We will send a report from Aruba when the Ultimate Bet sponsored World Poker Tour event gets under way there at the end of this month (September). Biloxi Harrah's tournament was scheduled for that same time slot and now is, of course, cancelled but there are still many tournaments going on every day right now. First the WCOOP (World Championship of Online Poker), then Harrah's in Las Vegas, the Borgata in Atlantic City, and the California State Championship at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. Wow! Does anyone else remember when we had one, then two, then three major tournaments every year? I mean three tournaments for the whole year!
I left my computers and projects to venture to the Commerce for the 330 no-limit buy-in with re-buys. I put 1230 into the event and think there are two major paths one can take in these events; 1: you can fire only one bullet and know that it is easy to recover and that you are unlikely to play many hours and be real frustrated if you spend say 1830 and get no return. Or 2: if your bankroll does not need protecting you can decide as you go how many buy-ins to risk. Do you like your table? Do you like your position? Do you feel good? Will you get enough chips by re-buying, or adding on, to make a difference?
No-limit tournaments tend to have huge fields these days (there were 492 runners in this one) but my first big surprise was that Dan Harrington was playing right behind me so I got some free chat time in, haha. I very rarely see Dan play in these small entry fee events and over the past years have discussed at length with him the difference in various levels of entry with corresponding differences in the amount of chips you get and the length of the time-frames. Most players do not seem to grasp that most poker decisions are driven by mathematical decisions, and often those mathematical decisions are powered by the structure the house has put in place.
In fact I advise most players not to "satellite" into bigger events as the style that is used to win a satellite corrupts or changes the mindset of most players once they are entered into a featured event. Playing in a few multiple-day feature events when your steady diet is the medium or small limit one day and two day tournament puts a similar distortion into your play.
Some major decisions came up and I will share my thoughts with you. My first table was a good draw, by "good draw" I mean that many of my opponents were putting their chips into the pots without waiting for good hands. Al Barbieri (winner of event number 2) was on my immediate right and on his right was Gil Paramijit, with John Hoang at the other end of the table. Gil and John seem to play in every event that is offered in Los Angeles these days, and many in Las Vegas, which means they will be perennial contenders for final tables and in all west coast mid-level events. They also play a lot of hands and stir the action for all other players at the table.
We started with 500 chips and blinds of 5-15 for 30 minutes with re-buys allowed through the first three levels (5-15, 10-25, and 25-50) with re-buys and add-ons getting you 500 more in chips whenever you qualified for them. I re-bought immediately on sitting down at table number three (in general you have an advantage in not doing this as with a shorter stack you can more easily get big hands called, and are also free to put your stack in with a draw of some sort). I sometimes add to my stack as I am an intimidating presence at many tables and add some power to the possibility of bullying other players. Dan did not re-buy and at the end of three rounds had over 6,000 in chips and was amongst the chip leadersan ideal situation but, as he remarked to me, it just added one or two hands to his tournament life, and indeed he did not even make it to significant money in this event.
The enormous hand of over 12,000 in chips that I saw him lose came about when three players got all-in with the following hands (the action I am guessing at); a suited A2 raised from early position, an AK off-suit with over 4500 in chips re-raised from middle position and Dan re-re-raised with QQ from the button with over 7,000 in chips, and the A2 called all-in for his last 1500 or so. At this point the AK thought for a long while and at last put all his chips in. The flop came jack high, but a king on the turn shot the young happy player out of his chair and into the chip lead. This left Dan with 3,000 in chips and after he built it up to a large stack again Bobby Bellande joined the table and it had an unusually large number of chips on it when I got knocked out.
After two rounds I had 1220 in chips (near the chip lead at my table) when the following hand came up; the first player limped for 15 and the next player made it 80, Gil called, Al called, I called with AsQs (a true volume hand and especially welcome at the first stage of re-buy no-limit tournament), the button called, the blinds mucked, and the early limper re-raised all-in for 410 more, the player who had first made it 80 goes all-in for 260 more, Gil mucked, and now Al moved all-in with chips of 1260. Okay it is my turn to act with AsQs. How close is it? It is 1,140 to me and there is 2310 in the pot so the money odds are right. Also it is a re-buy event and that makes me lean to callbut wait a moment it will take 600 real dollars to replace those chips if I call and lose and I am not so rich that 600 dollars will not mean a lot to me to get those 1,000 chips back. How about the hand I have? If it was not suited I would not even consider calling. On the other side of the coin if it was AsKs I would call for sure. I would rather have AsKs than JJ in this spot! What could Al have? He called behind a limper, a raiser, and a call of that raise? Could he have 10-10 or JJ? Certainly. Or AK suited. It seems unlikely that he holds AA or KK as there was a lot of action in front of him. How about the original limper who raised all those players without having to think about it? He played the hand as though he was holding AA, did he not? Hmmm. Would he make this play with JJ? If I can give him JJ and Al 10-10 then I can call for sure, and should. But often when you are against two strong hands they are JJ and AK, and that is an ugly match-up for me, even if my AQ is suited. So with all these thoughts buzzing around my head, and not being able to grasp it firmly, I pass. The hands are KK up front, 88 right after him, and QQ by Al. The flop comes A-10-4, followed by 2 and then a 6. So I would have won a giant hand for this stage of the tournament but did not get to the flop. Did I do the right thing? Did I think about the correct things in deciding?
After the re-buy period is over I get my chips up to 3600 twice but cannot win the key hands to move on up. The timeframes are now 40 minutes each and after an hour I am down to 2100 again with blinds of 100-200 when a new player at the table limps on the button as first in. I have 9c5s in the big blind and check. The flop comes 7h5h2d and I choose to bet 600 into the 500 dollar pot. Instantly the button moves all-in. "Why so much?" I ask "Call me and you will find out." he replies frostily, staring at me. I am not used to this type of bristle from a 68 year old white guy that looks weathered and pleasant and do not know what to make of it. Some folk are defiant with big draws, some with bluffs, and yet others with big hands. Although the only big hand I fear is 222. Okay, how about the math? There is 3000 in the pot and I have 1300 if I pass and must post the 100 in the little blind on the next hand. That is enough to play with if I need to, even though I will be almost desperate for a hand to put my money in with. I think it is best to call here as I have not ruled out a flush or straight draw. I call. He turns over AhAs. Poor decision I guess although he is only about 3.7 to 1 favorite. I blank out and walk to the exit in 98th place. Hopefully you will make better decisions!
So play good...and get lucky!