A Day of Poker That Will Live in Infamy

The Road to Prague came to an abrupt end in Vegas a couple of weeks back, so instead of testing the waters at Day 1B of the European Poker Tour in the Czech Republic, I played a lot of poker here in town.

D’s Dealer’s Choice

Hadn’t been out to D’s place for a couple of sessions, but action was already started with me only a few minutes late. Jumped right in and did surprisingly well, particularly off a game of ‘Big O’ five-card Omaha. I was up over two buy-ins in profit then it was an evil downhill slope where I lost my profit, my buy-in, and two more buy-ins before I managed to recover a little.

Four-and-a-half hours. -140% ROI.

Deuces Players Club $122 Win the Button Guarantee

I hadn’t been into Deuces since the inaugural tournament back in July. It was pretty quiet just after midnight when I got there after leaving D’s, with four people sitting around one table playing spades when I was expecting to walk into the last minutes of the first round of their 11:22pm Win the Button tournament (which I’d been interested in trying out). There hadn’t been enough players to start the tournament—and even with me they still had to wait for another—so I hung out a little bit to see if it would get off the ground. After about ten minutes GG walked through the door and we got down to business.

I hadn’t played a Win the Button tournament before, but there’s certainly an extra dimension of strategy involved, even in folding. The winner of the hand gets the dealer button moved in front of them for the next hand, and while some versions of the game rotate the blinds and just give the button player last action, at Deuces the blinds are fixed to the button as in a regular game, so consecutive wins by the same player really punish the positions to his immediate left, especially once the blinds get up there.

Early in the game I was on the BB with 72 and called a 5x raise pre-flop to pair the deuce. Another deuce hit on the turn and I kept calling. A 7x on the river made my full house but I wasn’t abel to get any more money out of them. I flipped over the hand and was the object of much derision for the rest of the game, with some mentions that I should read the copies of Super System in the lounge area. I sort of had to laugh. I eventually ended up re-buying and doing an add-on, but several other re-buys worth of chips at the other end of the table seemed to be taking the day by the time I was out.

90 minutes. -100% ROI. Placed 4th of 5.

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

Worked for a while on my birthday morning, then headed off to the Encore. This is one of those times when I really wish I was keeping better track of my play, but it was my birthday and I was playing mostly for fun. I’d been knocked down a bit and thought I was going to double up with KxKx against an ace-high hand, but the board put out four spades and with his A he knocked me out. I got my re-buy stack (first in the tournament) and a newly-sat player on my right pushed on the next hand. I called him with TxTx and he flipped 9x9x. My barely-higher pair held and I was up to 10,000.

That sank to about 7,400 by the first break. I picked up the 3,000 chip add-on, along with another 21 of the remaining 28 remaining players. Not long after the break ended, I got another pair handed to me and pushed up to 17,100 with JxJx against 9x9x.

With no action ahead of me, I raised from from BTN with QxTx and got an all-in from BB. I called and he showed 5x9x. I made an unnecessary set of tens. On my last hand before the break I ended up all-in with AxAx against Ax9x and hit a full house by the river. That put me up to and even 30,000 chips at the second break, with 15 players left and a little more than 10% of the chips in play.

That’s where I stopped recording regularly. Three hours into the game, I was at 68,000, then back down to 60,000 (with the chip average under 32,000) when we made the final table. At the four-hour mark I had 131,000 chip, and was over 50% of the chips in play by the time we got to 3-way play. Every hand I was getting had some sort of ace in it, and I was putting the two other stacks at risk continuously. They were talking about how they were playing for second and third at that point, I was prepared to make a deal of some sort, then I shoved with 2x2xthe hand I’d won with in the $10K—and the larger of the two stacks decided he’d had enough and called. I don’t remember what he had, but he had enough chips that when he hit a better hand by the river, his stack was larger than mine. That caused me problems on the next hand when I shoved with 3x3x and got called again, because then I was out, with less than half the money I could have won from some smarter play.

Four-and-a-half hours. +134% ROI (including tip). Placed 3rd of 34.

Encore Club 10pm $500 Guarantee (5,000 chips)

Aside from the re-buy, I broke my other cardinal rule and had a drink (on the house, courtesy of S) while was playing. Hell, it was my birthday, I had two drinks. Busted out shortly after the first break.

 Eighty minutes. -100% ROI. 17th of 23 players.

Deuces Players Club $122 Win the Button Guarantee

Wandered back across the river to Deuces and made it possible for the Win the Button game to get going. PO—who used to run mixed games elsewhere—was behind the desk and it was good to see him again. My second run at this game went considerably better. By the time it was down to just GG and myself, I had him at a bit of a disadvantage, and this time there wasn’t much joking about my need to brush up on Brunson, especially with me winning the button 80% of the time and a small blind representing 3% of the chips in play.

I was magnanimous. It was late, the 2:22 game was due to start in fifteen minutes, and there wasn’t that much money at stake. We chopped evenly.

Two hours. +53% ROI. 1st of 6 players.

Deuces Players Club $222 Guarantee Last Call Freeroll

I thought this game was going to go a lot differently. Not long after we got going, a player sat in seat 9 and started blowing through buy-ins. He was all-in on his first hand and it seemed like his only move was all-in. Inevitably, he’d get called and while he did win a couple showdowns, it wasn’t because he had the best hand to start. Or even a good hand. Anyway, some large stacks got made at our table because of it. I picked up quite a few and was doing well until after the final table was made, then tangled a couple of times with other big stacks and got cut down.

Deuces has been trying to run a 24-hour operation, but later in the day after I was there the web site changed to say they were only going to be open late-night from 11pm to 7am. I wish them (and everyone else in the Portland poker scene) luck with that.

One hundred ten minutes. -100% ROI. 9th of 15 players.

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 K6 and she flipped over 9x9x, 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 (KxQx if I remember correctly) against my 2x2x. 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.