Since my concentration on live tournaments after missing out on my home league’s Player Of the Year WSOP buy-in pool and Black Friday’s crushing of the online poker action in the US, I’ve played 169 tournaments, mostly at Portland-area poker venues.
I had a couple of goals:
Make it to the WSOP. I hoped to put together enough between 1 May and mid-June to make up for missing out on the POY pool, so I could play one of the low-end WSOP events and visit with Tomer. Two early wins at the PPC right off the bat gave me some hope, but times were tight, I had to dip into my poker bankroll for personal expenses, and June slipped away before I made it up.
Make it to Prague. My next goal was to make it to the EPT event in the Czech Republic that started on my 50th birthday. Prague’s supposed to be a great place to be just before Christmas, I could take Ms. Poker Mutant with me for part of the trip, we’d make a little European vacation of it, and maybe I’d get lucky. Problem was, I figured I needed about $20,000 for travel expenses, the $7,500 EPT buy-in, and some money for side events that might make the trip worthwhile, poker-wise. Kept coming up waaaaay short until a win just a couple of weeks before I needed to be on my way made it possible—if unlikely—to build the roll up. No luck, but I tried.
The Final Table First Friday $10K Guarantee (10,000 chips)
This was the first running of Final Table’s monthly $10K and the size of the field did not disappoint. With a $100 buy-in and a 6 o’clock starting time it presented an attractive target for Portland-area players. Aside from a $10,000 pot, you were pretty much guaranteed to be seated next to some hard-core players, and N—who announced himself at some previous events as “the top earner in Portland poker”—was a couple seats to my right. M, a player I’d seen at a number of the Aces $10Ks was between us. I ran into JG—the third-place finisher at my $10K win two weeks ago who’d had some big wins last month—during the break.
The first bit of the game had me down from 11,000 (including an early-registration bonus) to just above 6,000, but I’d scraped my way back up to that by the 40-minute point. Then, with significant money in the pot, M shoved and I called with AxQx. He was triumphant pre-flop with AxKx, but a queen on the flop threw things my way and he was volubly unhappy with my double-up, exclaiming that he didn’t know how I could make the call.
If he’d hung around at the table for a while, he could have seen how. I lost a couple of large pots to N, who had the high end of one straight I made and the low end of a straight against my two pair. I failed to call down a 3,600 chip raise from the player on my left with a paired king and the board showing straight and flush possibilities with an ace on the river. He flipped over after raking in the chips and showed he had just a pair of nines.
With the 8,000 add-on, I was only holding 21,000 chips going into the round 4 after the break. I had AxJx on the big blind and was heads-up with the guy who’d bluffed me off my king when the flop ran out Jx8x9x and I raised all-in. He flipped over 9x9x and I was almost dead. The turn killed my hand and I was sent home early to watch some episodes from season 1 of Justified.
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 K♥6♥ 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.
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.