Wednesday, June 28, 2006

First Day, WSOP 2006

Yesterday marked the first "open event" at the 2006 WSOP, held at the Rio. The first event was a $500 tournament open only to casino employees (congrats to my buddy Jackson, a dealer at the Mirage who took 13th out of 1232. Actually, I don't know his last name so that might not be the guy I know. Still, congratulations Jackson Young, whoever you are.) Anyway, the first event was the $1500 No Limit Holdem event that I had considered playing in. However, the idea of being forced to play 10 hours, plus time for dinner and 8 breaks, was rather daunting. Plus, the event is supposed to last 3 days, and I have some friends coming in on Thursday. Instead, I decided to just stop by the Rio and check the place out. I was hoping to get in a cash game if possible. I also thought I might stick around long enough to play their $500 "second chance" tournament, which is supposedly run every day at 5 pm.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to park due to the likelihood that it'd be ridiculously crowded, but for some reason there was a ton of parking, much more than there used to be on a weekend night back in February when I played at the Rio a lot. Still, when I got inside, the place was packed. I had to wander around a bit before I figured out where the tournament was being held, but when I neared it, the scene was rather spectacular. They have booths set up for sponsors and things all along the hallway. Even though the tournament had already started, the hallways were still crowded with specatators and the media. I walked by a photo booth with sample photos of WSOP bracelet winners, including Scotty Nguyen. Then I turned to go and who happened to be walking by, but Scotty himself.

In the tournament room were over 200 tables full of players. Since this was not enought to accommodate all the players, they had alternates rotating in whenever anyone was eliminated. Supposedly there ended up being more than 2600 players. I could barely move through the aisles so I stayed near the entrance and watched ten or so uneventful hands of Gavin Smith's table. John D'Agostino was being interviewed behind me. I was surprised to see how many big name players showed up for such an inexpensive and lengthy event. John Juanda, Joe Bartholdi (I'm a fan because he seemed like a cool guy when I talked to him during my first trip to Vegas 3 years ago), Howard Lederer, and others. I stopped to watch Jennifer Harmon after she raised to 150 before the flop (blinds of 25-50, she had about 2000 in mid-late position). The big blind raised her to 700. She pushed all-in after a few seconds, and the big blind immediately called with about 1600. He had AKo. Harmon's QQ held up.

It was only about 2pm at this point, and there were no cash games going, so I decided not to stick around for the 5pm tournament. Besides, the place was so crazy and hectic I didn't feel like trying to figure out where it was going to be held or how to sign up for it. I went over to play at the Wynn, where they have a promotion where if you play 50 hours by July 22 you get to play in a $100,000 freeroll tournament. The Wynn was also packed, by far the most crowded I've seen it on a Tuesday afternoon. I'm not sure if this was because of the promotion or the WSOP being in town, but they had only one or two empty tables in the place and every game had a sizable list. I played their 15-30 game while waiting for 2-5 NL, and lost about $100, (bad luck this time, I'm quite certain. I had 3 sets all lose to straights on the river). Then I moved over to the 2-5 game, where I had much better luck, including runner-runner quad 5's, and a semibluff that was called but I caught my flush. I got 6 hours in towards my 50 before becoming exhausted (jet-lag from flying in from the east coast).

As a side note, I started reading The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King by Michael Craig. It's an interesting story about billionaire Andy Beal coming to Vegas to play the best poker players head's up for stakes between 10K-20K and 100K-200K. Beal becomes extremely competitive, to the point where Barry Greenstein at one point admits that Beal had outplayed him during one session, and later Ted Forrest says he had been outplayed as well.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Complicated Hand vs. Joe

My friend Joe has been in town the past couple of weeks and we've been playing a lot of 1-2 NL. Late Sunday night we got into a game full of weak, loose, drinkers, and Joe and I were dominating the table. I was playing a hyper-aggressive style and Joe, to my left, was just sitting back playing good, solid poker.

A lot of people, when they play at a table with friends, are reluctant to play hands heads-up against their friends. This is completely understandable, and I can't really fault them for it. Nonetheless, this behavior does disrupt the natural flow of the game. Each player at the table should be able to assume that their opponents are playing for themselves and only for themselves (this is especially important in torunaments, where collusion would be even more profitable). Anyway, Joe and I have a history of not going any easier against each other, as is exemplified in what follows.

In the following hand, I had about $425 left in mid-late position, and Joe had me covered. Nobody else at the table had over $300, as far as I can remember. There were two limpers and I limped in with KTs. Joe limped in behind me, and the small blind completed.

Flop: Ks Kc 9c.

This is a flop where I am very likely to have the best hand, but if I don't, it has the potential to get me into plenty of trouble. My T kicker is worrisome.

Action to me: check, check, bet $20. This player is quite aggressive, and likes to be tricky, so this bet actually suggests he does not have a king. Anyway, with three players behind me, I just call. Joe raises to $100. This constitutes a raise of $80 into a pot of size $68 (after rake). Could Joe be raising with an inside straight draw like JT? Yes, but this seems very unlikely. Obviously, Joe has to suspect that one of his opponents has a big hand, so this would be an extremely risky bluff. I am about 95% certain he is holding the last K, possibly even K9 or maybe even 99. Joe is not the type to play Kx preflop, unless possibly if it's suited. It is hard for me to imagine that my KT is the best hand in this situation. The blinds fold. The original bettor ponders for a while, and says "you must have my king outkicked." Then he shows his hand to the guy next to him, who nods. Then he folds.

Now, in my experience, when someone states something about his hand just before showing it to someone and then folding, he is telling the truth over 95% of the time. He has no incentive to mislead the other players if he is going to be out of the hand anyway, and if he were lying about it to help his table image, he wouldn't show it to the person next to him. Suddenly, I had some doubt about Joe's hand. I still thought he might be holding a king, but now I was significantly less certain than I was before. I decided I needed to find out where I was, so I raised to $250 (a $150 raise into a $228 pot). After some deliberation, Joe called. At this point I was again pretty sure Joe had the best hand. I would have expected him to re-raise there, but maybe he figured he could get the rest of my money in on the turn and river.

Pot: $528
Turn: Ts. Now I have the nuts. With about $155 left in my stack, I put out a bet of $50. After calling my flop raise, Joe can't fold to such a small bet. He pushed me all-in, and I obviously called. Joe showed KJ.

Pot: $835.
River: Tc. Joe and I split the pot with KKKTT.