April 29, 2004

More chips please: WSOP $1000 No-Limit Hold 'Em with Rebuys

Ram's Aces

Today's tournament had a twist: if you busted out (or even got back to your starting level of chips) in the first two hours, you could buy back in. 538 players entered and after 534 rebuys and 262 add-ons the prize pool was a cool $1.2 million. Including the rake in lieu of tips, the house took 9% of the first $1000 and 3% of the rebuys and add-ons making the juice a relative bargain for those who planned to spend a buck.


I started at table 93, seat four, with an empty seat to my left and Billy Gazes' wife Kristy, a formidable opponent in her own right, in seat two. I rebought immediately so I had twice as many chips as anyone else at the table. There were differing philosophies about the benefit of an immediate rebuy. I figured if there were bad players at the table I wanted to have enough chips to cover their bad bets. The jovial Dean Shulman, cousin of an old family friend of mine and no relation to Jeff or Barry, sat down in seat five but had no luck gambling it up and decided not to rebuy. I ended up busting two players who were drawing near to dead against big hands of mine during the rebuy period and by the first break I had more than doubled up to 4750. I spent another $2000 for a double add-on at the advice of Andy "The Rock" Bloch so I had 6750 going into level three, well the chip leader of the table. We stayed at that table until 3:30 and I finished with a very respectable 7975 chips after busting a guy who was raising frequently preflop when I called with pocket Nines and they held up against his overcards.


They moved me to table 100 and it was nicely free of familiar faces. I got frisky and chipped my way up to 13,000 when Mike "The Mouth" Matusow sat down two seats to my left. He put a damper on my friskiness and I tightened up, especially when Larry Bernstein, another skilled player, sat down between Mike and me. I had 12,500 at the second break. Mike, who had been chipping up nicely, made a great call of a preflop re-reraise all in from solid tourney regular Tom McCormick. They both had pocket Queens but four Hearts came and Tom doubled up on Mike, who railed on Lady Fortune throughout the fifteen-minute break and for some time thereafter.


The next two levels were tough. Larry and Mike kept me tight and I ended with about 13,000 at the dinner break without much action. Unfortunately, this was now only slightly above the average chip position. Dinner was at the buffet they had set up for the players. I had several of the dishes washed down by iced tea.


My fortune improved after dinner when, starting to get blinded off quickly,  I flopped a Club flush against a French gentleman in seat one and doubled up when he put me all in with trip Nines. With the Blinds 300-600 and a 100 ante, there were 88 people left and I now had 24,000 chips, nicely double the average. The ESPN cameras started to focus on me in case I made the final table. I mugged for the camera eagerly. I played tight and went into the 9:30 break with 22,000 chips. They moved Mike the Mouth to Howard Lederer's table to balance the seat counts and soon after we were down to the money: 54 people. I was still in the red, however, since places 37-54 actually paid less than the $4000 I spent to buy in. But I was better off than Daniel Negreanu, who spent $27,000 on rebuys and had to finish eighth or better to make it up.


Mike's seat was filled by Late Night Poker star Ram "Crazy Horse" Vaswani, who played tight despite his nickname. I treaded water and eventually we got down to 45. WPT winner Mel Judah came to the table, sitting at the other end from me, and he and Crazy Horse were the chip leaders. Ram got a windfall when he and Ajay Shah checked down a pot with two pair and an Ace kicker on the board. Ram showed Queen-Jack and Ajay mucked his hand, not realizing that Ram was playing the board and he would have taken half the pot. But Ajay then proceeded to pick up several big hands in a row and accumulate a nice stack himself. I, on the other hand, went card dead and got cut off when I tried to steal. At midnight, with 39 players left, I was down to 11,000 and the blinds for the next level were 800-1600 with a 300 ante. It was do-or-die time. When Ajay raised in seat one and Ian Dobson in seat four reraised all in, I found the dreaded pocket Tens. I figured the reraise all in meant he didn't want a call so I held my breath and shoved my meager stack in. Ajay folded and my Tens held up against Ian's Ace-Queen so I doubled up to a high of 27,000. I was still below average but I had a bit of breathing room, meaning I could make a bet without going all in.


We got down to 36, meaning I was in the black for the day. The empty seats got filled and I got another tough pro at my table, David Grey in seat two. It was costing 5100 an orbit now to sit at the table and I found myself down to exactly 20,000 with pocket Jacks under the gun. I made a small raise to 4000, leaving myself room to get off the hand if I decided I was beat. Ram "Crazy Horse" Vaswani made it 10,000 to go. It folded to the short stack, Jim Grimes, who immediately moved all in for only 600 more. If Ram folded I was getting four-to-one on Jim's bet so I wasn't worried about him even if he had an Overpair but I didn't know about Ram. I really didn't want to let go of the hand so I convinced myself that Ram didn't have a big hand and I moved all in myself. Ram called immediately and I knew before he turned his cards over that he had Aces. Jim Grimes had Kings. The Flop came with a Queen, missing us all, and Ram's Aces held up. I finished 31st for $4420, a $420 profit and my first WSOP cash. I gave $2000 of it to impeccably dressed tournament director Matt Savage to buy into tomorrow's tourney and stuck the rest of the chips in my pocket. The ESPN crew had taken off at midnight so I slunk off unnoticed back to the Palms, where I got a Macallan 25 on the rocks and unwound. Tomorrow was my first-ever live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament.


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