Harrah's bought the World Series of Poker and decided to have it year-round so I booked a flight east to play in the first "WSOP Circuit" event, this one at the partially renovated Harrah's Atlantic City, located next door to the beautiful Borgata. I smiled sweetly at the Hertz agents in Philadelphia until they upgraded me from the Hyundai Accent I booked to a Chevy Cavalier and finally to an Impala. I knew the easy route to Atlantic City by now so I didn't bother with Neverlost and before I knew it I was in Harrah's VIP room whipping out my "Seven Stars Club" card, a super-elite status Harrah's confers only upon those guests with the severest of gambling problems. Nobody rolled out the red carpet like Harrah's and they bowed, scraped, and handed me the keys to an Embassy Suites-like two-room suite. It was roomy but not in the renovated tower but since none of the rooms had high-speed Internet I didn't care too much about the rest. My Verizon cellular modem worked well enough for email but service was too intermittent to play on-line poker for any serious money.
I found Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman, WPT Championship finalist Matt Matros, and Jim "Krazy Kanuck" Worth and we had a nice dinner at the steakhouse, cleverly named "The Steak House." They had yummy sashimi and filet mignon and we washed it down with a bottle of 2001 Niebaum-Coppola "Cask" Cabernet Sauvignon.
The next day they had a series of $200 rebuy super satellites. I skipped the noon one but decided to play the 5 p.m., getting down to the final five tables before being forced to play a mediocre hand on my big blind and busting quietly. But The Steak House was still open and Chad Layne, Krazy Kanuck, his stunning girlfriend Monica and I had a fabulous encore dinner. I ate healthy tonight, sashimi and salmon, this time with vodka cocktails instead of wine. The winners of the on-line satellites at Full Tilt were having dinner there with the celebrity pros affiliated with the site and when I walked by to say hi to Andy "The Rock" Bloch, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Paul Wolfe, Erik "Rounders" Seidel, and the others I got asked for my very first poker autograph by one of the satellite winners. The Full Tilt folks had given me a personal avatar on the site because I played in the big events and I got recognized from my on-line cartoon. I signed it Richard "Quiet Lion" Brodie and wished him luck.
Not a bad turnout
They got 249 people to show up for this hastily scheduled $10k event, not a bad turnout for Jersey in January. I drew table 16, which was for some reason labeled 616, seat four. The great TJ Cloutier had seat two and Internet player Bill Phipps was on my right playing his first big live tourney. On my left was Jamie Ligator, a Costa Rican player with a good deal of tournament experience, in seat five; Cyndi Violette in seat seven; and John Spadavecchia, who had already won one tournaments here and made a final table in another, in seat eight.
Over the last few weeks I had been practicing my loose-aggressive game and I got real frisky early. I picked up a few pots without getting cards and was up to 11,000 from my starting 10,000 at the first break. By that time the blinds were already 100/200 with a 25 ante but the stacks were still big enough that I defended my blind against John Spadavecchia's early-position raise with Five-Trey of Clubs. The flop came Ace-Trey-Trey and we both checked. The turn was a Ten and I checked again. He made a small bet. I had previously taken two small pots from him by raising his small bets so I did the same here, hoping he had had enough of me. He immediately moved all in and I called. He showed Ace-King so he needed one of the remaining two Aces to beat me and they didn't come so he was out and I was up to 18,000.
Dan Heimiller, an aggressive, unpredictable player, took seat eight and immediately tried to make a play on me, reraising me when I raised his flop bet and saying "oops" and mucking when I moved all in. That brought me to 21,000 and I was cruising. TJ Cloutier had been taking some bad beats and when he pushed in his last 2300 in the cutoff it was an easy call for me on the small blind with pocket Nines. He said he was in trouble and turned over Five-Trey offsuit. The flop came Ten-Jack-Queen but then two Fives came for a miracle suckout. TJ was still alive and I was down to 17,700. I lost a small pot and was down to 15,525 at the dinner break.
They had a nice buffet set up for the players but Russell Rosenblum, Matt Matros, their friend Adam and I went to the Italian restaurant Florentino's instead. Russell and I split an order of delicious baked clams and I had a yummy rack of lamb. Adam had an osso buco so huge the waitress said as she set it down, 'Here you go, Mr. Flintstone." I broke into song and the waitress and I sang The Flintstones theme until we got a fair amount of bemused looks from the other guests. We didn't drink since we were on duty.
After dinner I got nowhere and was down to 13,950 when they broke the table. I moved across the room to table 23, seat two. Joe Cassidy, a tough, aggressive player, was on my right in seat one. Seat four was Allen "Double OJ" Kessler. I asked him if he was drinking Scotch but he said, "It's apple juice." There were no scary opponents at the table other than Cassidy on my right so I was looking to pick up some chips. It happened when I raised in middle position with Ace-King offsuit and Kessler called in position. The flop came King high and I bet out. He called. Another King came on the turn and I checked it. He checked behind me. There were no obvious draws on the board so I figured it was most likely he had a big pair but a King was also a possibility, maybe even the same hand as me. The river was innocuous. I decided to put all the rest of my chips in, about two-thirds of the size of the pot, in hopes he would call with Aces or Queens. He did call and I won the pot. He told me he had Queens. That brought me up to a new high-water mark of 24,500. I had 23,225 at the break.
Despite the great table I had no cards to play and was down to 19,000 when they broke the table. They moved me to table 29, seat nine. Finally I got some top pros but they were all on my right. Pete Moore was on my left in seat one; seat five was Russell Rosenblum; seat six, Billy Gazes, seat seven, Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren with a big pile of chips, and seat eight, Chad Brown, host of Ultimate Poker Challenge and the guy who busted me with set-over-set in a previous tournament. I won several blinds and antes but then doubled up Russell when I called his small all-in rereaise with Ace-Eight offsuit. He showed pocket Nines and I didn't improve. I was down to 17,500 at the end of day one, not desperate but about half of average. I had my work cut out for me.
Short and sweet
Only a third of the field was left, which meant I should have had three times as many chips as I started with. I didn't so I was looking to double up. I drew a decent table with no huge stacks and no scary players: table 27, seat two. Russell Rosenblum had followed me in seat four and Allen Kessler was back in seat six. Steve "Z" Zolotow had seat seven and the table leader was Alex Balandin in seat eight. I came out aggressive and won a few blinds and antes, bringing me back up over 21,000. Then Alex made a small raise in the cutoff and I defended my big blind with King-Ten offsuit. The flop came King-Queen-Nine, two Clubs. I assumed he would bet at the flop and I decided to check-raise with top pair and a gutshot. He bet 4500 and I waited several seconds before moving all in. He didn't hesitate to call, though, because he had Jack-Ten, giving him the nuts. I needed a Jack for a chop or runner-runner to win the pot. Instead, two more Clubs came. Neither of us had a Club so his Straight held up and I was out of the contest, finishing 73rd.
I immediately checked out of Harrah's and moved next door to the Borgata, where they had high-speed Internet access (no longer free though) and decent pay tables on their video poker. I played a little on line and then got a message from Kanuck, who had his best finish yet in a big tourney but still busted out in time for dinner at Sulian, the great French-Asian restaurant at Borgata. We had a fabulous hot-and-sour soup and Kanuck had a wonderfully spiced kung-pao chicken while I tried the delicious Mongolian lamb. It was all washed down with Grey Goose.
My flight to Tunica was tomorrow.