Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2010 Garthmeister J. WSOP Recap

My 2010 WSOP jaunt is already over. The early scheduling of the limit Triple Draw event meant I was in and out of Vegas before most had decided which World Series events they were going to play. In some ways it was good to get in early and getting to meet with the crew covering the Series before they were well and truly jaded. In most ways it's bad, as I no longer have a summer trip to Nevada to look forward to.

Enough preamble. How did I do? Instead of embarking on a multi-thousand-word blow-by-blow excruciatingly-precise overly-hyphenated re-cap, let's break this thing down by gambling category. It will still be multi-thousand-word, naturally.

NLHE SnGs: -$955

To be fair, the folks at the Rio have done a fine job organising the gargantuan convention space this year. The Amazon Room is still being used, but they are also using The Pavilion, which happens to make the Amazon room look small (really). In doing so they have also increased the size of the throughways in the rooms themselves, improving the ability for players and railbirds to move around.

The Amazon Room is used mostly for hosting events that are in the their second day or later. The Pavilion is divided into a few areas, hosting Day 1 of most events, plus a large section for cash games, and another section for SnGs.

The SnGs are legendarily soft. Coming in several price brackets, usually from $125 up to $525, they go off 24 hours a day. Immediately upon landing in Vegas on Saturday afternoon (May 29) I met up with CK and headed to the Rio. After looking around and getting somewhat acclimatised, I decided to kick off by playing some NLHE SnGs.

I played two $175 SnGs on Saturday, two $175 and one $275 SnG on Sunday. In three of the five SnGs I busted when I lost a coinflip with 4 remaining. This was extremely annoying as the payouts for the $175 SnGs was three $500 lammers, plus $120 in cash, making it very conducive for a three way chop. In other words: I managed to bubble in three of the five tournaments by losing coin flips. In one other SnG I had a very similar situation; with 6 remaining I was in late position with AKo and isolated an all-in shorty. Unfortunately the dude to my immediate left woke up with Aces.

Oh, the last SnG? The $275 edition? I played like a donkey. Enough said.

All in all I dumped $955 in these things, only recouping $20 on a last longer bet. Are these things juicy? Yes. Is my SnG game rock-solid? No. If I played these things for the long haul, do I believe I would be profitable? Yes. Do I think I would be more profitable doing other things? Probably. Is it fun asking questions of myself? Yes.

O8 SnGs: +$345

Spoiler: they don't just run NLHE SnGs at the Rio. On Sunday afternoon, the $1500 O8 event was running, and the Rio started offering $175 O8 SnGs. I had no real intention of playing in one of these, until I was stuck in the SnG registration line and the floor was trying to sell two last seats in one. All of a sudden my hand was going up, and I was sitting down to join a table which easily had the oldest aggregate age of anywhere in the entire Pavilion (and perhaps Vegas itself).

As can happen when one is rusty at O8, I found myself bleeding chips early. Two missed pots later, and I found myself holding 175 chips (from a starting stack of 1000), with 9 people still remaining. So it was time to pick my spots, be aggressive, and get lucky. And that's how I ended up chopping three-ways while holding the slight chip lead. The decision to chop was an easy one, given that the start time for the $1500 O8 event was fast approaching, the blinds were huge, and I had come back from 175 chips.

Craps: +$120

One game I seriously jones for when I get to Vegas is dice. It is the one table game I think about as I fall asleep in the days before a trip to Sin City. I avoided learning the game for years, afraid I would like it too much, and it seems I know myself a little too well. Fortunately it appears it hasn't turned into full-time obsession; during this latest trip I only played two sessions, early on in my time in Vegas. I guess I just needed to get it out of my system.

My first session was late on Saturday night, once I had finished up with SnGs. I got a lift from Katkin (who was also about at the Rio) to the MGM, figuring it would be a fun time since it was Fight Night (for UFC 114). It was a solid move, as the casino was still buzzing, and I had to shoe-horn myself into a craps table. It was a fruitful first session, as I finished up $175 when I finally called it quits at 4:30am.

My second session was on Sunday night at the Rio. I had finished donkeying out of my $275 NLHE SnG, and then had grabbed some dinner with F-Train After dinner I realised I was not in the mood for poker. The craps tables came calling, and I answered. This was not a wise move initially, as I was $500 in the hole at one point. But then came the rally, and by the time I was pulled away to the Hooker Bar by AlCantHang and CK, I was merely down $55.

At that point AlCantHang and I proceeded to tie one on. No surprise, really. The only real surprise was when I started knocking back Jameson shots, to go along with the SoCo and Budweiser. This meant I was easily convinced to head to the Gold Coast for my next gambling adventure.

Pai Gow: -$200

This is, at best, an estimate. AlCantHang, myself, and some random drunk dude found ourselves at a $10 Pai Gow table. I was pretty well sloshed at this point, and began sucking down Greyhounds at an alarming rate. I was "that guy" - messing up my bets, slurring all my words, unable to concentrate on my cards. I couldn't even remember to squeeze my cards, Speaker-style.

I wasn't actually sure whether I left money on the table, or just got up once I lost what I had bought in for, but post-event analysis with Al confirmed that I decided it was time to leave once I had given away my last chips. At that moment I lurched to my feet, informed Al that "I had to go", and made an unsteady bead for the nearest exit.

Next thing I know, I'm stumbling next to the highway in the bright sunshine. Maybe it was 7am, maybe it was 8am, maybe it was later... I have no idea. I realised it was a ways to the strip, and I decided going back was not an option. No, it would be a better idea to try and flag down a cab on the highway (I learned after the fact it is illegal for cabs to stop in this situation). Eventually a town car stopped for me, and I gratefully hopped inside and overpaid to be taken back to my hotel.

I woke up in my room at 2pm the next afternoon, wearing only my socks. Such things happen after an AlCantHang bender.

Blackjack: -$415

I have a strange relationship with blackjack. It is probably my third-favourite table game, but sometimes I get the urge to play. Of course, if Bobby Bracelet is involved, I am in like Flynn (and then we lose). But then the mood strikes me, or I need to kill some time, or need to wind down, and I find myself at a table.

The Hard Rock now has a crazy mix game every Monday night, hosted by Scott Fischman. This seems to be the latest incarnation of the floating mix game (formerly at the Wynn) that CK introduced me to in January, 2009. After having dinner with CK and a few of her Vegas associates in Monday, I headed off to try and get a seat. Unfortunately the game was full, so I put my name on the list and headed to a blackjack table.

And was summarily punished. It is never a good thing when the dealer is asking if you are sure that you wish to continue, as you are pulling out more money. At one point I was down $500, before once again beginning my rally. Just as the tables were turning, a seat came open at the mix game, so I had to be happy with recouping $285.

My second session of blackjack occurred during the early hours of Thursday. I was still wound up, and needed to relax, so decide to hit the tables at Aria. I immediately set about hitting 20s like it was my job, and was up $500 in half an hour. Unfortunately, I was still wound up. A smarter man would have picked up at that point, and headed to a bar instead, but I am not that man. Instead it took me another 2 hours to blow through my profits and initial stake in a horrendous run of cards. The good news? I was unwound by then.

Mix Games: +$1335

As you might have guessed, this was my biggest positive line item for the trip. As I was sitting down at the Hard Rock on Monday night I had already been kicked in the face by NLHE SnGs, and narrowly avoided similar eviscerations via craps and blackjack. The Hard Rock game is 8-16, and the rotation was as follows: 2-7 Triple Draw, A-5 Triple Draw, Badugi, Baducey, Acedugi, Razz, Stud 8, O8.

The two games I had never played before (but had been given a quick explanation by CK) were Baducey (spelling varies) and Acedugi (aka Badacey). These are split pot games, dealt the same as triple draw (five cards, with three drawing rounds).

In Baducey half goes to the best 2-7 Triple Draw hand, and half goes to the best four card Badugi hand, with Aces being high. This means the best Triple Draw hand is 23457 (as normal), but the best Badugi hand is 2345 (all of different suits). Acedugi is similar, with half the pot going to the best A-5 hand, and half going to the best normal Badugi hand (Ace low); the best Triple Draw hand is A2345, the best Badugi hand A234.

As far as I know, Baducey and Acedugi are both reasonably new variants, but I found them both interesting, and both generated large pots. All positives, in my book.

At any rate, after 2.5 hours the game broke, and I was up $160. Not quite making up for my blackjack misadventures, but a solid step in the right direction.

My next mix game session was a surprise. Tuesday was the day of the Limit Triple Draw event, and despite my best intentions I didn't get a lot of sleep. After a solid breakfast I headed off to the Rio, figuring they might be spreading some Triple Draw SnGs, which might be fun. As I made my way through the SnG area I ran into a friend of a friend who was grinding some NLHE SnGs. He informed me that there was a 10-20 crazy mixed game going, and everyone at the table "looks like they have been up all night".

I sat down at the table at approximately 11:30am. The rotation at that time was 2-7 Triple Draw, A-5 Triple Draw, Badugi, and Baducey. Gold! Within half an hour I was up $600 after hitting a few big pots. My high water mark was +$900, though I finally left at 2:30pm, up $675. I wanted to get some lunch and chill out before the tournament, though I was glad to make some scratch and know that the Rio was spreading exactly the type of game I wanted to play.

When I cruised through the same area of the Rio later that night, I saw the game was still running, but was now 15-30 (a little high for me) and with people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Still, this was the game I wanted to play, though I decided against it that night.

On Wednesday I was back at the Rio around 3pm. There was a list of interest for the crazy mix at 20-40 with about 12 names on it. I asked the guy running the board about it, and he said the list of names was "old" and the game probably wouldn't be getting up. I thought that was kind of weird, and wandered off down the hallway, not sure what to do with myself. I chilled out for a while, thinking about maybe playing a SnG or two, but didn't feel a strong urge for anything in particular. I eventually wandered back to the mixed game area, where the 20-40 game was just starting. Success!

After two or three hands of 20-40 the table collectively agreed to bump the stakes to 30-60 so we could pay time ($7 per person per half hour) rather than having to pay rake. I decided to damn the torpedoes and go for it; 20-40 was the highest I had ever played, so why not go for 30-60? I figured that if I blew through the $1000 I had sat down with I could decide then whether to buy in again, or whether to go and do something else.

The rotation we were playing was the same as the previous day, plus Razz (which has been added late on Tuesday before I left). As it turned out, I felt very comfortable at the table. My high water mark was again +$900, and this included a fold by me in a $1k Badugi pot where I would have taken it down (word on the street was that it was a good fold in the situation, the smarter word on the street was that I shouldn't have been in the hand in the first place).

As it got later I made a couple of mistakes, the table got tougher, and I got legitimately unlucky in a couple of pots. I decided to pull up stumps after 6.5 hours, up $350. It was a very gratifying session, playing the highest stakes I have ever played, against a table of pros, and holding my own.

The next day I returned to the Rio and played another 3 hours of 2-7, A-5, Badugi and Baducey at 10-20. It was another comfortable table, and I booked $150 before heading off to the Hard Rock for Michalski's 1/2 NLHE/PLO game.

NLHE/PLO: -$50

I had played Michalski's NLHE/PLO game last December, which had been a good time. The game runs every Thursday night, and is pretty fun. They have "splashed pots" (where they add $50 to a pot every hour or so), and allow you to run it twice, amongst other things. This night we had some issues with the floor, but overall it's still a nice chance to play a game you don't see spread often. The table I was playing on had some young pros, plus CK, Katkin, Toothless Bob, and Michalski. I bought in for $200, and managed to dump off that buy-in when I couldn't get one of the young pros to lay down his 9 high flush.

My second buy-in went down the toilet in a "splashed pot". Flopping the second nut straight is always a dodgy proposition (even I, a PLO donk, know that much), but with my stack and the extra $50 in the pot I figured it was worth doing it. When my opponent potted it on the turn I figured I was dead, even announcing "this is where I ship you all my money", and so I was and so I did.

Down $400 I pulled out another $200, and then proceeded to double up after I made Michalski lay down a better hand and getting called by a draw that didn't get there. I then got it all in against Michalski and won outright after we ran it twice. When the dust had settled after 6 hours, I was down $50, and I was ready to eat, sleep, and fly out of Vegas.

2-7 Triple Draw (Limit) tournament: -$2500

If you have been reading carefully, you may have realised I did not make the second day of the event. In fact, you may have known way before this, as I actually decided to use Twitter (@discofinery).

For some reason the tournament staff moved the event from the Pavilion to the Amazon room. I happened to be in the Amazon room before the tournament, and saw it happen, else I would have been as confused as anyone else. In the Pavilion itself there was no indication of the move, prompting many folks to turn up late.

Initially only two other folks had turned up, Amnon Fillipi and Bill Chen. Awesome, I thought: we're three-handed, and not only are the other two pros, but pros I have heard of. Just before the tournament started a "Team Pro" from PokerStars arrived at our table, but I had no idea who he was.

We began five-handed, with the one seat being a stack being blinded off. As this was the case, it was no surprise that we remaining players began by playing very quickly. Bill and Amnon seemed like good guys, and we shot the shit a bit as we played.

In the first hour I hit two wheels and two 76s, which was a very nice start. Unfortunately they were the only 7s I would hit all tournament. After the first two hours the stack being blinded off got picked up (as per policy), but sitting down to my immediate left? None other than Mr Phil Ivey. Phil was evidently still playing in the 5k NLHE shootout, but on break, and was none too happy about anything. As soon as he sat down the tension table ratcheted up several degrees, only to return to normal levels once he headed back to the shootout table. He soon came back, finishing 2nd at his shootout table, and he was pissed.

At the dinner break I had just over 10k, which was a reasonable start. While waiting in line for some food I happened to be standing next to two very young couples, who were talking about Ivey.

"Actually, I'm playing right next to him," I said as nonchalantly as possible. One of the girls flipped open her phone and gasped.

"Hey, that's you!" she said, showing me the photo she had taken of our table. I assured her that I was going to be in a lot of random photos of Ivey.

After the break Ivey seemed more relaxed, right up until he was busted by Bill Chen. Replacing Ivey? None other than Todd Brunson. Todd seemed in good spirits, and we had a bit of a chat. I then won a hand against him while holding an extremely rough 9, at which point he began ordering doubles of Grey Goose. It was at about this time that I entered a stretch of not getting any playable hands. I finally had one hand where I thought I had won a pot against Brunson (I was sure my smooth 8 was good, but he had the same hand), followed by a monster pot where I missed my 2357 draw twice. Before I knew it I was all-in with an 87, losing out to Fillipi's 86. I busted halfway through Level 6. Running into Fillipi the next day, he informed me that Hoyt Corkins has taken my seat, and proceeded to tear up the table by hitting 7 after 7. This didn't make me feel better.

It's never fun to bust from a tournament, particularly when you know that the next time you can play a live tournament like this is in roughly 365 days time. All in all it was a fun experience, and getting to play against pros like Ivery, Brunson, Chen and Fillipi is definitely worth the price of admission.

Somewhat in a daze, I headed off to the Hooker Bar, and had a couple of beers with AlCantHang. Having collected myself, I decided to head back to the Amazon Room to see how things were going. Standing outside the room? A very agitated Todd Brunson. He related to me a completely horrible floor decision, which had caused him to lose it. He got on the phone with someone, and finished up by announcing he was going to the bar.

"You coming?" he asked me. Abso-fucking-lutely.

And that's how I ended up drinking until 5:30am at the Hooker Bar with Todd Brunson and Steve Zolotow, with cameos from Gavin Smith and Tom "Donkeybomber" Schneider.


As I said to someone randomly over the course of the week: "It appears I have a leak, and that leak is No Limit Hold'em". It was fantastic to find exactly the type of mix game I wanted to play, and very gratifying for me to be a winning player in the albeit small sample size I played. Once I found the mix game at the Rio, the urge to play anything else dissipated.

I still love to play the Triple Draw event, and will still look to do it again next year if everything falls the right way. Failing that, I may still try and get out to Vegas to play in the mix games.

And who knows, I may still be able to zoom out to Nevada later this summer to try my hand once more at the fabulous games that hardly anyone plays. Not to mention getting my revenge against blackjack...


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