I’ve been kind of busy lately and haven’t been playing quite as frequently over the past couple of months, but it’s the beginning of the WSOP again and while I don’t have a two-week trip of shame planned this year, I will be in Las Vegas on Wednesday this week, for a quick overnight trip to play (hopefully) an event at the Venetian (as opposed to an event at the Venetian and then three or four other bust-outs before I head home Thursday night).
I’ve played 90 tournaments this year with four or more tables, and my ITM in those games is 18%. I hadn’t had a big win for a while, but back in mid-March, I cashed well in the Aces Players Club $25K, then I was in a multi-way chop for the one of the Spirit Mountain Top of the Mountain Events in May. Despite the fact that they were exactly two months apart, I only played two other $100+ buy-in events between them because of schedule issues (like I said, I’ve been busy). The field sizes were 92 at Aces and 83 at Spirit Mountain; I feel like making the final table for two of four in that period wasn’t bad (although I’ve played three since Spirit Mountain without a cash).
Vegas is already over 100 degrees, it’s not supposed to get below 80 Wednesday night. I’ll be staying at The Quad for the first time since the renovation as will my poker guru.
I’m flying in at 9am and I’ll hustle over to The Venetian, most likely to play in a Limit Omaha Hi tournament. Opinions on that from fellow players here in Portland are decidedly mixed, with a few people shuddering at the thought of limits and no lows and others expressing some interest to hear how it goes. I went on the Pokerstars mobile app this evening and ran 500 play betting units up to over 2,500 in short order by continually getting the nuts. I think that will be my strategy for the tournament.
That’s a two-day tournament, so hopefully it will be the only one I’m playing on this trip. There should be around 120 players, if the other similarly-priced Limit Omaha8 and Stud8 events can be counted on as a guide. Depending on if and when I bust out of that game, I’ve got a list of other games at venues around town to choose from, though the big ones are the WSOP Deepstack $235 at 3pm (today’s game had 1,235 players with $45,800 up top; according to a shot of the tournament clock, by level 7 the average stack is 30BB with 60% of the field left). The Venetian has a Survivor tournament at 4pm with a great ROI if you make the money because the entire top 10% of the field chops for a profit of more than 700%. After 6 are choices of the smaller WSOP Deepstacks at 6pm and 10pm and the last Venetian game at 7pm.
If I’m not playing the second day of the Venetian tournament on Thursday, most likely my only option will be the $70 daily event at Caesars at 9am. I don’t think anything else can be counted to be over in time to get to my 10pm flight.
Gonna touch the live wire again and see if I have a better experience than last time. See you inside where it’s air conditioned.
Everyone likes to maximize their money, and the conventional wisdom says: “More entries, more money.” But as we know from brutal experience, we don’t always win the top prize. How do you make the most of your tournament dollar? Plan for the average.
Obviously, if you don’t make the money at all, you’re a loser. But if you do make the cash, what can you expect to make, on the average? Field size has a lot to do with that.
While the money up top is always great, looking at payout structures like the Venetian’s makes clear that there’s a “sweet spot” in tournament size for anyone who cashes on a regular basis.
This chart shows the minimum, median, and maximum payout from a single full table to 200 players based on every $100 per player in the prize pool.
Number of Entrants (min% / med% / max%)
9-29 (20 / 30 / 50)
30-59 (7 / 20 / 35)
60-100 (3.8 / 7 / 32)
101-140 (2 / 4.5 / 30)
141-200 (1.6 / 2.7 / 27)
What’s being represented here? Specifically, it’s the bounds of the smallest possible cash (someone who beats 90% of the field) in red, the person who beats 100% of the field (minus themselves, of course) in purple, and the person who makes it halfway through the cash by beating 95% of the field (in green). There is, of course, variation in payout structures, but there is always a point at which the maximum prize begins to exponentially outstrip the median. In the case of the Venetian Deepstack structure, that shift happens at 60 players, when the median value goes from nearly 60% of the maximum payout to a mere quarter of the max. In the zone between 30 and 59 entries, the median payout is almost three times the minimum cash, in the next zone, it’s only double. In the last zone represented in these charts, the median cash is just 10% of the maximum, and only 160% of the min-cash.
Playing tournaments with 4 to 7 tables then becomes a quantity game, with maximum prizes from just under 900-1900% profit and median cashes of around 500-1000% profit. For players with and ITM of 20%, those size games should be good targets.
A Saturday chop at Encore sent me into a scramble to catch the tail end of the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza I, in the hopes of chipping up my couple of thousand to something bigger. Obligations at home kept me from taking off until Wednesday night, so I missed the a couple of games I would have liked to play—like the $460 Big Bounty and $350 PLO/PLO8 game on Tuesday—but I caught an afternoon flight and made it down to Las Vegas, finally getting into the hotel about 9pm, then having to wait in line for half an hour to check in.
I was far too late for the last entry stage of the 7pm $175 daily tournament by the time I dumped my stuff off in my room at the Imperial Palace, but I figured I’d wander up to see where the tournament area had been moved, in The Palazzo, then figure out what to do. It was about a fifteen or twenty-minute walk from the IP, depending on how fast you were going and how many people were on the street. I briefly considered playing the 10pm, but figured I’d rather be rested for the noon $350, so I just bought my ticket and wandered back to The Venetian to see what I could find in the way of a cash game. Nothing open but Hold’em; I put my name on the board for the 1-2 PLO (I figured it would be practice for the Triple Barrel tournament) and 1-2 Big ‘O’, since the waits for Omaha8 were exceedingly long. Then I sat. And sat. Finally, just before midnight, I was called for Big ‘O’, which I’d played in tournaments but never for more than a single hand in a dealer’s choice cash game. Just after I sat down, my name came up for PLO and I stupidly gave it up, then proceeded to bust out of the Big ‘O’ game in about ten minutes. At least I got a few hands of poker in for the day. Went back to the IP and got a few hours of sleep after that.
Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 27 $350 No Limit Hold’em
No surprise, but all of the DSE merchandise was gone by the middle of the last week. I got my food voucher and headed early to me seat.
We started off with 12,000 chips in this tournament. The players were pretty sparse in the first minutes, and most of the early birds looked like they were older than me. The “Internet kids” weren’t there yet. Are there still Internet kids in the post-Black Friday American poker scene?
Played Q♥4♥ on my second hand and made Broadway on the turn to take in a pot of nearly 5,000 chips, then lost ground on a flush draw that knocked me below 13,000.
AxQx. Play it or not? According to PokerListings, Daniel Negreanu’s nickname for the hand was “1.4”, based on how many millions of dollars he’d lost on it. It didn’t cost me that much but it took pre-flop raises by AxKx and KxKx in close succession to get me bak as high as 10,000 chips. Just to show I hadn’t learned my lesson, I made top pair with AxQx shortly after that, but my top pair didn’t look good in the face of four to a straight on the board.
With one exception (see later) my back always seems to be toward tournament clocks, no matter where I’m playing, and this time was no exception. Time wasn’t going to be on my side either way, with me going too far out on a limb with 9x9x and a board with two overs. I was right in figuring my opponent hadn’t hit the board with two over cards to my pair, but I was wrong about his hand strength: KxKx. THat took me down to 7,000 chips.
Another misstep with A♠2♠ dropped me down to 5,000 when AxAx came calling. Lost some more with what I’m calling the “mini-Butcher” (Qx9x) against 8x8x, then called a re-raise with QxJx and found myself with just 2,650 about an hour and forty minutes in.
I raised with KxJx and found myself with a gutshot straight on the flop, hitting the queen I needed on the turn and going all-in to win a pot of 2,000 chips. That pushed me up to 3,600. Another KxJx cost me when I had to lay down or go all in after the turn with an up-and-down straight draw. Shortly before the break, I shoved with A♥6♥ and got a call from AxKx but pulled out a flush and doubled to 4,825.
After the break,the first hand I folded Tx7x on BTN—usually something I’d play from that position as long as the cost of entry wasn’t too big—then I watched my 9x6x8x roll out on the flop. Fifteen minutes after the end of break, I was all-in with A♥T♥ after a 9xAx9x flop and got one call, but it only made up ground I’d been losing, putting me just under 5,000 chips.
UTG with 4x4x, I called a raise to 800 and got a flop with all diamonds. I didn’t have one and folded to a post-flop bet. My last hand was against 4x4x. My AxJx went nowhere and I was out.
Two hours and forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 220th of 278 players. $80,481 prize pool.
Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 28 $350 Triple Barrel Pot Limit Omaha
The Triple Barrel format gives you 4,000 in chips and two lammers worth 4,000 chips each that can be put into play at any time prior to the end of the first break. I’d first seen the Triple Barrel format on television during the 2011 WSOP Heads-Up Championship match between Jake Cody and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Between that and the fact that I only have limited experience in PLO, I was chalking this one up to a learning experience.
My neighbor to my right took the big stack strategy, electing to start off with 12,000 chips. I stuck with my small stack, although I think he may have had a better idea of what he was doing than me. Regardless of my inexperience, I was the first person at the table to win a pot after four straight take-downs by the woman in seat nine. On her first pot, the older guy on my left says something about her scooping the pot. I think he’s making a joke, but an hour into the game several of us are talking and he says it took a while for him to realize that we weren’t playing Hi-Lo, because there weren’t any qualifying lows on the board.
I lost my first stack about forty-five minutes in, with two pair and a straight draw against a lower straight draw who called my repot raise and caught his card on the river.
Fifteen minutes into the second barrel and it was down to 2,575 as well. Then I had nut flush and open-ended straight draws on the flop and three of us went all in. I tripled up to 8,150 chips, which combined with my remaining lammer put me ahead of the starting stack, slightly.
I folded out post-flop with an up-and-down draw with lots of action developing. The 3x on the river would have made my straight and won the pot for me. I was down a bit, but hit a set of sixes and bet the pot to win a hand. I still had 7,500 and a lammer. Once again, the tournament clock was behind me.
Just about two hours in and I had two pair on the flop, but running kings on the turn and river don’t make them look so good and I have to lay my chips down, which drops me to 2,400 and a bullet. I cash in my lammer at the break and have just 8,950 chips left.
During the break, one of the guys at my table mentions that a player at the other end is WSOP bracelet-winner Eric Baldwin. And Eli Elezra‘s at the next table over.
I’m starting to run on fumes, though. I have two pair and am good to the turn, but I can’t shake the big stack next to me and he sticks through to the river to catch a better two pair, leaving me with just 4,125.
Half-an-hour after the break, my doom awaits. I try to lay a trap holding the king-high flush on the flop and check, then call a raise from the big stack on my right that put me all-in against a full house. Before I left, I got confirmation from the big stack that his ideal strategy for Triple Barrel is to cash out at the beginning. And get great cards.
Three hours and thirty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 42nd of 66 players. $19,107 prize pool.
Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 28 $120 Nightly No Limit Hold’em
I went and had dinner, then wandered back to the IP to lick my wounds and call Ms. Poker Mutant. I avoided the Venetian cash room after my Big ‘O’ drubbing of the night before, and made it back to The Palazzo in time for the 10pm $120 tournament. Half the field of 106 was gone already in the 7pm $175 tournament after just three hours.
The vibe at the night table was very different from the afternoon games. There’d been plenty of talking and jokes at both the earlier tournaments—everyone had a pretty good laugh with the guy who told everyone he’d started the PLO game thinking it was PLO8—but the woman who sat in seat 1 at my table called over to a friend at the next table that they were playing for “Strip club money, baby!” And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game. She was gone in relatively short order, but a friend of hers who I shall refer to as The Ape, got sat a spot from my left, then proceeded to shove all-in with Kx2x over a couple of raises, only to bust out, buy back in, and sit down at the other table.
Meanwhile, I’d played 8♣5♣ and made top pair on the flop but let a guy get to the river who was trying to bet me off. He caught his ace on the river and thirty-five minutes in I was down to 4,600 from the starting stack of 8,000.
Fifteen minutes later, I picked up QxQx on BTN and am hoping for some major action. Instead, everyone folds to me, I raise and one of the blinds comes along. Another queen shows on the flop and I make a small raise and the blind folds, gaining me only 500 chips.
A♦8♦ made middle pair and I kept betting, which eventually won me the hand and put my stack up to 6,450. A loss knocked me down to 5,125 by seventy-five minutes, then an attempt to protect my button but me down to 3,950.
At least I could see the tournament clock. The 10pm seems to be the bastard child of the Deep Stack Extravaganza, so we got a kitchen timer.
On the break, I checked around the other tournaments still running at 11:30pm. The Triple Barrel had 12 players left, there were only 29 of the 7pm players still in. And there were still 29 in from the noon $350 game.
The Ape had busted out of the game again and been moved back to the same seat he’d been in before. He actually accumulated some chips this time, but he seemed to have a beef with the guy on his left. He claimed to have a “last-longer” bet with one of his other friends in the tournament, the value of which started off at $2,000, then changed at some point to $1,000. Top prize was only about $950, and I was wishing that they’d take their strip club money and head out.
Once action was going again, middle pair and 4♥8♥ worked for me, then I picked up a couple more hands, which put me in a position where I could fold a raise of 1,000 holding A♣Q♣ to an all-in and still have 12,225 chips left. Then A♥7♥ making a flush on the flop after I raised to 800 pre-flop and got two calls. A 1,500 bet post-flop scared them away.
I’ve never called a clock on anyone in my life before, but The Ape got into a Phil Hellmuth-like tirade with the guy on his left, going on about how he’d promised to tell him “a story.” It went on and on, with everyone at the table seeming to be wishing they (or he) were anywhere else. The floor seemed to be very reluctant to actually put the clock in play; apparently The Ape is a regular player. A little later, when he was busted out, he just sat there for a couple minutes and the table was completely silent.
Two and a quarter hours in, I lost some ground with a suited JxTx when I missed an up-and-down straight and flush draw. I still had over 10,000 chips, but the blinds were getting large. Half and hour later, they’d chopped me down to 7,200.
I’d just gone through the blinds on table 2 when the final table was made and I got stuck just ahead of the blinds again. I had nothing playable, and was down to 5,100 chips when I was on the button again.
I was UTG and about to hit the blinds again at 800/1,600/100 when I looked down at QxQx. Naturally, I was all in, and just as naturally, not too many people were concerned about calling my stack of about 4,500 chips. Two callers: one with AxKx and the other with 4x4x. The ace hit on the flop and I was done for the day.
Three hours. -100% ROI. 8th of 24 players.
Venetian 2012 Deep Stack Extravaganza I Event 27 $560 No Limit Hold’em
I headed over to The Palazzo for breakfast Friday morning in my suit and tie, then wandered over the bridge to The Wynn to look around. Nothing but expensive shops. I tried to find an alternative route back, but the valet would have none of it, steering me back to the bridge.
Feeling a little thirsty after my excursion, I stepped into the Grand Lux Cafe to have a Diet Coke that was indeed “lux” at $3.51 for a 20 oz. bottle. As I was on my way out, one of the guys at the counter asked me where I’d gotten my shoes. I told him Portland was crawling with Nike outlets and mentioned that I’d gotten them because 2 and 3 were my favorite pair of cards, a little joke I’d thought of earlier in the morning.
I got the security guard near the dragon in the Palazzo gallery to take my picture in full regalia for the day, and when I sat down early for the $560 got to chatting with the dealer and told her my joke about playing that day because I was suited. She laughed and said that was an original one to her, which made me happy. Also, 15,000 in chips.
My first hand in the match, I had A♦2♦ UTG and folded after three clubs came on the flop. Another suited ace just a couple minutes later (A♠5♠) on the BB made the middle pair and I won with 5s and 7s and the ace kicker. Up to 18,050 less than 10 minutes in.
I lost some ground fishing for a flush with A♦[td,][then][played][A♣3♣ because of the joke about the shoes and caught a pair of threes and a flush draw. I re-raised post-flop by 4,000 chips and ended up beating KxJx with the pair.
Twenty minutes in, and I was up by nearly 6,000 chips.
Just past the half-hour mark, I have Ax7x and see a 7x7x9x flop. There are two raises ahead of me and I pop it to 4,000. Seat 1 goes all-in, the players between us get out, and I call. He has 6x7x, I have him covered, and my kicker holds. He’s out.
Almost immediately, my KxJx makes a straight and I take another big pot. I’m up to 47,000 chips forty minutes into the match.
With KxQx, I call a pre-flop three-bet of 2,400 and hit the up-and-down straight draw, then shove and take the pot. Then The Butcher (QxTx) hits a flush draw and I semi-bluff everyone off that pot. Eighty minutes in and I’m over 54,000 chips.
I lose several thousand trying for an inside straight draw with 8♣9♣. Down to 52,450 with the chip average at 17,250 at one hour and forty-five minutes.
I’d read a section in an article on the way down about amateur players who get big stacks in large tournaments having a tendency to rein in their play for fear of losing their chip advantage. And despite the fact that I’d read that just two days prior, it’s exactly what I did here and—more importantly—in another hand in this tournament. I’ve described what happened here to a couple of people who say that my actions don’t sound like me, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying they’re not what I would normally do.
I was on BTN with A♥5♥ and called a raise to 450 just past the two hour mark. SB went all in for 6,500, getting two callers. None of them had much more than the starting stack, but I folded, only to watch a straight to the six roll out on the flop. A pair won the hand; I could have potentially knocked out three players.
At the break, I had 48,775 chips. A few late comers put the number of entries up to 222, with a prize pool of $107,115 and a top prize of $25,709 with 27 paid.
I took down to hands in a row with spade flush draws and raises post-flop and was back over 50,000 fifteen minutes after the break was over.
My biggest mistake came at the three hour mark. The player who’d won the hand where I folded the straight was later pointed out to me as Randy Dorfman. I had 6x6x and got to the flop of 5x6x7x. I was pleased, but we checked it around to the A♦ turn, which put two diamonds on the board. A player to my right raised, I re-raised to 7,000, then Dorfman shoved all-in for another 20,000 chips. The initial raiser went all-in for less, and in the face of a flush draw or a made straight, I folded, even though if I’d lost, I still would have had more than the average stack. Dorfman flipped over 5x5x for the lesser set and the other player shoed a couple of diamonds, but no diamond on the river meant Dorfman took the pot. It was a good bet, but the old Poker Mutant would never have folded that set.
I called a small all-in ten minutes later with K♦T♦, got two other callers, and hit trip kings by the river to make up some ground. 61,000 chips with the average at 21,000.
I stuck to another pair of sixes (6♣6♦) that made a club flush on the turn. It wasn’t a great flush, but it was good enough to put me over 65,000.
Lost 5,000 with 6♠T♠ and middle pair on the flop, but still had nearly three times the average stack of 22,000.
About an hour after he picked off my winning sixes, Dorfman got chopped down trying to get fancy with the player on my left, who I believe was this guy, making someone other than me the table chip leader for the first time in a couple of hours. Dorfman busted out almost immediately to another player on my end of the table.
With two large rival chip stacks on left, I didn’t have quite the free reign I’d had before. I lost 14,000 on a flush draw that cut me down to 50,000 before the second break. We had 102 players to go before the money.
I got very lucky in SB with J♣8♣ about four hours and forty-five minutes in. The flop hits 8♥6♥8♦. I check, a guy after me bets 1,800, and I shove way over his stack. He thinks for a bit then calls with 6x9x and just a couple of outs. I win and have about 90,000 chips.
I called an all-in by the player who knocked out Dorfman with Qx9x and a gutshot straight to the king. The hole in the straight fills in on the river, but the J♥ also completes a flush for my opponent and he doubles.
My suited Ax2x loses in a flush draw next when KxQx makes a set. I’m down to 57,000.
The stack I doubled up is now larger than me. I have the bottom end of a four-card straight on the board and push, but he has the top end and knocks me out in 119th place.
Five hours and fifteen minutes. -100% ROI. 119th of 222 players.
I had another day before I was scheduled to return to Portland, but I decided to husband the last bit of my winnings from the Encore game and headed back to the IP, got my reservation bumped up a day, then hightailed it to the airport and home to start building up for the next attempt. If I can manage it, I want to hit The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles for Winnin’ o’ the Green series mid-month, possibly with a trip to the WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon north of San Diego.