Inside the Tour, Vol. 92: WSOP Tales
"The only way to beat Vegas is to hit and run. That's why I never moved here. If you spend too much time in Sin City it grinds you down, wears you out, and eventually absorbs you, stealing your soul and making you part of the jaundiced, hungry money machine. But if you hit and run you can get in, make a quick score, and get out before it bites you back. Sometimes you get bit anyway," says Richard Brodie. I couldn't help but think of the now departed Hunter Thompson when I read this. You have to live it to understand it, as most of us tend to think we are nine feet tall and bulletproof.
Well, the above quote is clearly true for us older players. Now it might not be nearly as true for younger players but in years of traveling to the mecca of gambling, Las Vegas, I only had one trip where I won every day — 11 days of unparalleled success, including winning two tournaments, in 2002. So I am taking an intended week off amid the incredible circus where no fewer than six Las Vegas casinos are offering events.
I have gone to Las Vegas for a month or so of the final event every year since it went non-smoking, 2002 (thank you again, Casey Kastle). I went to many WSOPs before that but could only stay for a few events or even hours (before Binion's bought the Mint) as it was not the World Series of Poker to me, it was the World Series of Smokers! Young players can't imagine what it was like then, a bookmaker's convention where evil habits were celebrated! I mean you could see oxygen creeping along the floor, about one quarter inch above the carpet — perhaps if you stood on your head you could get some? How did non-smokers like Doyle Brunson fade it?
Today, on a daily basis, one can choose to play from up to 14 tournaments (including super satellites to the 10,000 dollar final event) - and that doesn't include smaller daily tournaments offered by various casinos around town. The Rio itself, home to the World Series of Poker and the reporting by PokerNews, has typically Day 1 for two events as well as Day 2 for two and Day 3 (the final tables, usually) for two more! That would be a total of six events going on most days, as well as single-table satellites and cash games! What a circus! Of course it's also networking central as many many players that you seldom see make an appearance here - if you can find them in this enormous sea of humanity!
That all said, I must mention that the World Series of Poker is run much better this year, and if the trend line continues most of the problems will be solved by year five at the Rio - a really short timeframe in the grand scheme of things. I am greatly encouraged by the changes that I see. The fact that the fields seem much weaker to me this year is just a bonus. If the Main Event record for runners is shattered I will not be shocked, as even CNBC is giving away a seat this week — well it's the first seat I've heard of for the 2009 WSOP, but you get the idea!
Nothing unusual happened for me, although I haven't been to the money as yet. In the first event that I played (no-limit hold'em) with the blinds at 1,000-2,000 plus antes I held 28,500 and in the four hole and made it 6,000 to go. Only the little blind called off a stack of 41,000 and on a flop of he instantly went all-in. I thought a bit but can't imagine mucking this as I need one more winning hand to get into the money, as well as having a decent stack, and might have 15 winners, making me a favorite, as well as the possibility of having the best hand right now (if he held , for example). Would he instantly move all-in with a set? I didn't think so, although 10-10 through A-A were amongst the worst hands I might see him turn over, even then I have a nut draw, so call I did. He had and the race was on! After the turn and river I was sent to the exit, mumbling to myself.
The $1500 buy-in six-handed no-limit was another trip back to the land of Nod. I doubled up early on as during the first level (we started with 3,000 in chips with blinds of 25-50) a player raised to 150 from the 2 hole, in this format that would be the hijack seat, and only I called from the big blind with (this is a personality test as all plays are available here, fold, re-raise, or call — but I like to see a lot of flops early on in tournaments). It came A-7-3 rainbow with one club and I checked and he bet 150 again, announcing to me that he held a big hand, or nothing — and nothing is a lot easier to get, so I called, with an eye to winning the hand on a future street if I didn't turn off a bingo. I turned a huge card, the ! Bingo! I checked, he bet 300, I raised to 1,000 and he moved all in! I called and he turned over A-7 off, the on the river changed nothing and my moment of glory had come and gone without fanfare.
In the same event at the third level (100-200 with no antes yet) I raised with UTG to 600, the little blind re-raised to 1,800, I moved all-in and he insta-called with after a flop of . Instead of a big stack I was looking at the door again, and the and then the certified that. I can only hope to see you later in one of these tournaments.
I watched the final 80 players or so compete on Day 2 of the $2,000 no-limit until they arrived at the last ten. It was quite interesting as many players had plenty of chips to choose their hands with and play poker through the 6,000-12,000 blind with antes level (240,000 through 300,000 depending on your chosen guideline). JC Tran was a player that I have seen with a big stack late in tournaments many times but here he survived hour after hour with a short stack. Matt Keikoan went on to win this tournament and seemed to often have the holy city when playing a hand.
When the tournament was 12-handed, JC raised UTG to 35k and Matt called with 9-8 from the cutoff. I couldn't see if it was suited from where I stood but I imagine it was as Matt is not without purpose, and another player called. The flop came 10-8-8 and JC and Matt checked with the third player moving all-in for about 125,000, JC called and then Matt raised enough to put JC all-in. JC mucked, Matt won and the point is obvious (as below).
Until next time, play good… and be lucky!