It was time. I had been in Louisiana for almost two months, and had yet to visit a casino for some real B&M poker. Today, that drought came to and end.
As I drove the 70+ miles to Kinder, LA and the Grand Casino, a sense of foreboding overcame me. Perhaps I was nervous, or perhaps it was the pitch black thunderclouds I was driving directly into.
Then I noticed the lightning, and wondered if a higher power was telling me to go home. Then it rained so hard, I had to pull over to the side of the road. If I had to wait much longer, I'd miss registration. However, I never saw the animals walk past two-by-two, and I made it to the casino in time.
The game was Texas Hold 'Em. The buy in was $100 for 2000T with an optional rebuy of $100 for 4000T. In other words, you were paying $200 for 6000T. There was also a $10 entry fee. That meant this poker excursion would cost me $210.
The tournament structure was thus (with blinds increasing every 20 minutes):
25-50//50-100//100-200//200-400//BREAK (last chance to rebuy)
No Limit at the final table
65 entries would mean a guaranteed $15,000 prize pool. However, only 60 players entered, but the casino did announce it would kick in an extra $2000. Final table paid: 10th-5th recevied $400; 4th received 10% of remaining prize fund; 3rd 15%; 2nd 25%; 1st 50%.
I paid my registration and got table 4, seat 7. Here were my table mates:
Seat 1: Mr. Any Two Cards (ATC)
Seat 2: The Old Guy
Seat 3: Robert Loggia (look-alike)
Seat 4: Shades
Seat 5: The Fisherman
Seat 6: The Woman
Seat 7: Me
Seat 8: Little Vietnamese Woman (LVM)
Seat 9: Don (only name I got, nice guy)
Seat 10: Weird Guy
As the tournament began, I got comfortable, knowing I would be folding a lot of hands. I wanted to try and get a read of my fellow players, and I was in no hurry to chase pots and lose my chips. The cards made it easy on me because I folded a lot of junk.
It became clear early on that most of the action would go through Mr. ATC. I don't think he saw a hand he didn't like. LVM and Don played a lot of early hands as well. In fact, Don was the first player in the entire tournament to rebuy. Before the tourney he told me these things go fast. Early on I figured it was just because he played poorly. More on him later...
After one circuit, I finally caught a hand to play: Pocket Jacks. I raised preflop and got two callers. The flop came K-J-x. I liked my set. I was first to act and bet. LVM and The Fisherman called. The turn was a 10. That opened up a straight possibility, but I still bet, and only LVM called. The river was an A, meaning any Q beat me. I bet anyway and LVM folded.
The only other hand I saw a flop on before the blinds increased was 10-7s, and I missed the flop completely. By the time we got to the next blind level, and colored up, I was up 100 from my initial 2000T.
As Mr. ATC continued to play every hand, he built up a nice stack. Maybe he was bluffing sometimes, but no one ever caught him. When he did showdown, he had two pair or had flopped a set. He played a lot of marginal hands, but often saw the right cards.
I didn't play every hand. In fact, I didn't see another flop until I got dealt K-Js. The flop brought me two more diamonds and I had a nice draw. Eight of us saw the flop and it was a very nice pot. I let Shades set the pace, and merely called his bets. In fact, I believe 5 of us stayed in until the bitter end. And I mean bitter end because my diamond never came, and a straight took the huge pot.
I was about down to the felt at that point and it was time for my rebuy. With about 4200T in front of me, I stayed out of the way until the break came. Before the break, we lost The Woman in seat 6. She was the very first out of the tournament. Of course, someone has to be first.
After the break, I was determined to play more hands. I wondered if I was being too passive. Of course, none of the hands I folded would have been winners anyway, and with Mr. ATC and LVM at the table, just about every hand went to the Showdown.
The cards suddenly changed after the break, and I was seeing a lot of action.
First it was A-7o. I know, it's not a great hand, but I was on the button, and I was itching to play. An ace came on the flop, and I figured I'd bet it. Only Mr. ATC stayed with me. I figured that was good news, as long as he didn't get lucky. Nothing scary ever hit the board and he kept betting with me until he folded on the river. It was a nice pot for me.
The very next hand, I got dealth A-2s. They were diamonds again, and again, two diamonds came on the flop. By this time, Big Guy replaced The Woman in the seat to my right. We also had a non-descript replacement for weird guy. I think three of us saw the flop, but when I bet my flush draw, only Big Guy called. The turn was a blank, so I checked. The Big Guy bet and I called. The river was the K of diamonds (thank you!). I bet and The Big Guy called, reluctantly. It was a very nice pot.
At that point, I was up to about 17,000T. Players were starting to fall to the wayside. Soon, Robert Loggia went all-in for 2000T, and since I had Big Slick, I was compelled to call. I was hoping he didn't have a pair. Of course, he had a pair of 3's, and that was enough to beat me.
It didn't take long to get that 2000T back. The next hand I looked down at AJs. When I raised, everyone folded. Next hand, it was Cowboys. When I raised, and everyone folded, The Old Guy said, "Watch or you'll get bit." I responded by flipping my K's. It was the only courtesy show all day. The Old Guy mumbled something about never getting Cowboys.
I was feeling really good about my play at that point. I was the big stack at the table. Unfortunately, the good hands started drying up, and I wondered if I should have started trying to buy some pots. The play became more and more timid as the blinds increased.
Pretty soon, Mr. ATC was out as his huge stack dwindled thanks to a lot of marginal hands. LVM went out soon thereafter. Robert Loggia and Shades didn't last much longer either. They must have thought they were pretty good because they mumbled about the lucky play.
One of the replacements for our lost players was Mr. WPT. He wore the World Poker Tour button up shirt, so maybe he fancied himself a pro. Hell, maybe he was a pro, I don't know. He hadn't been at the table long before we faced off.
I got dealt A-9s (diamonds again). Because we had lost a few players, there was a small blind and two big blinds on the table for a total of 2500T. I was one of the button and everyone folded to me so I raised to 2000T. The first two blinds folded, but Mr. WPT called. The flop came 9-5-3 rainbow. I had top pair, top kicker.
Mr. WPT was first to act, and he just checked. I thought he was opening the door so I bet. He hesitated and called. The turn was a 6, I think. Mr. WPT checked again, and I pressed. I figured this big 2000T bet might scare him off, and I figured I might have him beat anyway. It's not like he's holding 4-7 or something like that.
He calls my 2000T after much deliberation. At that point, I'm down to 2500T and Mr. WPT was down to 2000T. The river was another 5. I guess at that point I thought he might have a 5, but I had to bet anyway. He called me, but looked like he didn't want to. When he flipped over his pocket 10's, I couldn't understand why he played his hand the way he did. Perhaps it was sheer brilliance, because it worked.
I was down to just one brown 500T chip. My "big blind" forced me all in with K-2 of diamonds. Mr. WPT raised everyone else out of the pot and showed me pocket deuces. My K-2 was a heavy underdog. In fact, the hand analyzer tells me he was a 2-1 favorite. A King fell on the turn, however, and I was still alive with 2000T.
That's when we moved to the final two tables. There were 19 players remaining, and I was in 19th place, a long way from 18th. Luckily, I was two seats to the right of the button, so I'd get to look at a few hands. Unfortunately, two people between the button and I got knocked out, so my blind came along before I ever saw a playable hand.
I didn't look at the cards. I figured I'd see them at the end. A young guy with a big stack raised everyone else out of the pot and when the showdown came, my 4-5o paired a 5 on the board, but his J-9o paired a 9. I was out, in 16th place, 6 places from the money.
Amazingly, Don was still alive. After his early reckless play, he really settled down and caught some good hands. I was really hoping he'd make it to the money. The Old Guy was also still alive, and after mumbling about Cowboys, it's actually a pair of K's which got him to the final two tables. In a three-way all-in showdown, his Cowboys beat 10's and Rockets when a K hit the table.
During a brief break, I got to talk to Mr. WPT about that hand that did me in. He thought I was just raising from position to steal, but he checked to me because he wasn't sure. He thought I had a higher pair, but was pot committed and had to stay in when no scare cards hit the table. If any thing higher than a 10 hit the flop, he likely would have folded. Just my luck.
So, did I play that hand wrong? I wish now I had played it differently, but I'm not sure what else I would have done. I thought I had the best hand, and I bet it. I guess I'll do it again next time.