Three Hundred Dollars an Hour

That’s roughly the payoff for cashing one of the top prizes (which is usually all but one of the prizes) in a Thousandaire maker, one of the Survivor-style tournaments on Ignition. The buyin is $75 with a $7 fee, and the payouts are each $1,000, with a $5,000 guarantee. As in other Survivor tournaments (or satellites), any money left over after each of the standard payouts goes to the next player, e.g. if there’s a prize pool of $7,575 (101 entries) there would be seven $1,000 payouts and an eighth of $575.

I had the good luck to cash in two of this past week’s Thousandaire Makers; here’s how things went down in the first one.

I joined the game just past the half-hour mark. You start with 2,500 in chips, the blinds were up to 30/60 (Level 3) and about to go to 40/80. Levels are 12 minutes, roughly the equivalent of 25-minute rounds in a live game. Tables are nine-handed.

I folded AT in the hijack on Hand 10, but I’m UTG1 a couple hands later and raise to 240 (about 10% of my stack after paying the blinds) with A3. The raise gets through and I win the blinds.

J8 and 96 go by without a squeak in my blinds, I fold A2 on the button even when there’s no action.

On Hand 18 I I raise to 300 (at 50/100) with KA from UTG2. HJ calls with 33, then SB wakes up with a short stack and KK. He shoves for 1,700. I make the call, HJ folds, and the board runs out Q82J7, leaving me with ace high and just 7.5bb.

Nobody has anything on my big blind hand, so I pick up the small blind ‘s chips when he folds T3 to me. The best hand of the lot was Q9 UTG1. At this point, most everyone at the table has 3,000 to 4,000, with a couple stacks under 2,000 (aside from me) and the big blind, who has nearly three times the starting stack.

I lay low until Hand 31. It’s my small blind, the blinds are 50/100. I start off with 650 chips after paying both blinds since the last hand I played, and I have the Mutant Jack: AJ. HJ has TT and raises to 300 from a stack of  2,200. CO has 6,400 and calls with 9Q. I jam all my chips in. Big blind lost a huge portion of his chips a couple hands earlier, he’s down to 330 chips, and he shoves 54, hoping for the kind of magic that didn’t come when he got it all in with K9 with both a king and an ace on the flop. UTG shoves with his tens and CO fold his speculative hand. The board runs out A9357, and I pick up the pot. It gets me back to spitting distance of the starting stack.

Hand 39 was my next strike. I had 1,700 and KA on a new table where nobody had more than 5,550. Blinds were 75/150. I shoved with just over 11bb, CO re-shoved 2,250 with TT, and we saw the flop heads up with me hitting the king on the flop: K7533. The double up put me at 3,650.

CO min-raised my big blind on Hand 42, with JT I called with Q9 and flopped top pair: Q62. We checked the flop and he bet his straight draw when the K came on the turn. I folded.

I was in CO with A9 on hand 45. The blinds were up to 100/200, I raised to 600, and nobody called. By now, I was third in chips at the table.

Hand 55. I raise UTG1 with A8 to 750 and the dealer (qs kh]) and big blind ([qhjs]) call. There’s no bet after either the flop, turn or river—we check it down to 75294 where my ace-high wins.

On my next HJ, Hand 62, I get AK. I open to 750 and get called by the big blind, who has KQ. He folds to my c-bet of 800 after I make top pair on the A54 flop.

I call from the big blind myself on Hand 65 with T9. Looser than I normally play with a full table, but I was heads up facing a min-raise. I folded to a bet of 500 on the K64 flop, he had top pair and the flush draw with KQ.

Blinds are 150/300/25, I raise A6 to 900 in the CO on hand 68 and everyone folds.

Three hands later I’m in the big blind with K3. HJ limps in with 44 and we see the flop heads up. I check 33T , he bets 600, and I come along with my trips. I check the 6 turn to see if he’ll put anything else in, but he just checks. The river is the 9. I bet 1,000, a little more than half the pot, and HJ calls within 10 seconds.

On the button with KK on Hand 73. HJ raises to 900 with JT off a stack of 10,900. I start with 7,200, and raise to 2,000. HJ calls. I make top set with a flop of KQ2. HJ checks, I bet 2,200, knowing it’s probably all going in on the turn, and HJ calls with an open-ended straight draw. The turn is the 3, HJ checks, I put in the last 3,000, and HJ calls. The river 7 misses his draw, and I double up to 15,000.

Hand 80 and I have 99 in the big blind. HJ raises to 900, I reraise to 1,500, and he calls with 75. He has just 4,500 to start. The flop is J54. I bet 2,000, HJ goes all in for 2,950, and I call. The rest of the board is the wrong red for HJ: 4 and 7. He’s out and I have nearly 20,000.

This is the point in a lot of satellite tournaments where you might start thinking you’re approaching a stack where you can slide into the money, but there are still eight levels to go in the tournament before it’s likely to come to an end (usually around Level 17 at 1,000/2,000/100). And since the buyin is less than 10% of the payout, you need a bit more than 10 times the buyin to be comfortable, even later in the tournament (average at the end is about 35,000).

I get nines again (99) on the button on Hand 89 and narrowly avoid getting knocked out when I open-raise to 1,200. The small blind shoves 5,200, and the big blind calls. With nearly 12,000 in the pot and me having to call 4,000 more, I make the call. There are two overs on the JT3 flop, and when the big blind checks, so do I. The J on the turn pairs the board, and I’m pretty sure that whatever the big blind has has me beat, so after he bets 7,000 on the river 2, I fold, the small blind mucks A6 and big blind has AA. I get another table change on the next hand.

I have 77 in the small blind three hands later and call a raise of 1,000 from UTG1 at 250/500/50. He has AJ. The big blind comes along with 9Q. We all check the 532 flop and T turn. I miss my chance there to try to nab the pot. The river is the 4, I check and the big blind checks, then UTG1 bets 1,000 on his straight to win.

Hand 100 and we’re about at the halfway point. I start with 12,400, half what my high was, but I’m above median at our table, with three players in the low twenties, four at ten thousand or less, and one seat empty. I have 2A in the big blind, and when action folds to the small stack in the small blind, he jams 4,900. I call, he turns over J5, and the runout is Q43K6, giving me an infusion of chips.

Hand 114, I have A6, I raise under the gun to 1,800 at 300/600/60, and everyone folds. The table is six-handed, and I have just under 17,000.

Two hands later on the button, it’s JJ. Blinds are up to 400/800/80, and I open to 2,400 to take another pot.

We’re still six-handed on Hand 128. I’m on the button with JQ and my stack is down to 14,300, with the big blind at 1,000. I open-shove and get called by a short stack in the big blind who has 9,500. He shows 77, the board runs out AQ49K and I’m back up to 24,700 after knocking out a player in 12th place.

I get a walk with 33 on a five-handed table two hands later.

After another elimination, we move to the final table.

I have KQ in the HJ on Hand 161, but UTG goes all in for 4,350 and UTG1 shoves over the top for 7,700. Three of the four stacks behind me have me covered, so I elect to fold. It’s AJ versus 88, and the board runs out A76T9, making a ten-high straight for the larger stack and eliminating a player in ninth. We’re now on the bubble, with six places paying the $1,000 prize and seventh getting $450. Eighth gets nothing.

The spread of chips is remarkably even for this stage in a tournament. Blilnds are 500/1,000/100. The smallest stack is 16,700, but the largest is only 32,800.

People are now playing fairly tight, and on hand 149—after the big blind has risen to 1,200—I open to 3,600 and take the pot with K9.

I fold 88 preflop UTG1 on Hand 159. I’m one of only two players under 20,000 *just barely) and I don’t want to put nearly a quarter of my stack at risk from early position with a middle pair raise.

Hand 168, I get AK UTG. Blinds are up to 800/1,600/160, my stack is down to 17,000, and I shove. Everyone folds. The largest stack is still only 45,150.

I get AK in the next round on Hand 174 as UTG2. I shove again, and the infusion of chips pushes me back over 20,000.

I get another walk with Q2 on Hand 177, then again with J5 on Hand 185. My next big blind I fold KT to an all in by 3A, On the next hand (194), A3 shoves from the button and I lay down KQ in the small blind.

We’re still eight-handed on Hand 201. I’m down to 15,750, blinds are 1,000/2,000/200. Chip distribution has evolved a bit. The chip leader has 52,550. The next-largest stack is 37,000. There are a couple of players with over 26,500, three stacks in the high teens, and a single 8,000 chip stack. I’m in the big blind with A5 as the second-smallest stack when the short stack shoves from UTG2 with KT. Everyone folds and I do my duty, I hit my ace right away as the flop runs out A6223 and put us into the money. I also pick up enough chips to put me over 25,000.

It’s only four hands later when the big stack opens with a min-raise and T8. The short stack calls from the big blind with A3. The flop is JT6, and BB shoves for 13,350. The button calls (with 35,000 behind) and the turn and river are 66. The ten is enough for the win, the short stack gets back enough for his buyin (though not the fee), and the rest of us take $1,000 each.

205 hands. Three hours and ten minutes. +1120% ROI.