August 2, 2004

Smells like Poker: The 2004 WPT Mirage Poker Showdown


Though they don't like to talk about it, I'm pretty sure The Mirage was the first Las Vegas resort hotel to brand itself subliminally with scented air. Next time you're there, or at Bellagio or MGM, you'll notice it: vanilla at MGM, floral bouquet at Bellagio, and a spicy tropical scent at the Mirage, an established jewel among the many newer and larger megaresorts in Sin City. I felt at home here, still one of the nicest hotels in town, although it was my first poker tournament at what was at one time the place to play poker. Today there was a $1000+60 warm-up tournament with 355 entrants. Although I drew a table with no one I recognized I had no luck. I lost every pot and, stack depleted, quickly busted out on a coin flip. I was not the first one out but I was close. Andy "The Rock" Bloch and I had sushi at MGM's new place Shibuya, washed down by a flight of three of the dozens of premium sakes they carried. Tomorrow was another day.


Double, but nothing

The $2000+80 tournament the next day drew 247 entries. I got table 32, seat three. This time I wasn't so lucky with my draw: Barry "Spock" Greenstein was two to my left in seat five. I tried telling him I was his worst nightmare but he just shrugged.  Erik "Rounders" Seidel, who had bullied me mercilessly at Turning Stone, was across the table in seat eight and Ken Goldstein, another good player, was at Erik's left in seat nine. After seat 10 busted out WPT finalist James Hoeppner sat down. I got strung along on a draw in a pot with the kid in seat one, making an open-ended Straight draw on the flop and adding a Flush draw on the turn. I opted not to semi-bluff all in on Fourth Street because I figured him to have an Overpair that he would call with, making me a two-to-one dog. I didn't hit and folded on the river when he breathed. He may have been on a bluff, in which case pushing in on the turn would have been a big win, but I didn't know what kind of player he was and played it safe. I was down to 2425 from my starting 4000 at the break.


Now David Chiu, another top player, sat down when Seidel busted someone and the table was getting worse and worse. Spock busted out but was replaced by another tough player, Billy Baxter. Dan Alspach took seat one and it looked like a TV final table. I was short on chips and finally pushed in with a marginal hand and lost. I made it not quite through half the field, finishing 127th.

Super lion


Today was a $1000+60 super-satellite, paying as many $10,200 entries as possible into the main event. We ended up with 252 starters so there were 23 entries and a consolation prize of over $9800 for the 24th spot after the 3% in lieu of tips was taken out. I drew the same table as yesterday, 32, but seat six this time. There were a lot of familiar faces at the table but fortunately three of them were casino executives rather than top players: Jim Miller, a tournament director, had seat one. Alan Feiner of the Bellagio poker room had seat two. Rich Korbin of PokerStars had seat three. On my left were three good players: Dan Dumont in seat seven, Jason Eakes in seat eight, and Charlie Townsend in seat 10. Between getting frisky and getting hit with the deck I chipped up to 10,750 at the break from the starting 3000, busting Jason in the process when he moved in on my Aces with pocket Nines. I got Aces again and hit a lot of flops and by the second break I was up to 14,975, half of what would be the average stack when it was all over. I kept getting cards and playing strong, mercilessly bullying "Captain" Tom Franklin, who sat down at my left when Dan Dumont busted, and Tomer Benvisitsi, who took Jason's seat. By the next break I had 45,400 and was ready to coast to victory. I couldn't help reraising the bully on my right all in when I picked up my third Pair of Kings and he mucked, knowing I wouldn't do it without a big hand. When we redrew seats with 27 left I had 60,000 even. Other than some very cautious blind limps that were almost always checked down, I didn't play another hand even though I picked up Ace-Queen on the button. Soon it was all over and I had won my entry into the main event. For the day's work I had saved $9140 off the entry price. I hoped the cards would continue to come.


Dinner was at Craftsteak with Steve "Brec" Brecher. Brec, a healthy guy, ordered half a dozen of chef Tom Colicchio's famous vegetable dishes. I had my usual Kobe Flatiron steak, washed down with a yummy 1996 Lewis Cabernet.

The main event

The 281 starters created a $2.7 million prize pool, laughably average in today's environment, after the 3% collected in lieu of tips. I drew table 34, seat 10 for this one. The wild Randy Jensen, WPT Tunica finalist, was two to my left in seat two. Old-school pro Pat Callahan had seat three. Top player Chau Giang, who had recently broadened his career from high-stakes cash games to tournaments because his children asked him why if he was such a great player they never saw him on TV, had seat four. High-stakes pro Tommy Vu, famous for a real-estate infomercial he did years ago in which he was flanked by two beautiful girls on a yacht, had seat five and a stunning young blonde wearing a French-cut tee that read "dirty blonde" was on the rail watching him the whole time. My friend Erik "Rounders" Seidel had seat six and I promised to raise his blind mercilessly. Erik always had kind of a hang-dog, beleaguered look so you never expected him to come over the top or flip over the nuts and take all your chips. Richard Tatalovich, a limit Hold 'Em specialist who had won many tournaments, had seat seven. A relative unknown, David Taylor, who had won not one but two super satellites to qualify for this event, had seat eight. Tomer Benvisitsi was on my right in seat nine. I wasn't real happy with the draw but I held my own and I was about even at 19,200 at the first break.


Soon after we returned, Randy busted Pat Callahan and then "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan, drunk as always but acting even drunker, sat down in seat three. He immediately started putting on his act, telling about how many men he had killed, pretending he didn't understand the chip colors, ordering half a dozen drinks at a time, and all the while playing excellent poker. I snapped off a bluff of his and went to the second break with 22,225. I played cautiously but aggressively, keeping the pots small unless I had a monster. I let Minneapolis Jim bluff me out of a small three-way pot when I held Kd-Qh on a board of As-Ac-Qc-Tc and he bet 2200. I mucked the best hand to the dangerous board with Randy Jensen, who had made a small bet on the flop, still to act behind me. Still, I went to the next break with 24,050, accumulating chips even as the table got tougher. Randy seemed destined to bust out and when he did he was replaced by another top pro, Annie Duke. She had bullied me at the Bellagio and I was determined not to let it happen again. But it was Minneapolis Jim who gave me trouble, calling my standard raise with Ace-Queen on the button and calling my bet on the Ten-Six-Four flop. An Ace came on the turn and we both checked. The river was no help and I decided to check-call to induce a bluff from the aggressive player. It worked but he had made Two Pair with the unlikely Ace-Six. I was down to 16,000 at the break.


The blinds were up to 300-600 with a 50 ante now so it was costing me 1400 a round just to sit. I raised Minneapolis Jim's blind one more time with King-Queen, making it 1800 and he called. The flop came King-Eight-Six with the King and Six of Hearts. Jim immediately put me all in for my last 12,700. I determined he must have been on a draw, something like Ace-Eight of Hearts, meaning with 13 or 14 outs it was almost a coin flip. Add to that the 4400 already in the pot and the chance he might be bluffing and since I needed chips I decided to call. He was indeed on a draw, the best one possible: Seven-Five of Hearts. "You've got the best hand right now," he said, stumbling through the words in his drunken manner, but I disagreed: with 15 outs, his hand was a four-to-three favorite. If I could get past the next card I'd be a big favorite but the Three of Hearts came on the turn, taking away all the drama. I was out of the contest around 180th place. Still in the hunt were many of the top players along with celebrities Toby "Spiderman" Maguire and Gabe "Kotter" Kaplan. It looked like a fun tournament. I wished I was still in it.


I changed my Alaska Airlines flight to come home early on the last flight of the night but Don Rickles went out and removed the sparkplugs on the plane so I had to spend one more night in Vegas before returning home to my Shortstack.



Blu said...

Mr. Brodie,

I truly enjoy reading your trip reports. I hope there is a new post soon so I can read about you latest adventure.

I wanted to let you know that I created a link to your blog from mine. If this is a problem, please let me know and I will remove it. My address is

Thanks again for the great posts...


CJ said...

I feel bad I hadn't had you on the Up For Poker blogroll before... especially after reading this great trip report.

I'm sorry you didn't do better, but it still sounded like a lot of fun.