July 5, 2004

Garbagio: 2004 Bellagio Festa al Lago No-Limit Hold 'Em series, part II

Garbagio: 2004 Bellagio Festa al Lago No-Limit Hold 'Em series, part II

Back to a grand

They gave us a break and reset the buy-in back to $1000+60 for Sunday's tournament, which illustrated the economic principle of price elasticity: 323 entrants bought into this one, more than double yesterday's. I drew table 36, seat nine. David "The Dragon" Phan had seat three and perennial tourney winner Tony Cousineau, who had finished fifth in Friday's tourney, sat on my right in seat eight. I chatted with Tony about his family in hopes he wouldn't steal my blind too much. The aggressive Raymond Davis was supposed to be at my left but he decided to skip the tournament so I was happy when tournament director Jack McClelland picked up his chips. I was less happy when the seat was taken by Marcel Luske, who finished 10th at the WSOP Championship this year. I didn't get too much play in with these guys because they soon broke the table and moved me to table 31, seat one. The only one I recognized was Jeff Cohen, a Bellagio regular, in seat 10. I took advantage of the weak field and chipped up to 3875, almost double my starting stack. I lost a couple small pots and had 3575 at the first break.


I found my old friend Ace-King on the cutoff and raised David Baker's Big Blind. He moved in on me and I called. He turned over pocket Queens but I spiked an Ace on the Flop and doubled up. Then WSOP champ Tom McEvoy sat down in seat three. He wrote the book on tournament poker, which I had read, so I figured I owned him. I didn't get a chance to prove it because a tight player in the cutoff raised my big blind of 200 by only 300 and I called with Ace-Jack. The flop came Jack high and I decided to let him bluff at the pot so I check-raised. I didn't think far enough ahead, though, and when he reraised me all in I knew he had an Overpair but I was getting more than four-to-one odds to call with five outs so I did. He turned over Queens and the poker fairy denied my wish so I was out of the contest. Upon reflection it would have been better to bet the flop and fold to a raise from this player, who I didn't think would bluff me in that situation. It was a big mistake, one that cost me about $1600 in tournament equity. I was sick and resolved to play it better next time.


I stayed in my room and got room service for dinner.

Waste of a day

The next day's tourney was $1500+70. I got table 41, seat 10. 195 people entered. I got no cards and eventually took a coin flip, which I lost, finishing 171st.


Dinner was at the Fantasy Market Buffet at The Palms. It was not remarkable but the High Roller Lounge next door had Silver Oak by the glass for $10, which was.


Ace King No Good

Not to be deterred, I took a nice walk in the hot Vegas morning and then registered for the $2000+80 event. I drew table 46, seat four. This one drew 170 entrants. Tourney pro Kenna James, wearing his customary black Stetson, had seat three to my right and the elusive Raymond Davis sat down to my left in seat five. I told him he had been on my left yesterday too only he didn't show up. I got Ace-King twice and missed the flop twice, folding to a bet. Then I got it a third time in late position and raised, called by Tracy Scala in the Big Blind  Tracy's wife was also named Tracy, which I imagined led to some interesting comedy. This time the flop came King-Nine-Eight rainbow. I bet 300 and he called. The Turn was a Five. I bet 800 and he raised me 1000 more. I had 1725 chips left and I had a decision to make. I decided I wasn't good enough to lay that hand down. I just called in case he had me beat but didn't bet the river. He did bet the river, a blank, and I threw in my last chips to see him turn over Seven-Six of Hearts for the Straight. I was out of this contest in 45 minutes, finishing 160th and leaving plenty of time for dinner with WPT finalist Mike "Kazoo" Keohan.


We went to the N9ne steakhouse at The Palms, where we had some excellent steak washed down by the 2001 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon. As a rule I don't eat dessert but they had the S'mores, complete with mini-hibachi to toast the marshmallows, so we shared just one order.



The biggest piece of trash you can play

The next day's tourney was $2500+100 and drew 165 entrants, making the prize pool over $400,000 after the 3% for the staff in lieu of tips. I drew table 47, seat four. Mimi Tran was in seat seven. I won a few small pots and increased my starting 5000 to 5625 at the first break. Then Layne "Back to Back" Flack sat down in seat eight with a nice stack, which I hoped to get my hands on since I had eliminated him at Binion's and owned him. It was the player to my left whose chips I got, though, when he moved all in on my Small Blind reraise. The original raiser folded. I looked into his soul, decided he didn't have Aces, and called with my Kings. He turned over Jacks and didn't get lucky so I doubled up to 12,600.  Then the great T.J. Cloutier took seat one and Men "The Master" Nguyen took seat two. I was glad those guys were on my right. I played a couple pots, including one where I flopped four Jacks against Layne but I could only get 400 out of him. I went to the second break with 12,725.


I still had plenty of room to maneuver with the blinds at 200-400 and a 50 ante but when I raised with Ace-King in early position and T.J. made a big reraise on the Small Blind I moved in. He had to call at that point and he turned over Ace-Jack, which incidentally he says in his book is "the biggest piece of trash you can play." The Flop came Ten-Nine-Eight and a Seven came on the Turn to give him the Straight. I needed one of the three remaining Jacks to split the pot but it didn't come and I was out of the contest most ignominiously, finishing 48th.


Dinner was at Nob Hill at the MGM Grand with Shortstack. We had the spicy tuna parfait, which was to die for, and I had the steak Rossini while humming "The Thieving Magpie." We washed it down with the 2000 Gemstone Meritage, delicious especially after it opened up.


Three Large

The final warm-up in the Festa al Lago series was a $3000+100 event with 150 entrants. I drew table 46, seat three. The very tough Chad Layne was on my left in seat four, Todd Brunson, Doyle's son, had seat five, and Sam Grizzle had seat nine. I got no cards and lost every pot and was down to 3300 from my starting 6000 at the first break. I danced around a little in the second two levels but got nothing to play and was down to 3000 at the second break.


Patience prevailed and I chipped back up to 6050 when I won some blinds and antes with the premium hands I had been waiting for. Of course no one called me because I hadn't played a hand in an hour and a half but I still got some chips. The 300-600 blinds and 50 antes quickly brought me back down to 5000. Then the kid on my right pushed in on the Small Blind with his short stack, even shorter than mine. I decided my Ace-Seven suited was good and called. He turned over King-Queen, making me a three-to-two favorite, but he Paired and I was suddenly down to 1875 after paying my ante and Small Blind the next round. Chad Layne had just busted out so when it folded to me I threw my remaining chips in the pot, which already contained 1300, with Queen-Deuce. Todd Brunson called with King-Three and although I spiked a Queen on the Flop he Festaed al Lago and hit his three-outer on the River to put me out of the contest in 55th place.


The bright side of my continued dismal showing was that once again I was out in time for dinner. Shortstack had a reservation ready just in case at Craftsteak at the MGM Grand, which was superb as always. We washed down our epicurean delight with the 1960 Vega Sicilia "Unico," a wonderful Bordeaux blend from Ribera del Duero.


I failed to save $9000

I had invested $17,720 in the warm-up events and my total return was a $15 buffet comp so I tried to save nine large by entering the $1000+60 super satellite the day before the main event. The super drew 229 entrants, meaning the last 22 left standing would get entries into tomorrow's event, with some pocket change left over for the bubble boy. In a departure from the usual Bellagio system, we started with 3000 in chips instead of the usual amount of double the buy-in. I drew table 32, seat seven. Two pros were across the table from me: Ngoc "Jimmy" Tran, who had busted me at Binion's, in seat two and "Big" Billy Dougherty in seat three. Billy raised the first pot and when it got to me I said, "I'm scared to play against world champions." Billy said, "Come on. I'm in the twilight of a mediocre career," but I folded anyway, only having the Montana Banana, Nine-Deuce.  Billy lost a big pot and got short stacked and when he raised in early position I saw Ace-King of Diamonds and reraised enough to put him all in. He called me heads up and showed a Pair of Sevens, making him a slight favorite. But when the Flop gave me a Royal Flush draw I suddenly had 18 outs, making Billy's Pair about a two-to-one dog. I didn't make my Royal but I hit an Ace on the river, putting him out. Then I doubled up when I raised with Ace-King and got reraised all in by a loose player. I called and he showed Ace-Queen, which never improved. I had 5800 at the break.


After the break I got nothing playable and quickly got blinded and anted down. Finally I moved in with a marginal hand and lost and that was that. I finished 81st and was out once again in time for dinner.


Tonight we had a delicious meal at Fiamma at the MGM Grand, preceded by a drink at their new spaceship lounge Teatro, which had just opened the day before. Teatro had super-premium wine and Champagne by the glass, including magnums of Dom Perignon Rosé. The bartenders worked behind a wall and beautiful young models stood behind the bar making conversation. I was recommending some vodkas to one of them, who happened to mention she was between boyfriends, when before I knew it Shortstack was dragging me by the ear off to dinner. At Fiamma we dined with Michael, the son of a friend, and his roommate Tony, both new Brown graduates nearing the end of a cross-country motorcycle trip from Providence to Seattle. I had the excellent Caesar salad and salmon, which was perfectly cooked after I explained I liked my fish either raw or cooked but not in between. Elizabeth, the wine steward, helped us select a nice 1997 Brunello di Montalcino, which Michael said was the best wine he ever had.


Tomorrow was the main event and I hoped to get some cards.


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