The King of the Weekly $10K?

The field in the Encore $10K Guarantee I won a couple weeks back wasn’t the largest since it went to a weekly schedule at the beginning of October (there have been six events so far, with one week replaced by the Anniversary $25K Guarantee) and it had the fourth-largest pot, but with all the chops going on, my first-place $4,275 prize is the largest single prize awarded in the weekly game so far.

Date Winner(s) Prize Money Entrants Prize Pool
2011-11-26 Joe P. $3,985* 93 $16,960
2011-11-19 Poker Mutant $4,275 75 $14,370
2011-11-12 Steve H. $3,071* 71 >$13,000
2011-11-05 Jason G. $4,015 75 $13,700
2011-10-22 Buck $3,775* 87 $15,970
2011-10-15 Adam K., Dan M., Nick M. $3,520* 87 $16,130

* result of chop or deal

Bad Day at Black Chip

Encore Club $400 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

My Monday night home tournament got cancelled, so I took the opportunity to spend the evening at Encore, excited for a chance to finally play the PLO game at 7pm. I had some time to wait, though, and I thought I’d be dropping into the 4pm guarantee close to the end of the first level only to find out that I was just the second person to sign up. Within a few more minutes, some more players had been corralled and we got underway, with the guy on my right announcing that his plan was to take everyone out before the break.

I apparently was doing my level best to help him out, because I busted and during the second level (although not to him). With another two hours to go before the PLO game, I rebought. That got me to the break—barely—but even with the add-on I was out by 6pm. I went around the corner to get some Thai food.

90 minutes. -100% ROI. 10th of 11 players.

Encore Club Pot Limit Omaha $200 Added Freeroll (5,000 chips)

There’s something about the volatility of a four-card hand that is incredibly attractive to me about PLO but which seems to being out the crazy in some other players. I don’t think they play any crazier than I do, but they certainly act crazier, and the volume of the club Monday night certainly seemed higher than even the nights when every table is filled for the Main Events. I busted out here when my queen-high straight was beaten by a king-high, then rebought and managed to make it (barely) to the final table. My big regret here was getting shoved another king-high straight to a potential flush, I would have chopped a large pot. Instead, I ended up starting the 1,000/2,000 round after the second break with all of 9,000 chips (in the big blind, no less) or about 3% of the chips on the final table. Amazingly enough, I wasn’t the shortest stack, but I didn’t last long.

Two hours and thirty minutes. -100% ROI. 8th of 34 players.

Encore Club Shootout (30 big blinds)

I was actually out the door but the night was (relatively) early and I went back inside when I realized the 10pm game was just a few minutes off. Then I noticed a Shootout table in the back that wasn’t full and bought in. Missed opportunities was the name of the game here. I reluctantly tossed a [7h 2h] from SB pre-flop only to see three hearts roll out on the flop. The action was furious between three players, with a pot of at least 40bb built up, and a straight won. On another hand a [tx 8x] I considered after a period of card coma would have made a winning full house on the river in a large pot.

My stack had been down as far as 23bb at one point but I’d chipped up to about 40bb just before the end of time when I got [ax kx] and raised. A three-way all-in ensued, with the small stack’s pair of queens improving to a set to take down the main pot. My ace paired, beating the largest stack’s pocket kings, awarding me the 1bb side pot, which I gave to the dealer as a tip.

50 minutes. -97% ROI (not including tip).

Encore Club $500 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Broke my rule about not buying in past the first level again (heck, I’d already broken my “no rebuys” rule—twice—earlier in the day). All I remember here is that my better ace was beaten by the ace of spades and four spades on the board for a flush just before the end of rebuy/add-on break. The table tried to rope me into a rebuy but I called it quits for the night.

30 minutes. -100% ROI. 21st of 24 players.

In Defense Of Volatility

Encore Club $10K Guarantee (10,000 chips)

Who wouldn’t be stoked to be back for the first running of the game you won the week before? I know I was. I was eager for another win and I think I probably let my excitement run a little away with my play, because I got knocked out before the end of the 50/100 round.  The TD said he was stacking the table with previous event winners, but the place I lost most of my chips was to my immediate left in seat 9, where my hands kept getting beat by something slightly better, like double-paired [ax 4x] v double-paired [ax 8x] and an ace on the river that killed my pocket pair.

45 minutes. -100% ROI. 76th of 82 players.

Aces Players Club Saturday Freezeout (6,000 chips)

Rather than wait two hours for the 10pm game to start up at Encore (and after drinking some of manager S’s personal Scotch), I went to lick my wounds elsewhere, breaking a personal rule (again) and getting into the game halfway to the first break. It was a pretty quiet night, and the field was small, but I continued to do something wrong and was out before the break on this one, too. At least I saved myself the add-on for both games.

20 minutes. -100% ROI. 16th of 18 players.

Bubble Boy

Aces Players Club 10pm Turbo (5,000 chips)

I completed my post-Vegas trifecta of the clubs I regularly play with the trip to Aces last night. After my quick bust in the freezeout, I sat and chatted with JB (one of the dealers) and waited for the turbo.

There was a fair amount of aggression at our table, with a guy in seat 5 who said he mostly played cash games (I was in 1), a loose player in seat 9 with a tendency to go all-in at the drop of a raise, a decent player on my immediate left and a kid in seat 3 who was playing very tight but strong.

It took a while for me to find some equilibrium. I was down to just a couple thousand chips at one point. I called one of the LAG’s all-ins with [as 9s] and I was ahead of his [kx jx] with all the low cards on the board, but a deuce on the river put a straight on the board and my potential double-up turned into a chop of the blinds. I kept building but was behind the chip average a lot of the way.

Once we consolidated to the final table, I had to step on the gas to stay ahead of the turbo blinds. I thought I’d be helped by the [kd kx] I got UTG, and raised to 1,600 at 200/400 (about a quarter of my stack) getting several callers. Then the flop hit with [5d ad 5x] and I figured I was screwed. I made a continuation bet and got a single caller who I figured must have an ace. Then another diamond hit on the turn and I pushed. The pot was large, I had the nut flush draw, and we were still five players from the money. That got a fold and I showed the kings, which got a couple of groans from around the table. It chipped my stack up nicely.

The LAG guy kept up his all-in raises and there were a couple of times I was tempted to call, but I held off and slowly the field dwindled down to five. There was talk of paying the bubble but the cash player wasn’t familiar with the concept and while everyone else was for it, it never got unanimous assent.

I saw a flop with [kx 7x] from the BB. The cards were [8x 6x 5x] and after a raise from the cash guy—and everyone else folding—I was all-in with my open-ended straight draw. I had about 16,000 chips left (at one point I’d been up to 30,000) and got called. He had top pair and it held through to the river. The dealer congratulated me on my $60 win and I pointed out that I was the bubble, for which he abjectly apologized. It was sort of funny and I didn’t mind. The bubble payment would have just brought my median cash ROI down.

Two hours. -100% ROI. 5th of 18 players.

Short, Fast, And Out of Control

Aces Players Club Wednesday Freezeout (6,000 chips)

I didn’t manage to get to the game until level three had already started, and I was out 700 chips from blinds. Not an auspicious beginning, but nowhere near as bad as when I pulled [ax kx] v [ax ax] in the hand of the player on my immediate left. A little later, just short of the break and chance to add-on, [ax kx] proved to be my downfall again, when he called my all-in push on an un-coordinated king-high board with [kx tx].

Fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 22nd of 31 players.


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 [ax qx] and raised, “Bob” went all-in. Action folded to me, I called hoping for jacks or lower but I was heads-up against [ax kx], 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.

Another Shot!

Encore Club Noon $1,000 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Got into the club in time to qualify for the bonus 500 chip and started off on the black tables because of a leak behind the usual tables due to a torrential rainstorm. Table friendliness was driven by L—a bartender at Boss Hawg’s, “Home of the Hawgarita”—who was buying shots for the anyone who wanted one. Though I typically don’t drink while I’m playing (and probably shouldn’t have here), I accepted and tossed in some of my money from the weekend win. Chipped up nicely when my flush draw beat out a set of  deuces and I got the first cocktail just as I was moved to another table. “Another shot!” was the phrase of the day.

I managed to stay well ahead of the chip average for quite a while, with over 40,000 chips while we were still at two tables. I lost a little ground calling smaller all-ins with my stack, but managed to push people off a couple of raises as well, including one BB I played with [7h 2h], going all-in after two hearts hit the flop.

L was at the final table and I put in for a couple of drink rounds myself, which may have led to the call I made that kept me from the real money. We were at 1,500/3,000 with just five players and I was BTN with [kh 9h] when I raised to 9,000 (a little less than a quarter of my stack) and got re-raised all-in by one of the tighter players from BB. I called him, he showed [jx jx] and I whiffed the board completely (he caught another jack on flop), which left me with one thin 1,000 chip. The player to my immediate left had been down to 1,500 in the previous level and was up over 40,000, but you did have to wonder if it could happen at the same table twice in a half-hour.

I tossed several hands until I was UTG (which wasn’t long), then tossed my chip in with what I had: [qx 4x]. Amazingly enough, I quadded up when a queen hit on the turn and I took the main pot, but I was all-in as BB on the next hand and didn’t make it any further.

Got deeper than I should have considering I hardly ever drink. Back to whatever passes for diet soda next time, I think.

Four hours. -50% ROI. Fifth of 28 players.


Now that my attempt to get to Prague for my birthday is over (unless someone decides to donate $20,000 to the effort in the next few days, which seems unlikely) I’m looking at where to concentrate my efforts. With that in mind, these are some stats from my attempts in $10K guarantee tournaments at the Encore Club.

Date Door Fee Buy-In Add-On Total Cost Entrants Place Prize Money
2011-06-11* $10‡ $100 $50 $160 142 8 $650
2011-08-13* $20 $100 $50 $170 139 48 $0
2011-10-08* $20 $100 $50 $170 141 60 $0
2011-11-12† $10 $120 $50 $180 71 54 $0
2011-11-19† $10 $120 $50 $180 75 1 $4,275
TOTALS $70 $540 $250 $860 $4,925

* Monthly event prior to October schedule change.    â€  Weekly event after October schedule change.    â€¡ Discount from usual monthly door fee for frequent player card.

That’s two cashes in five attempts. On the other hand, I haven’t managed to cash once in the Aces $10K in 13 tries.

The Big Play

Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee (10,000 chips)

Time was running out. If there was any chance of getting to EPT Prague for my 50th birthday, last weekend was pretty much make-or-break time. The second starting day kicks off at noon on December 6 (St. Nicholas’s Day); I’d have to catch a flight on the 4th to get there in time, which meant having the money and arrangements made the week after Thanksgiving at the latest. To do that, I needed to to get to an event (or series) with a potential prize large enough to cover the €5,300 ($7,125) entry fee and expenses for a nice little Yuletide vacation for Ms. Poker Mutant and myself (which only got higher as the date got closer). Not that I hadn’t been trying before.

I suppose I should have kept notes on what turned out to be the biggest win of my poker career so far, but I’m back in the mode of not being obsessive about it (plus my iPhone was low on charge). And after the whirl of the past couple of days, I’m not sure how much or how accurate my recollections of the event are.

I started off the night at red table 2 in seat 7; we were ten-handed, as usual in Encore’s $10K games (the same table was used for the final). My stack made its usual ups and downs, the first thing I can remember of any significance was when I’d managed to chip up to about 35,000 and a player in seat 1 pushed all-in from BB for the third or fourth time after raises in front of her. I stood to lose about a quarter of my stack calling her with [kh 6h] and she flipped over [9x 9x], but got knocked out.

The older guy to my immediate left reacted with indignity with the usual cant about how it was a stupid call. I didn’t point him to my calculator. In a nine-handed game, a pair of nines is the best hand 17% of the time. K6s is good 13%. My “relative par” rating—comparing each hand’s win/tie percentage to that of a pair of aces—for K6s is 19.19%; it’s 26.87% for nines (for nine-handed play).

Before I knew that the player I’d knocked out was related to my neighbor, I tried to explain why I’d called: that she’d made the same move several times from the blinds, that I had her stack covered substantially, etc. but he actually flipped his hand at me and said something like “Stop talking. Phffft, phfft, phfft.” I had a hard time suppressing outright laughter at the performance.

My own feeling is that I had at least a 33% chance of taking out a player without losing more than a quarter of my stack. Not good odds in a cash game, but tournaments aren’t cash games. I think people forget that sometimes. Every player knocked out gets you closer to the money in a tournament. UPDATE: Essentially, this is the same situation described in this Card Player hand matchup between Pius Heinz and Phil Collins at the WSOP Main Event final table earlier this month, right down to the pocket nines, with the difference being that the player with the draw—Collins—was the one at risk. Maybe Mr. PhfftPhfft would like to take his point up with Collins.

I don’t remember exactly where the tipping point in the game came. Unlike some other games, I never seemed to be significantly stacked higher than anyone else; but somehow as the night progressed people kept leaving and we eventually ended up at the final table with more or less even distribution of chips. Play was exceedingly friendly, although one of the players to my right said almost nothing throughout the night.

Then, once we got to the final table, something kicked in. I think I play my best short-handed (naturally it helps if I’ve started to pick up chips). Action got down to me and the quiet guy, with us trading blinds back and forth without flops for quite a while until he was all-in with two high over cards ([kx qx] if I remember correctly) against my [2x 2x]. A pair of sixes hit the board but I wasn’t counterfeited and there was no chop.

I thought there might be trouble when quiet guy dropped a $20 on the table and asked where he got paid. He took the payout and headed for the door, leaving the volunteer dealers grumbling. I spread the love, gave something to the security guard for walking me to my car, and headed home to figure out how to try to capitalize on the win.

And the one time I forget to take a picture of the tournament screen…here’s one from earlier in the night that Encore posted on their Facebook page.

Eight-and-a-half hours. +568% ROI (including entry, door, add-on, tips). 1st of 75 players.

Poker Mutant Goes to Vegas

Probably a longer write-up in the next couple of days, but early this morning I took first place in Encore’s $10K Guarantee tournament, a belated first step in my “plan” to be playing at EPT Prague on my 50th birthday in just over two weeks. $4,275, my biggest win ever by far.

To get to Prague, I needed a number of wins of that size (more or less in the ballpark of the maximum you can win on a regular basis in Portland) or I needed to get to a tournament series where I could enter several large events in the hope of hitting one. The wins didn’t come regularly (or large) enough to make the first option work, and with less than two weeks–including Thanksgiving–between now and the big day, there are a limited number of events with large enough prize pools that I could enter.

So most of the winnings are going into a buy-in at The Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza’s $2,500 final event, which meant buying an early ticket to Vegas after I cleared the plan with B, and hoping the flight’s not delayed too long. At the airport right now.

Only 15 winning days before EPT Prague.