The 2005 World Series of Poker is off and running. I have seen the holy palace and played in the first big event. Now who is it exactly that knows how big this event is, or was. Harrah's announced it to have 2305 participants, and they arrived at that number via 2200 starters plus 105 alternates. My count and understanding is somewhat different however. We began with 220 tables of ten each, and then late on the night of the second an eleventh player was added to every table, which gave us 2,420 players and when we add the 105 alternates we get 2525 starters. Has Harrah's forgotten that they made the tables eleven handed? Or am I missing something here? Clearly, in all cases, if they had been properly prepared for more players last years final event brick and mortar record number of entrants would have been challenged, and likely surpassed.
Rio/Harrah's has worked hard to bring this event off and the room and adjacent facilities are excellent. For me this is an enormous improvement over the downtown venue that we have been at for over thirty years. Some years back there were two tournaments held here and I thought they were the best events that had been ever held in Las Vegas as many a person would come to the strip, and in particular to the party happy Rio, that would never go downtown. The third year the tournament was moved to Harrah's on the strip proper and died very quickly. Ever since then I have been hoping a tournament would return to the Rio. That it is the World Series of Poker is almost beyond belief.
However there should be a way to computerize the whole thing and bring it fully into the modern era. I entered event number two about a month ago by printing out a form from the internet and sending it with a cashier's check to the Rio so that I had only to go through a short "will call" line to get my bar coded paper for further events and the preprinted tickets that had my seat and table number on them. Other acquaintances of mine went through long lines on the second in order to play on the third. Firstly they had to go through a line that took about one hour to get to the front in order to get their bar code, then they went to the main room and waited another 45 minutes at the cashier's cage to enter the event of their choice. Perhaps that is the best that can happen, but I am hard pressed to believe so. I do recommend that everyone should enter the events they are sure they are playing in via the internet before arriving.
Also be prepared for a very long walk, perhaps 300 meters, from your parking spot to the part of the convention center where the tournament is being held. Apparently they wanted to be sure that all participants get their exercise before starting!
Most of the players were at their tables at the announced starting time of noon, but the first hand did not come off the deck until 12:29 PM. The button was in the 8 seat (of eleven starters) and the first blinds were 25 and 25 with all rounds to be one hour. It was announced that it was to be a three day event with play stopping at 3 AM on days one and two. We started with 1500 in chips. I was dealt AJ off-suit in middle position and elected to raise to 75 into a field of players that were mostly completely unknowns to me. Only the big blind called, he was a somewhat uncomfortable looking middle-aged fellow with wrap-around sunglasses on. The flop came down AKQ rainbow and he bet 100. I do not know what someone who is unlikely to know where they are in a hand has and I made a middle-of-the-road guess by calling. Off came a 2 and he bet 200. Still unsure where I stood in the hand I called. Off came an ace, and he bet 300. I was pretty sure that I was going to see a weaker ace and get half the pot now but would not have been shocked if he turned over AQ. I called and he had A9 off-suit for half the pot. Rather amusing and several players remarked that I was lucky it did not come 9 on the river! He took the extra chip so instead of fattening my stack I was back at ground zero.
As we began the next hand they announced that one player had been knocked out, so relax! I expected 4 to 5 players to go broke every hand but it was the third hour before these numbers were approached, perhaps seeing your opponents makes players more cautious as on the internet I would anticipate 8 players going broke every minute.
After this hand I held nothing resembling a hand for about an hour, no pair, no suited connectors, no AK, AQ, or even AJ. Most of the players were cautious at my table with the exception of one young internet player who played most of the hands and bullied his opponents with large bets and raises after the flop. I marked him as someone that I would play back at if given the chance.
At last I picked up AdQd, which looked huge in the context of what I had been holding and I raised the big blind of 50 to 150 and only the little blind called. The flop came Kd6c4d and he checked to me. I bet 300 and he called. The turn came the 3 of diamonds and made me the 'nut' flush, he checked and I bet 500 and he check-raised me all-in with his AK, top pair and drawing dead! This left him with only a quarter and as soon as he was gone other players began to go broke quite rapidly, sometimes even two in one hand.
I held at about 3000 in chips for the next one plus hours while the internet "Stu Ungar wannabe" held court, his chips performing an elevator act that surely did not relate closely to his card holdings. His big win came when he was given AA and the second biggest stack at the table was dealt QQ. Later two new players came to the table and one of them he doubled up three times without hurting his stack much, but the other one won several pots and in a key hand limped in behind several other contestants with Stuie Junior calling on the button for 100. The flop came 862 and all passed to Stu who bet 275 at the pot and only Mr. New called him. The turn brought an Ace and Mr. New bet 600 right out. Stuie, hating to lay any hand down, thought a long while and then moved all-in. Mr. New called instantly and turned over A6 off-suit. "Oh, no!" cried Stuie and turned up 53. After a blank came off he had to ship 3100 to Mr. New leaving him with exactly 1900.
On the very next hand I picked up 88 and made it 275 to go, Mr. New called, and Stuie, in the cut-off re-raised to 900. I was in a quandary here as I had 2725 more in chips and had a big stack in Mr. New behind me, furthermore I did not have anything resembling a usable "read" on him. This situation is sometimes called the 'sandwich' and the only conservative play is to throw your hand away unless you hold premium starters... But remember I said earlier that I was looking for a hand to play back at Stuie with and this seemed like the ideal moment. My holding was far above average, he could not bust me, and perhaps he was steaming. I knew that if I was putting him on ace high I should go all-in and retest both Mr. New and Stuie, but I sat on the fence instead and just called. To my surprise Mr. New now mucked. The flop came J-10-2 and I thought for a moment and moved all-in as I could not call my opponent's all-in, which I expected him to make with or without a hand, and I wanted to make it difficult for him to think of calling w 99, AQ, or AK. He called right away and showed my AA again! Alas I now had 1100 and an hour later I was history with 1200 players still competing.
Play good and get lucky!
Ed note: Knock Gus Hansen out, and get $100...everytime at Poker Champs