Grasping For the Ring

2011 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza IV Main Event (15,000 chips)

First off, if I’d had my druthers, I wouldn’t have plowed the money from my first-place finish at the Encore Club on Saturday into a single event. I’d been keeping track of tournament series throughout the summer with the plan to get somewhere where I could play five or more tournaments—probably in the $300-$500 range—over a period of days. Events in Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles—stuff I could get to cheaply and easily—I had them all plotted into my calendar at one point or another through September and October (a good share of my winnings from the Encore’s Tournament of Champions went into tournaments at Foxwoods when I was there in August). Big Poker Oktober at the Bike, the Pot of Gold at the Grand Sierra, Pendleton’s Fall Poker Round-Up, the Commerce Casino’s LA Poker Open—they were done as last weekend approached. The last flight of the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Lake Tahoe started at the same time the Encore’s $10K Guarantee began, so I wasn’t making that. With the cancellation of the Ho, Ho, Hold’em series at the Bike , by the time I won the event at 4am Sunday, I was down to just a couple of opportunities: I could pay an exorbitant amount of money to get a last-minute flight down to Vegas and try my hand at the Venetian’s DSE Main Event for $2,500, or I could wait until the 28th (after our family’s holiday dinner) and try my hand at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond World Poker Classic, where I still didn’t get that many buy-ins for my money (at $500 and $1,000 each) and where if I did manage to win enough for Prague, I’d be really scrambling to get the arrangements together before I’d need to leave on December 4th. The best-laid plans, etc.

So less than four hours after I walk out of the Encore with my winnings, I’m loading my computer bag with a change of clothes and other stuff through the TSA x-ray machine on my way to Vegas. I haven’t slept for over 24 hours. At the gate, I get called up and asked to take one of the exit row seats so they can put some family members together and I think that’ll be great because I’ll be able to stretch my legs out a little bit. I can, but I still only get manage about 15 minutes of nap time on the plane. Usually I can fall asleep before we take off.

I make it to the Venetian almost exactly at noon, get signed up for my Grazie card and then count out my $100s for the tournament entry, plus a $10 dealer bonus of 5,000 chips. Goodbye $2,510!

Table 78 is far outside the poker room, on the edge of the sports betting area. It’s Sunday afternoon in football season and the crowd noise is pretty overwhelming. I’m okay, but it seems to be bothering several of the players, including the woman seated to my immediate right (who I believe was Brazilian player Alessandra Dos Santos). It does make hearing verbalizations difficult for both players and dealers, and with some of each speaking with accents, there were several instances where dealers misheard bet and raise amounts and had to be corrected by neighbors of the acting player.

My stack went up and down at 78. A couple of times I was knocked down as far as 15,000, but I managed to battle back up over the total starting stack of 20,000. Play didn’t seem that different from card rooms back in Portland. The players certainly acted the same. I haven’t been able to place the name of a player across the table who I sort of recognized, but his frustrated manner of tossing his cards was quite familiar.

My stack was down a bit after the first break (at two hours) when I was moved to a table in the 50s, further away from the sports bet. The first thing I noticed was that there were a couple of large stacks on the other end of  the table. Chips at 78 had been fairly-evenly distributed  and there hadn’t been any bust-outs in the time I was there, although the board showed a number of them that must have been spread across about 30 tables in the tournament. The second thing was that the guy directly opposite my spot at the table was wearing a Nike Portland State t-shirt. And then there was a guy between us sitting on a short stack who bore an amazing resemblance to Phil Laak.

Play at this table was harder than at 78, mostly due to the influence of the large stacks. For every chip I won, I blew off two or three. One of the players—Thong Tran (who started the final table today number 6 in chips)—managed to put the screws to me at just the right times when I was a little over-extended. Meanwhile, I chatted with the guy in the PSU shirt—who said he currently lived in Vegas—about Portland. The Laak-alike—who said his name was Bob—said he’d never been to Oregon. I don’t know, he looked like Laak, he acted like Laak, but Vegas is a town full of impersonators and I know Laak’s been to Oregon. I was tempted to tell him about the high desert of the eastern part of the state, the skiiing in the mountains, the scenic north coast, and the amazing sand dunes on the central coast, but somehow conversation between us and the dealer turned to “It’s a Wonderful Life” (which the PSU guy had never seen) and “Bob”, the dealer, and I discussed whether Mr. Potter was just a misunderstood member of the 1% and excavated favorite lines. “Bob” got a laugh out of my ability to come up with “No more we live like pigs!”, Martini’s line as George is moving him and his family to their new home.

Then, on a hand when I picked up axqx and raised, “Bob” went all-in. Action folded to me, I called hoping for jacks or lower but I was heads-up against axkx, which cost me half my stack and put me under 10,000 for the first time. With the blind levels at 150/300/25, I was under 30 big blinds and going down fast. It was a great gig while it lasted.

Instead of staying through Wednesday (when my return flight home was scheduled) and playing the daily tournaments, I rebooked to come back early Monday, dumped the second and third nights of my booking at the Imperial Palace ($20/night in combination with my flight through Alaska Airlines) and upgraded to first class after sitting on hard-ass poker chairs for so long. I couldn’t have won enough to make it to Prague, and that was the point of the trip.

I looked up the names of the 57 players who made it through to Day 2 (22% of the field, and less than half of them would make the money) and spotted Gavin Smith in third place, 2011 WSOP Main Event fifth-place finisher (and DV’s nemesis) Phil Collins, and Lauren Kling, among others. Probably plenty of other names to recognize among the other couple hundred who got booted in the first day. Only a couple of the names I looked up didn’t have entries in the Hendon Mob Poker Database.

Five hours. -100% ROI. 180th of 265 players.

2 thoughts on “Grasping For the Ring

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