Well the best plans and intentions of man can be changed by the will of God, and so my trip to Aruba on the 24th of September was to go through Houston on Continental and that was the day that hurricane Rita chose to pound Houston and they offered Monday the 26th instead so I said okay as it was unclear what other type of compensation I might get if I paid over 1900 to go on Delta. Good news and bad news and bad news and more bad news, jajaja!
Being in LA for two extra days allowed me to enter the California State Championship's premier event, the 5100 dollar no-limit holdem tournament which was played Sept 23-24-25 with Tony Ma winning on a four way chop at the end. Congratulations Tony on an important win. Tony is an older tournament warhorse that has been near the big money many times and has earned the right to win one. Super Mario came second for his biggest score to date and is a regular, a well-known local player, and one tough hombre in all the LA smaller events. We started this event with 10,000 in chips and had time to play well throughout.
As for my first table it was most easily distinguished by David Pham sitting down on my immediate left in the 9 seat and playing 85% of the hands from then on, including such beauties as K5 off-suit from midfield! On one memorable hand Mickey Mouse raised at the first level to 75 (over a 25 big blind) and David made it 225 from the button and young man made it 800 from the little blind, Mouse called from midfield off a stack of 13,000 and now David moved all-in for 6800, the little blind thought long and hard and threw KK away, or so he said. The Mouse also mucked and David stacked the chips and now the little blind asked me if I would have thrown kings away there. My answer was very short. No. Now David said he wished a good player had those Kings and he wanted to be called. No one knows now except David, we were playing without hole-card cams.
I won one hand for my two hours of competing (competing? Filling a chair and taking some flops seems a lot more accurate!) and at the second level with a big blind of 50 picked up KhKc on the button with 8475 in chips when Mickey Mouse raised to 175 up front and I made it 475, he called and the flop came AhKsJs with MM checking and me betting 850. He called and the turn brought the 7s, making a flush possible. He checked and I did not think he had a flush yet, but that he might have a flush draw and I bet 3300, which is more than the pot. He fiddled around, rechecked his cards, picked them up high to where his neighbors could see them if they were looking, asked me how many chips I had left and at last check-raised me all-in. I thought briefly because the logical hands for him to have on this sequence are AK and JJ and with the comment, "one of us is in a lot of trouble I called". It was me as he had raised up front to 175 with Qs10s and when it came a 5 on the river I was walking home and shaking my non-understanding head. It makes you think you should have consulted your astrologer who might realize your asteroids lay across your artichokes and that you had better stay in bed.
I flew to Aruba via a lengthy detour to Newark where I met a host of other players, most notably David Levi and Randall Skaggs. After a 13 hour trip arrived and felt good. Unfortunately at noon the next day I felt like it was 9am (which it was in Los Angeles) and that is not a reasonable hour for a poker player to be functioning. The structure in Aruba was excellent and the time periods of one hour meant you had some time to play, but not as much as some pros might like to have when trying to Hoover the chips at their table versus a big field, many of whom had never played in a brick and mortar event before. I had a few key hands and misplayed at least one badly.
The blinds were 50-100 and four limpers to me when I called w 2h3h in the little blind off a stack of 13,050. Six of us looked at a flop of Jc3d2c and with the clubs looking back at me I bet the pot plus of 625 which is an all purpose query. I likely have the best hand and do not want to give a free card, if I am raised I will have to evaluate what to do at that moment, and if it is raised and re-raised I am possibly going to have to give it up although I might be against AA and a club draw. What actually happens is that a young aggressive player raises it to 2000 from near the front off a stack of 16,000 and I clearly picture his hand as being KJ or QJ, now it comes to Paul Wolfe in the cut-off and he goes into a long think, cutting out the call and the rest of his chips and clearly wondering if it is worth it to him to move all-in with his 4300 as he knows the raiser is almost for sure going to call him. If he does call or raise I am going all-in for sure. At long last he mucks and I get cold feet, deciding to let one card come off before I put all my chips in harm's way. Bad decision. Off comes a 6 of clubs and with 3 clubs out there I am uncomfortable. I check again, check behind me. Now a 4 of clubs and I check again, my opponent bets 2.5 thousand. Holdem or fold'em? If Wolfe did have the flush draw it certainly cuts down the odds of my opponent holding a club kicker to his jack. I am not concerned about him holding a five for a straight at all, but he bet it rather quickly and smoothly with a scary board he must have the ace of clubs or a bluff of some kind... could he have the ace of clubs and not raised upfront with AJ? This does not fit my profile of him but is certainly possible. If he has only the king of clubs or a lesser club you would expect him to pause a bit before betting. Give me some coffee, quickly! Life without coffee may not be worth living! I call. He turns over the JhAc and I say nice hand as I muck mine and quietly berate myself for playing like a donkey. A donkey is good enough to carry the load for his master, and I have been mastered and re-mastered on this hand. Grrrrrrrrr. I would like a cappuccino, PLEASE!
Over the next three hours I doubled up three opponents while losing every race where they were all-in. The pattern was set. I would build my stack to about 9,000 and then give 4,000 to 6,000 to the next orphan I met. The one I remember in detail was at the 150-300 level with a 25 ante where I held 9c9s near the front and made it 1,000 to go. It was passed around to Paul Wolfe in the big blind who looked at his cards and went all-in without any thought at all. I thought he held exactly AK and called quickly, his actual hand was AcQh, it came 833 5 and a lovely Q on the river. Pass that cappuccino, please!
I now had 1450 left and over the next while I built it back up to 4400 when the final disaster occurred, with a big blind of 400 I made it 1200 to go from the front with QhQd and the gentleman right behind me that I do not remember playing one hand until this point moves his 6200 all-in. Ayah. It comes back to me and I cannot imagine my hand being any good but feel that I have to call anyways and do so. He turns over the AdJd and I am stunned. Paul Wolfe now chimes up with "I threw an AceJack away!" and I had a doomsday feeling. The flop came J99 and an Ace on the turn ended my day. For the third straight year I did not survive day one. I was in Aruba and it was muggy all week with the sun seldom seen. Other tourists told me the weather was perfect there in March but this was my fourth trip there and I can only tell you that Hawaii is much nicer.
Well, until we meet again...play good...and get lucky!
Ed note: Party Poker have multiple tables available at every limit, 24 hours a day.