Tulalip Poker Pro Challenge (15,000 chips)

Where to begin to tell this short tale of woe?

The money I made in the chop from the $5K at Aces last week pretty much covered my buy-in for the Poker Pro Challenge. For a $70 investment in that tournament, plus another $100 or so in expenses—plus a lot of time in the car over the weekend—I was going to be able to play in a game with a prize pool of several hundred thousand dollars, and a top prize of $100,000 or more.

The event had two starting days—Friday and Saturday—with an unspecified number of people coming back for day 2, on Sunday, April Fool’s Day. I had something I needed to be in Portland for on Saturday, so I decided to drive up Thursday night, play the first starting day, then drive home and back up if I made it to day 2. Big if. A friend put me up for the night in Redmond, only an hour away from the casino, so I’d be as rested as I could get going into the game.

I picked up my rewards card and ticket Thursday afternoon, so all I had to do when I got to the venue at a quarter to ten Friday morning was grab some breakfast to make sure my stomach was settled and wait for the action. I came ready to take notes, but when I sat down at table 16 (seat 4) the player on my right (a Seattle local named Jay) informed me that not only were cell phones disallowed at the table (which I knew from the brochure I picked up) but all electronic devices were verboten unless you stood away from the table. I had a few minutes to stash my iPad and filed my note-taking plans away.

The table was fairly friendly, it seemed like most everyone there knew each other, leaving me the odd man out as the real amateur. Shortly after action got started, a woman sat in seat 2 and I quickly came to realize that it was Karina Jett (perhaps from the people referring to her as Karina). She and Jay had a discussion about where he might stay in Las Vegas for the WSOP, and she seemed to know the guy on my left well, too. He turned out to be Seattle-area pro Tyler Patterson.

From Tyler’s semi-surreptitious Tweeting from the table (I got a laugh when I suggested that with his bowed head he could claim to be the Tim Tebow of poker in order to cover his texting) I later pieced together that in seat 10 was another Seattle-area player named Scott Eskenazi and that after the first hour or so pro Adam Schoenfeld got to the table (because he thought the event began at noon rather than 11am).

Even with these folks at the table, I did well almost from the beginning. I won the first two small pots I entered, lost a few hundred when I laid down a pair of nines to a bet after an ace and king hit the flop, but from there on out consistently built up. I won my first big showdown against seat 1 when a pair of fours turned into a set on the flop, made a couple of flushes, scared my heads-up opponent off of one pot with a raise, took a four-way showdown down with nothing more than a paired king (with a nine kicker) and nearing the end of the third round and the first break was up to close to 20,000 chips.

I limped in early with [3h 5h], called a raise and my five made middle pair on a flop with the high card a [th]. The turn put a low heart on the board, I think it was [4h]. Tyler was pushing hard with a bet of 2,500 and I read it as an attempt to shake me loose from a flush draw. The river card made the flush and Tyler pushed all-in. I asked for a count and thought it through for a second but I think I called even before the count was complete. I felt he was trying to push the amateur player (moi) off the flush. If I was right, I was going to essentially double up. If I was wrong and he had any other flush (the [4h] was on the board), I was felted. I was wrong. He flipped over [ah kh]. There was a moment where they thought I might not be completely covered but we were dead even in chips, and I shook a couple hands, wished people luck, and headed to the parking lot for a wet, windy drive home.

There were 168 players signed for day 1A up by the time I busted out, with another hour or so before the end of registration and possible re-entry. I know at least one other player busted before me. Saturday should be busy.

UPDATE: 31 March 2012, 8:15. At least I was in good company. According to their tweets, Tyler busted out just a few levels later and Matt Affleck were both out yesterday, as well. Big-time tournament director Matt Savage was playing (and busted), along with Michael Mizrachi and Allen Kessler.

UPDATE: 31 March 2012, 10:30. Neglected to mention that Ms. Jett was talking up a regular $120 Tuesday night HORSE tournament at MGM Grand in Las Vegas that sounded like a lot of fun.

N Took My Chips

No, the Poker Mutant hasn’t gone into hibernation, although with a trip to the doctor and the snow and the vagaries of the work schedule, I haven’t had as much time to devote to updating the blog as I’d promised myself I would. There’s a half-finished article in my bag on the mathematics behind teams of players entering tournaments that I need to get done.

The day before my last post, I beat the rest of the field in my home league game, picking up some valuable points toward the Player of the Year prize of a WSOP buy-in. More importantly, since I’m still in second place and the season is drawing to an end, I knocked out KB—the current POY leader—before any of the other players, maximizing the value of the points I earned.

Ten dry days went by before I made another hit, this time in the morning free roll at Portland Players Club. There were six of us at the final table, and one player had about a third of the chips in play when a deal was made to give her a big chunk of the prize pool and split the rest. Not a lot of money but some profit.

I hadn’t played the Aces Players Club $5,000 guarantees on Fridays or Saturdays at noon before, but the results-oriented opinion is that I like them a lot. I was doing reasonably well by break two. The structure allows two re-buys, which can be purchased at any time in the first levels and stacked on top of each other, so it’s possible to enter the game with 30,000 in chips, akin to a Triple Barrel PLO game but where you have to pay for extra stacks. I just bought in once, but I was up to 38,100 at the second break, with the chip average several thousand lower than that.

I caught an incredible break about 45 minutes into the fourth hour after raising with [ks qs] from middle position when a player in BB pushed all-in. I called and was heads-up  against [ax ax] and practical elimination, but another ace on the turn made Broadway for me and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as disgusted a look on a player’s face. It pushed my up to 89,500 chips (total chips in play after the add-on was 1.78 million).

I started knocking out players with things like [as 8s] pairing the eight as the high card on an all-diamond flop. At the end of four hours there were only 30 of the original 70 or so entries and I was over 100,000 chips. Twelve places we’re scheduled to be paid.

A huge knockout half an hour in pushed me over 200,000 chips, and another at the five-hour mark meant 260,000. By break three we were only four from the money (two, once a decision to pay two bubbles was agreed on).

I lost a 60k chunk calling an all-in with [as ts] on a [6x 8x 4x] flop when [ax 8x] made it, but then knocked out two players at once with [tx tx] (which had been working well for me all game). I called two all-ins, they had [kx qx] and [kx jx] and none of the cards on the board were above a jack. I was sitting on a stack of 430,000 chips, about 23% of the chips in the game with 10 players left.

The final table bubble took a while to play out. After we consolidated, I lost a couple of calls for all-ins but made my way back both times until we were down to five players. After doubling another player up for over 100,000, I still had the chip lead, but agreed to an even chop so I could get to the $10K at Encore. I think the stack below is about 600,000 chips. The full stacks are ten-high, the yellow are 25,000, the gray are 10,000, the red are 5,000 and the pink are 1,000.

Over at Encore, I got into the game shortly before the end of the second level (I hate coming in late). I’d forgotten that the levels are longer and that I could have bought in for another hour, or I might have played out the Aces game to the end. Something to consider but I still hate coming in late.

I got off to a good start right off the bat, pushing up over 16,000 in short order, then got cut down by N (who told me the other day he thought he played like a pro—although I thought at first he said “fool”—then again he spent part of another game one day trying to convince people I was Howard Lederer’s cousin) who rivered a flush against my paired [ax kx]. With  4,900 left, I managed to chip up a little bit until I hit two pair playing [8c 6c] and N hit a straight with [7d 9d] on the river. No re-buys!

Plays Well With Others

Aces Players Club Noon $1,500 Guarantee

Finally sat down for lunch with MH, who I’d met at Aces originally last spring, passing around comparisons of the blind structure progressions of the big summer tournament series in Las Vegas. I hadn’t meant to play anything today, but since I’d won a game last night, his talk of playing the noon game at Aces was appealing.

I was in BB right off the bat at table 1, but started going on a tear. A player MH had been telling me had an 85% cash rate was in seat 1 and I called a big raise from him pre-flop with [4c 6c]. The flop gave me four to a straight on the top, and a [5x] on the turn gave me the bottom end. He’d tried to shake me off with a bet on the flop but I raised him all-in after I hit the straight and he folded with a bit of a speech about how I was a tight player (apparently, he doesn’t read the blog) and he didn’t think I’d have the six. I probably should have mucked it, but I showed my hand, then he mumbled something about how he was going to get my chips first. He got moved to another table not long after I took some more chips off him.

I busted several players before the break with mostly less-than-stellar hands, except for [qx qx] where I called against two all-in stacks who both flipped over [ax tx]. My pair held and not long before the break I was over 27,000 chips.

With about five minutes to go before the add-on, though, I picked up [ax jx] and got involved in a hand with two smaller all-ins, the smallest of which was [qx qx] and the (much) larger with [ax kx]. After the bloodbath was over, I was down to only 5,000.

The second set of rounds did me remarkably well, however, and I chipped back up speedily. The guy from seat 1 got moved back to the same position, MH got stuck in-between us, and another player I knew well was seated on the far end. I survived a couple table consolidations, down past two tables, then got caught out with [kx jx] on a straight draw by a slightly larger stack calling my all-in.

Two hours and forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 15th of 39 players.