Pot's the limit
I got the word that in the future, all tournaments at Bellagio would be No-Limit Hold 'Em so these would be the last times I'd be playing Pot-Limit Hold 'Em or Omaha for a while here. Today's event was a small $1570 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em tourney with 245 entrants. I drew table 50, seat nine. John "JJ" Juanda, my friend and one of the most feared players in the world, was on my right, which was right where I wanted him. The only other one I recognized was Richard Tatalovich in seat one on my left, a tricky, experienced player. I doubled up quickly when I raised with pocket Aces and got called by Queen-Jack when the flop came Queen high. That got me to 5250 from my starting 3000 and a nice compliment from JJ, who said, "I couldn't have played it any better myself." Next I had pocket Kings in the small blind and I raised the pot against seven limpers. It folded to seat five, who reraised all in with his short stack. Seat six called but when I re-reraised all in he folded Ace-Queen. Seat five had pocket Eights and my cowboys held up, busting him and bringing me to 7500. Chris Bjorn took seat five and I dribbled down to 5900 by the break. I went card-dead for the next two hours. Finally I called one of JJ's frequent raises with King-Ten suited. The button and big blind called behind and the flop came King high. I check-called the flop, getting heads-up with the button. It checked down and I got outkicked when he showed King-Jack. I asked JJ if he could have played that one any better and he said yes. I was down to 725 and put it in with Ace-Nine but the button woke up with Ace-King and I was out of the contest 107th.
Next up was the $2080 No-Limit Hold 'Em event, which drew 358 players. I got table 45, seat three, with Layne "Back to Back" Flack on my left in seat four, Robert Williamson in seat six, Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori in seat eight and Mel Judah in seat ten. I won several small pots and chipped up to 5450 at the first break. When we got back I found AA on the small blind and busted seat one, bringing me to 9350. I ran into a set then won a coin-flip and had 8475 at the next break. I chipped up to exactly 10,000 when I moved in with pocket Queens on the small blind in response to seat one's late raise. Layne, who had me covered, moved in behind me and seat one folded. Layne turned over Big Slick, spiked an Ace on the flop, and I was out of the contest, finishing 122nd.
Two hundred ninety-one turned out for the $3100 No-Limit Hold 'Em event and I drew table 35, seat seven. Gerry Drehobl, winner of this year's WSOP $1000 event, was in seat one; Chris Hinchcliffe seat two; Stan Goldstein seat three; David "Devilfish" Ulliott seat five; Two-bracelet winner Scott Fischman seat six; Men "The Master" Nguyen seat nine; and Tom McEvoy seat ten. It was a pretty tough table. Gerry busted out quickly and was replaced by Pete Moore. I didn't hit much of anything until the 100/200 level when Men limped in second position and gave me a free flop on the big blind with Seven-Six offsuit. The flop came Ten-Nine-Eight, two Clubs and I decided to bet out with my Straight and hope he had an overpair or a set so he would raise and I could come over the top. I bet 400 and Men made it 1000. I put him on either a draw or an overpair so I moved all in because about two-thirds of the remaining cards in the deck would complete some kind of draw and I didn't know which ones to be scared of. He thought so long that someone called for the clock and he timed out, his hand automatically folded. He told me he had pocket Jacks and I told him I had Two Pair. One of us may have been telling the truth. I had 5375 at the break.
I played aggressively but lost every pot and was down to 2175 when Fischman opened in late position. I put him on a steal and moved in with Ace-Six offsuit, something I don't usually do but I thought I had the best hand in this case. He called with a real hand, though, pocket Sevens, and my Ace never came so I was out of the contest in 149th place, not making my customary top half of the field. Well, it paid the same as 145th.
I had been practicing Pot-Limit Omaha, a game that's pretty easy to play decently and even easier to play badly. Only 109 people entered the $2600 event, which I supposed was why Bellagio was eliminating it from their repertoire. I drew table 46, seat four. James Hoeppner had seat six; Joe "The Elegance" Beevers seat seven; World PLO Champion Ted Lawson seat eight; and one of the top PLO players in the world, Robert Williamson, in seat three. Robert arrived almost an hour late due to scheduling conflicts and Ted Lawson got knocked out shortly thereafter. I hardly played a hand but won a couple small pots to get to 5375 at the break, up from my starting 5000.
The table broke and I moved to table 47, again in seat four. Thor Hansen was in seat one; Tony Cousineau seat two; Barry "Spock" Greenstein seat three; Hendon Mobster Ross "Rocky" Boatman seat eight; and "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan seat nine. I missed every flop and was down to 4475 at the next break. Then, on the button, I was second to call one of Minneapolis Jim's frequent raises with Nine-Eight-Eight-Seven, the Nine suited. The big blind reraised and Minneapolis Jim and the original caller called, as did I for 1050 more. The flop came Ten-Nine-Eight rainbow, giving me bottom set on a very dangerous board. But the big blind bet the pot and then Jim raised all in. It folded to me and I made an easy call for my 3000 remaining chips into the 10,050 pot since neither of the others figured to have a higher set. I put Jim on Queen-Jack and the other guy on Ace-Ace, which was probably right since he folded. Jim turned over the cards I expected, giving me about a 40% chance to more than quadruple up, but the board didn't pair and I was out of the contest in 36th place—my customary finish in PLO tourneys.
Cannot Can Can
The next tourney was Pot-Limit Hold 'Em again, this time for $2600. Only 168 people entered and I drew table 42, seat five. There was only one player I recognized at the table but it was my nemesis Can Kim Hua. I told him my goal today was to win my first pot from him so I played every time he was in and finally won a tiny one, pumping my fists in triumph and screaming, "Jaaaaaaaa!" I was up three green chips to 5075 at the break. I chipped up to 5850 when they broke the table but they brought Can with me to table 48. I had seat two and Can seat eight. Ted Lawson was in seat four; Humberto Brenes seat six; "Magic" Antonio Esfandiari seat seven; and Allen Cunningham seat nine. This was a tough table and it was one of the last to break so I was trapped here for the duration. Can started right in on me by raising my big blind and I defended with pocket Treys. I flopped my set when it came Ace-Jack-Trey. I check-raised his 1000 to 2500 and he called. The turn was another Ace. I thought he must have an Ace and would have to call me so I moved all in, hoping he didn't have Ace-Jack. He called and turned over Ace-Seven. Unless the last Ace, a Jack, or a Seven came on the river I was going to double up but the ugly, ugly, Seven of Diamonds jumped out of the deck and squirted cider in my ear. I was out of the contest in 100th place even.
Another day, another $3000
The next event I played was another $3100 No-Limit Hold 'Em tourney, this one drawing an astounding 420 players. I drew table 31, seat four, and had "Kamikaze" Hon Le in seat one; French movie star and kindred high-stakes amateur Patrick Bruel, who had busted me at a prior final table here, in seat five, Gavin Smith, who did well in the Plaza Championship but whose Aces I had cracked to bust him on the Party cruise, in seat nine; and Foxwoods winner Tuan Le, a very aggressive player who busted me at my last final table, in seat ten. I played frisky but it didn't pay off early and I was down to 2775 when I found Ace-King of Clubs under the gun. I decided to limp with it so I had the option of reraising if one of the aggressive players raised. Gavin and Tuan called but the Kamizaze Kid made it 600. I moved in, it folded to him, and he called with Ace-Queen of Spades, making me a nice favorite. The flop came Jack-Ten-Deuce with two Spades, giving him 157 outs, but they didn't hit and I was back in business with 5500. I had Hon covered barely so he was out. But my old foe Can Kim Hua immediately came to take his place! I asked who he was juicing to make sure he got my table but he remained inscrutable. I won a couple small pots and was up to 7025 at the break.
The gorgeous Evelyn "Evy Babee" Ng sat down in seat two and when someone other than I busted Can he was replaced by Dan "Lucky Egg" Gordon, a fellow UltimateBet qualifier for the upcoming main event here. I fiddled and diddled and chipped up to 10,100 at the break. Charles Hiatt (no relation to Shana) in seat three limp-reraised me all in when I had Ace-King. I called and he turned over Queen-Jack, not a great hand for that move but he made a Pair and doubled through me. That brought me back to around my starting stack but I doubled up with pocket Jacks versus pocket Tens, all but assured of victory by a Jack-high flop. I was up to 13,000. With several inexperienced players at the table and the antes in I wanted to play a lot of pots so at the 300/600/50 level I limped under the gun with a very marginal hand, Ace-Jack offsuit. Evy Babee called and then Charles Hiatt moved all in for 3250 more. I didn't think Evy would call if I did and I thought it likely I had the best hand. Even if I didn't I was getting nearly two-to-one pot odds so I called. He turned over Ace-Eight offsuit. Of course he flopped an Eight and I was down to 9000. I had now doubled him up twice once as a two-to-one favorite and now as a five-to-two favorite. I checked my lucky lion coin to see if it was operating properly but didn't see anything obvious. I went to the break with 9925.
The blinds were now 400/800/75 and Evy had been raising a lot of pots with her big stack. I decided to reraise her all in with King-Queen suited and she called with Ace-Nine offsuit. I was only a slight underdog in this matchup with over 45% probability of winning but an Ace flopped and I was out of the contest in 121st place. I felt good about my play but got unlucky.
Last train to Omaha
The final Omaha tourney at the Bellagio, for a while at least, was a $3100 event with 94 entrants. I drew table 49, seat two, and had no one there I recognized other than Ted Lawson on my left in seat three. Seat four quickly busted and Amir Vahedi came in to replace him. With Ace-Ace-x-x and one suited Ace on the button I got three-way action from Ted and seat nine. Seat nine got it all in with Two Pair but Ted wisely folded a set to save some chips on the river. I was up to 11,800 from my starting 6000. They broke the table and I went to table 45, seat four. Lawson followed me to seat six; the dangerous Scott Fischman had seat seven; Erik "Rounders" Seidel seat nine; and Billy Duarte quickly busted out of seat two to be replaced by Barry "Spock" Greenstein. In a seven-way unraised pot, I had King-King-Ten-Trey with the suited King of Clubs. The flop came Ace of Clubs-Queen-Eight of Clubs, giving me the nut Flush draw. Barry bet 1500. I called, hoping for more callers behind and putting Barry on Ace-Queen or Ace-Ace. The Seven of Clubs came on the turn, giving me the nuts. Barry checked to me and I moved in for 4500 into a pot with just over 5000 in it. He thought for a bit and then called with Ace-Ace-x-x, making him a three-to-one dog to fill up on the river, but the ugly, ugly Queen of Clubs came, giving Spock a Full House and sending me to the showers, out of the contest in 39th place.
Tomorrow was the super satellite but I had already won my entry into the main event so if I played it would just be for the cash.