Freeroll to Nowhere

Despite the fact that it’s supposedly now the top tourist destination in the state (and that’s a state where half a million people a year visit a bear-infested fish hatchery) I’d never been to the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grande Ronde since it opened fifteen years ago.

For one thing, I’m not much of a gambler. Despite the poker fixation, I have no interest in games of pure chance like roulette and slot machines, or card games where you have absolutely no control, like blackjack. I’ve built roulette and slot simulators, I’ve even worked with some of the people who design real electronic systems, and they just don’t interest me.

It’s a long drive down to the Mountain. Sure, it’s the closest real casino (sorry La Center, but “8 tables” doesn’t cut it) to Portland, but it’s more than half-way to the coast. Sixty-five miles by the shortest route, which takes you through the ugly traffic jam around Dundee; more than 80 miles if you go south on I5 to Salem and across.

And I’m not a cash game player. I really prefer tournament play, the bigger the field and the slower the blind structure the better. Without knowing more about the games at Spirit Mountain, there wasn’t any real draw for me.

But this weekend they are running their “Summer Showdown 2011,” a $440 buy-in tournament for 20,000 chips with $100 bounties. It was tempting with the money from the Champions game last week rattling around in my pocket. But it was too big a hunk. However, Friday they were running a $90 satellite tournament, and 20% of the field would get seats in the big game. Easy-peasy, right? I headed down there after getting some work done in the morning.

Spirit Mountain $1/$3 NLHE

Since I arrived more than an hour early (expecting more traffic on the I5 route than I ran into), I bought my tournament entry (getting a bonus of 500 chips) and then stood around a bit. Two tables of $3/$6 Limit Hold’em were running—not my game—but one of the hosts asked me if I wanted to join in a $1/$3 No Limit HE game that was starting up. I bought in for $100.

I picked up about $25 early on, then lost it a bit later after I had to lay down a straight draw to a re-raise. Then I got very lucky with a Q9 and a flop with two hearts on it. There was money from four players in the pot pre-flop, I pushed all-in when another heart showed on the turn and got called, hoping that the other guy didn’t have A or K. As it was, he apparently didn’t even have a flush and I more than doubled up. A little after that I left the table for a bite to eat and cashed for $241. I’d just paid for my satellite buy-in and gas and then some.

30 minutes. ROI: 141%.

Spirit Mountain Summer Showdown 2011 Event 1 (4,600 chips)

It was supposedly an “event” but it was actually just a satellite to the big game on Saturday. The room filled up pretty quickly, a lot of the folks at table 12 where I was seated (table draw was from unlucky table 13) seemed to know each other and the dealer (with whom I discussed the relative “safeness” of the Encore and Aces; with her opinion being that she liked the neighborhood around Aces better—she’s the second person I’ve talked to whose car’s been broken into at Encore). Signing up over an hour early got me an extra 500 chip to go with my Coyote Club 100 bonus. I was feeling upbeat after my performance at the cash game, but I needn’t have bothered.

I lost a couple of smallish pots through the first half-hour of play. The levels were 30 minutes and we started at 25/50 but a couple of players busted out, with everyone looking their way in disdain. Just hold out, dudes! One in five gets through to the big game tomorrow! 20,000 in chips!

The last hand before the blinds went up, I was on the BB and drew 84. There were five limps and the flop rolled out 8?7?4?. One of the mid-position players raised to 300, got a call, and I re-raised to 1,500 with my two pair, only to get a check/all-in from the first actor. Everyone folded out of the way and I made a stupid call. She showed 5?6? for the flopped straight I hadn’t even seen. I was crushed and when the hand was over I had a single 25 chip which went into the small blind.

A?T? managed to quintuple me up, but a few hands later I was completely out.

So, a long drive to Grande Ronde on a sunny day, half-an-hour of good cash game play, and an incredibly stupid move in the first half-hour of a marathon tournament. Driving back to town I was kicking myself for the call but when I ran the numbers I saw that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it was. Oh, it was still bad—especially when my tournament life was on the line—but I had between a 27% and 30% chance of winning the hand, which was better than I thought it was on the drive back.

30 minutes. -100% ROI.