Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday, 02:30 AM, The Rio -- Tony had told me he was going to the high-stakes cash tables, so I walked over to see how he was doing. What I saw was former WSOP Champion Chris Moneymaker tutoring him on Omaha. (Tony's money was already on the table from a Hold'em game, but he sat out the first time they switched to Pot-Limit Omaha, a game that he'd never played before.) Omaha is counter-intuitive to Hold'em players. Chris, whose image on TV kind of leaves me cold, was truly personable, letting Tony see his hole cards and whispering his thinking as he played the hands. Tony returned to his seat when they switched back to Hold'em, but then kept playing when they next changed to Omaha again.
1961 - The opening scene of "The Hustler." Paul Newman (Fast Eddie) pretends to be drunk and makes an "impossible" billiard shot. His partner, Charlie, says that he was just lucky and they start to argue. Fast Eddie wants to bet that he can make the shot again. Charlie doesn't want to take his money. When the bartender says that he'll cover the bet, Charlie shakes his head and says, "I can't watch this," and goes to start the car. You know the rest.
As I left to go upstairs at about 03:15, Tony was crushing Chris in a round of Omaha.

This photo was snapped by Josh Schindler, lawyer for many of the top professionals and a skilled poker player.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Busted! No big story - just a dwindling stack, and then I pulled the trigger at the wrong time. An aggressive player raised pre-flop from the cut-off seat with a pair of sixes, and then slow-played his flopped set. Thanks to each of you for following my blog, and a giant 'thank you' to those who sent messages of support. I'll try to write a wrap-up in a few days.

What a fabulous experience this has been!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From the Department of Poker Cruelty: I played in a cash game last night - lost, but played well. That happens. I sat at a new 2/5 no-limit table with a very aggressive group.

A young guy had on a white World Series of Poker baseball cap with a bunch of signatures. I asked who had signed it, and he very proudly took it off and pointed out nine or ten of the poker greats - Phil Hellmuth, Daniel, Scotty, Joe Hachem.... I complimented him and we continued to play. A few hands later, he was in a big pot with a VERY loose-aggressive Oriental guy on the other side of me. The young kid caught a real good hand, raised big in position pre- and post-flop, and bet out on the turn. On the river, the Oriental guy leads out all-in for several hundred dollars. The young kid, with a slightly smaller stack, insta-called and lost to a flush that had come runner-runner on the last two cards - a horrible bad beat.

The kid showed his two pair (aces over), silently stood up, and started to walk toward the exit. The Oriental guy called after him, "Do you want me to autograph your hat?"

This ain't just a game.

Bad news. Tony G, my partner in crime, was knocked out in the first round of his Day 2. Short-stacked, with suited Q-10 in the big blind, Tony raised 3X the blind and a lone limper called with suited 4-8. The flop came Qxx and Tony bet out about half the pot. The kid raised with a four flush, and Tony went over the top, all-in. The turn brought the kid's flush and it was over. Tony is one of he best tournament players I have ever known. There's nothing you can do against someone who doesn't understand the game.

On a lighter note, I'm attaching a picture I snapped on Sunday, on the way back to the table from a break. Scotty Nguyen is about the most personable guy in the game. We wished each other luck. (I need more luck than he does.)
A night off. I walked the main tournament room, where Day 1D was being played. The final prize pool and entry numbers for the tournament were on display. There are 6,494 entries, and a guaranteed minimum of over $20,000 will go to the top 648 finishers. Final Table players are guaranteed over $1MM, and First Prize is over $8.5 Million - and the Bracelet. A slow registration start fooled many players - including some big names - who were among the 800 turned away after Day 1D reached the daily 3,000-player maximum. That's $8,000,000 in entry fees refused!

The main room also houses the Rio's live cash games. As I was about to leave the room, I heard the P.A. system announce that a seat was ready for the next player on the sign-up list for a 2/5 no-limit game. "2/5 seat ready for X22." I was startled! Those who follow the game know that X22 is the nickname of the great Paul Magriel. Could it be? Anyone who's discussed poker with me lately has heard me talk about Dan Harrington's superb discussion of "M Theory" in Volume II of his three volume book series. As Harrington freely explains, the concept is the invention of noted poker expert and backgammon legend, Paul Magriel. When Magriel, who wrote the bible of backgammon instruction, first introduced his poker system, he simply called it "M" for his name. I went to the cash game area to see if it was, indeed, the X22. Yup. I introduced myself and we chatted about a mutual friend, whom he hasn't seen in many years. He gave me his card and asked me to forward his email address.

I'm enjoying this place. Tomorrow, I'll be watching Big Slick's Tony G playing in Day 2A.

Monday, July 6, 2009

01:35 Las Vegas Time: Bad news/good news: The bad news is that I went card-dead for the last four hours, and am down to 20,850 chips. The good news is that I have made it into Day 2 (Wednesday). Other than my being able to steal a few blinds, my only real action of the evening was an Ace-Queen off-suit in good position, which I raised 3x the blind. The big blind, an aggressive Scandinavian, called the raise, and the flop came Q-7-4 rainbow. He fired 3,000, and I raised to 7,000. He pushed all-in (about 10,000 over my raise). My best guess was that I had him, but it would have cost an additional 1/3 of my stack. He is quite capable of having called my pre-flop raise with something like Q-7 or Q-4 suited or 7-7 or even 4-4, all of which would have put him way in front, so I dropped.

BUT, making it to Day 2 with a diminished, but still playable, stack (35X the big blind) is super.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

7:15 Las Vegas Time: Just broke for dinner, then back for four more hours. Starting chips are 30,000. I am up to a total of 37,675. Slowly but surely...

Norman Chad the ESPN commentator passed by my table, and I asked ifI could take his picture. He says, "Give somebody the camera and we'll both be in it." A little while later he passed by again. I said that the photo came out blurry; we'll have to take another one at the final table. He said, "Why don't you get a Goddam sketch artist, that will make us both look better!" I said, "Yup, that's the ONLY thing that'll make you and me look better."

This tournament is more gruelling than I had expected, but I' settling into the rhythm.
The Big Show. I arrived at the Rio in Las Vegas about 5:00 local time and met up with Tony G from Big Slick. His first day (Day 1A) was yesterday and he ended up short-stacked (6,100 of a starting stack of 30,000). But he's still in the tournament with 15 times the big blind. He also got a great picture of actress Jennifer Tilley's butt with his cell phone. (Jennifer is the significant other of poker super-star Phil "Unibomber" Laack, and an outstanding player in her own right.) One can never say that Tony doesn't have clearly defined priorities.

After dinner, I completed my pre-registration at the tournament desk and walked over to the table to which I have been assigned for tomorrow. (The room was still active, about seven hours into Day1B.) Among the notables I saw were Chris Ferguson, Barry Greenstein, and Mike Caro.

OK, this is it. In twelve hours the cards will be in the air.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A few of you have posed some questions, so here are the answers.
  • How many players compete in this tournament? Day 1A started at noon today with 1,122, and it's beginning to look like a much smaller field for the Main Event than last year's 6,800 plus. That's good.
  • Is my Memory Shock system [] much of a help in poker? Yup, but not in the same way that it would be in, say, blackjack. The most important area is in locking in my impression of an opponent's playing style. In a giant tournament like the Main Event, the playing styles of your tablemates (with the exception of those who are regularly on TV), are unknown. The problem is that just as you learn about them, the tables collapse and you are facing new opponents. A few hours, or a few days later, when you run into those whom you have faced earlier, it's a big advantage to have retained a handle on their style.
  • Which is better - a flush or a straight? I don't remember.
  • What will you do if you win the multi-million dollar first prize? I'll keep working as an equipment leasing broker until the money runs out.
OK. Next post will be from the Rio.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

For those with an interest in Hold'em: I have read virtually every major (and some not-so-major) writer from Sklansky and Malmuth to Cloutier to Brunson and back. I am now working on Harrington on Hold'em (Tournaments) Volume III. The series, written with two-time World Backgammon Champion Bill Robertie, is simply the best how-to ever written - on anything. Harrington tells you more than what to do; he tells you why; he tells you what may be almost as good; and he tells you what is just dopey. I credit him (particularly his Volume II: The Endgame) with most of the improvement in my tournie game over the past year. What's that you say? "I play cash limit hold'em." Run, don't walk, over to your bookcase and pull down Doyle's Super System II. Jennifer Harman's section on limit is excellent! What Harrington has done for my no-limit tournament play, Harman has done for my limit game.

For those without any interest in Hold'em: I hope my good luck continues. Day 1C is Sunday.