Too many mosquitoes
The World Poker Tour Aruba event conflicted with a small series of Hold 'Em tournaments in Las Vegas so I decided to play in the "Hold 'Em at the Horseshoe" series rather than take the long, expensive trip to the island recently beset by hurricanes and giant mosquitoes. Instead I took the usual two-hour hop on Alaska Airlines to Sin City and hunkered down for 10 days of heated tourney action. They were charging eight percent juice, including three percent in lieu of dealer tips, on all but the final $5000 event. I thought it was high but decided to play anyway for the practice.
The first event was a $500 buy-in with a nice field of 208. The tournament was held all downstairs rather than up in the main World Series area. I drew table 43, seat eight and had tournament regular James Hoeppner on my left. He gambled early with some marginal hands and went out when he moved in with Queen-Eight of Hearts against my pocket Kings. James was replaced by another experienced pro, Tommy Vu. We didn't tangle and I had upped my starting 1500 to 2475 at the break. Soon after, I found the pocket Kings again and an early-position raiser called my reraise. Two Tens and a low card flopped. We got it all in and he turned over Jack-Ten, which most players wouldn't have called a reraise with until Vince Van Patten revealed what a powerful holding it was. I didn't catch my two outs so I was out of the contest, finishing 90th.
Bigger but smaller
The next day's event jumped to $2000 and only attracted 52 players. This time I drew table 49, seat six. There were some good players at this table: "Big" Billy Duarte had seat two, Ngoc "Jimmy" Tran had seat three, and Steve Goldberg, whose wife had hit the Wheel of Fortune slot machine for $11 million last year, was nestled into seat four. I had pocket Queens the first hand but didn't get any action and won the blinds. I got no cards for almost two hours and then found pocket Queens once again when Billy Duarte raised my small blind. I moved in on him and he called with Ace-Ten of Hearts, not giving me the proper respect, but two Aces flopped and I was out of the contest, finishing 27th.
I was out in time to head over to Bellagio to play in their regular $1060 Friday tournament. They got 95 players. The third hand I picked up pocket Kings on the button and made a healthy raise that got out all but one limper. The flop came King high, but all Clubs. He check-raised me all in and I called with a sigh as he turned over the nut flush, Ace-Nine of Clubs. I was still only a two-to-one dog but I didn't help and I was out of the contest practically before it started.
Shortstack arrived that evening and we had a nice dinner at Les Artistes steakhouse at Paris, naughtily washing down our French-themed food with a 1998 Chianti. We sure missed the '97s.
The Lion Cashes!
Saturday's tournament was for a dime, $1000, and drew a healthy field of 124. I didn't recognize anybody at my table, which was good, and I doubled up early when my pocket Aces held up against pocket Kings. By the first break I had taken my starting 1500 to 3775. I got frisky and won some small pots and knocked out a couple players and by dinner I was all the way up to 11,775. I didn't feel like eating downtown so I walked around for an hour and psyched myself up for making the final table. I worked it up to 15,000 and stayed at that level from when it was twice the average stack to just average. Soon we were playing hand for hand, waiting for the 10th player to bust out, and it happened. I had made the final table. We redrew for seats and got started right away. The shortstacked Lonnie Alexander two to my right kept doubling up with unlikely hands, including beating my Ace-King with Queen-Four suited all in before the flop. I called his all-in a second time with Ace-King and he had the same hand for a split pot. Finally I moved my remaining chips all in on the button with Ace-Ten. The big blind called with pocket Kings, though, and they held up so I was out of the contest in eighth place, cashing for $3272. That was almost enough to get me even for the series. Lonnie's luck held up and he won the tourney, having won back-to back events at the Bellagio the week before. Nice rush!
Not many on Sunday
The price dropped back down to $500 on Sunday but still only 50 people showed up. WSOP bracelet holder Gavin Griffin sat to my left, playing his tough game as usual. He blew me off a couple pots and then I reraised a loose player all in with Ace-King. He called with pocket Sixes, which held up, and I was out of the contest, finishing 36th. I asked the tournament director how much I won but there was no answer.
Shortstack and I had a nice dinner at Ah Sin, the pan-Asian restaurant at Paris, washed down with lychee martinis. The lamb satay was particularly yummy.
Back to the old Orleans
Attendance was dwindling at the Horseshoe and I figured they wouldn't get many for the $3000 event scheduled so Monday I headed over to the Orleans for the opener of the new World Poker Players Association series. This was a $1000 buy-in event with seven percent juice. I bought in and dribbled away my stack, never hitting a flop and finishing 36th out of 62 although I outlasted the great TJ Cloutier at my table. The WPPA was one of several efforts to organize poker players and get more of the TV money in our pockets. Sounded good to me.
Another day, another dime
Tuesday was another $1000 event at the Horseshoe on Tuesday that drew 90 players so I bought in and drew table 48, seat five. There was no one I recognized at the table but I lost half of my stack when I had to lay down top Pair after I got played back at. Then I raised in late position with Ace-Ten and liked the Ten-Five-Five flop with two Hearts. I put in the rest of my chips, 575, but the guy on my left thought it was only 175 and put in that many chips. He grabbed them out when he saw his mistake but I asked for a decision and of course the floorperson made him leave the chips in the pot and let him decide whether to call or fold. He decided to call with a Flush draw and lo and behold came the Heart on the turn and I was out of the contest early, finishing 80th.
I got called away on a family emergency so I had to cut short my play at the series. I did enter a $1000 Omaha Hi/Lo Limit event at the Orleans and never hit a hand, busting out halfway through the field. I entered the Bellagio Friday tourney for $1060 and hoped I would last longer than last week. It was not to be, however. After losing 2/3 of my stack overplaying pocket Tens, I went all in before the flop with pocket Kings and got called by King-Queen. Two Queens dutifully came and I was once again out in time for dinner, which was at Les Artistes with pro Russ Floyd, whom I had met in Atlantic City with "Oregon" Dave Lilie. I had my usual bone-in filet but Russ didn't like bones so he got it without and added some crabmeat and a lobster tail. We washed it down with a nice little 2000 Bordeaux.
I had a flight booked back to Vegas next week for another series of No-Limit tournaments, this one at the Bellagio.