sbarro and we sat. Every two minutes he'd ask me what time it was. When we realized together that only two minutes had passed, we'd sigh in unison, "Jeeesus."

G-Rob ate most of the calzone. I ate the remaining bite. After an hour or so, we decided we were again fit for public view and headed back upstairs where the meet and greet had returned to mingling. I sat outside, overlooking the courtyard, and pondering how I might find the will to continue.

Just then, the Missouri Boys walked up and greeted me. Marty said, "We ran into somebody who says he knows you."

Though a reasonable Otis would've been suspicous (nobody knows me), I agreed to go meet the phantom Otis-knower.

We walked fifty yards down the walkway and I spotted him.

There was my brother.

I could spend a few paragraphs talking about how my brother had convinced me he couldn't make the trip, that he'd re-worked his schedule so that he'd work two straihgt weeks after he got back so that he could meet me, and how almost instantly I felt a new spirit rising inside me.

Instead, I'll just say this: His arrival marked a turning point in the trip. And he couldn't have arrived at a better time.

At long last, The Holiday Classic

After getting the opportunity to meet another of my heroes, Linda from Table Tango, I followed the line of school children down to the poker room where Dick had the tournament ready to go.

I drew the seven-seat, directly between Al Can't Hang and Linda.

The Line-up at my table:

Seat 1: Glenn
Seat 2: BadBlood
Seat 3: Bill
Seat 4: G-Rob
Seat 5: Boy Genius
Seat 6: Linda
Seat 7: Otis
Seat 8: Al Can't Hang
Seat 9: Marty
Seat 10: Bob

I initially cringed. Frankly, I didn't want to get sat with Glenn, BadBlood, or G-Rob. I already knew that Glenn had a read on me and was masterful in his play. BadBlood and G-Rob know me and my style.

But, when I looked back and saw that CJ was sandwiched in between Max and Felicia, I decided I was going to be okay.

I wish I had taken more time to talk to Felicia before the tournament. I think I might've altered my ultra-tight aggressive strategy a bit. For, in the end, my tight play cost me a great deal, I think.

Though it has been chronicled before, G-Rob dropped the hammer on the very first hand of the tournament. That, along with my buddy Marty making the final table was the chief highlight for me.

You've read much better tourney reports from the other bloggers, so I'll just divulge the key hands I played.

I posted and folded for a couple of orbits before finding pocket tens. I put in a 3x BB raise and got a call from BadBlood. The flop had one overcard, but I got a sense that the flop had missed him completely. I put in a pot-sized bet and after some thought, he folded. I think he thought I might have the hammer, but couldn't convince himself of it.

A couple of levels later, after Linda had busted out, I had Boy Genius to my right. Everyone folded to us in the blinds. I had A8o in the BB. Genius put in a small raise, which I called, vowing to fold if the flop missed me.

The flop came down with an 8 and two of my aces' suit, giving me second pair top-kicker and a backdoor flush draw. Genius bet out. I had two choices: Fold like the wuss I am or put Genius to the test.

With the rapidly escalating blinds, I was in danger of busting out soon anyway. So, I pushed all-in. The bet sent Genius into the tank. I knew then that I had him. After a couple minutes thought, he folded, giving me enough chips to survive a little longer.

The pot made me feel a little froggy and with suited connectors I tried to steal the blinds from Glenn a little later. As I suspected, his read on me was rock solid. He put in a big re-raise and I had to fold.

An orbit later, I found suited Big Slick. The big blind sat at 300. I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 1900 in my stack. Glenn sat in the big blind. I thought for a moment and put in a bet of 900, nearly half my stack. Everyone folded to Glenn who considered the bet for a while. I'm now wishing I'd worn a ski mask to the tournament and brought a proxy bettor, because this time Glenn folded. I might as well have been playing my cards face up. Later he commented about the size of my bet. I still wonder if he'd have called if I had shaved a couple hundred off my raise.

Over the next several orbits, I made my mistake. I folded small-middle pairs three times to raises. Had I spoken to Felicia before, I suspect she would've correctly told me that with the current blind structure, I should've pushed in on one or all of the hands and hoped to win the coin flip. Those hands were my only chance of making it into the money. Instead, I folded them like the wuss I am.

Instead, I moved short-stacked into the one-seat of another table when we consolidated to two. For a few glorious orbits I got to sit with Max and Felicia. True to form, Felicia showed no mercy and stole my blinds on two consecutive orbits. I wanted to defend them, but I had no better than a Q5 either time. So, I folded them like the wuss I am. I made a mental note: Be more like Felicia next time. Maybe even change your name to Felicia. To avoid any trademark issues, pronounce your name differently.

Finally, perhaps it was an act of mercy, I found suited Big Slick when Pauly pushed in with pocket jacks. With a very short stack, I had no choice but to push in. I lost the coin-flip and left uncermoniously in 12th place.

After thinking about the tournament for a couple of weeks, I decided that when I chose to play, I played to the best of my ability. Winning and losing with that structure, though, I think is based less on how you play the hands you decide to play, but making better decisions on which hands to play. Simply put, I played too tight, allowed myself to go like Broomcorn's uncle, and folded small and middle pairs when I could've used them to double up. In a tournament that moves that fast, you've got to pick a place to double up and I didn't pick it correctly.

All of that said, however, the tournament was obviously not a crapshoot. When you find Felicia and Max in the top two spots, you know that there is talent involved.

Next time I plan to play under the name Felleesha Pescatore.


Like a proud brother, I watched Marty rise to the final table, eventually busting out in 8th place. For his first live casino tournament, I thought he played very well and made some good decisions. Plus, he outlasted me, so perhaps I have no room to talk about being proud. Maybe he should be proud that I didn't embarass him.

Marty collected his final table schwag and joined G-Rob and I for the ride back to the Strip. I had lost track of how long it had been since I had slept or had a decent meal. I was further dismayed by the lack of cabs outside Sam's Town (my only complaint, by the way...nice job, Dick, and thanks).

Finally, I thought, I can get a few hours sleep.

Or so I thought.

Coming up:
*Re-birth and Albania
*Playing in the Rock Garden
*No Limit--Making back the losses
*Sherwood Forest, Pt. 2

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