April 20, 2005

Conrad's House of Elk: The 2005 Reno World Poker Challenge


Shortstack wouldn't miss a trip to the Reno Hilton, which she calls "Conrad's House of Elk" after the delicious game meat entrée served in the steakhouse there. She actually went down a day early to play in the ladies' event while I recovered from the Party cruise and I joined her the next day. Shortstack outlasted about half the field but got few playable hands and the fast structure chewed her up. I ended up flying down with Lee Markholt, also a Washingtonian, who finished second to James van Alstyne in that Poker Royale thing they played at the Orleans last year and televised on the Game Show Network. I signed up for tomorrow's main event and then we had dinner with Matt "Jacks Up" Matros, author of the hot new poker book The Making of a Poker Player. We washed the generous portion of elk down with a 1999 Stag's Leap Cask 23, always fabulous.


That thing

I drew table 39, seat two, to start the $5100 event, the smallest buy-in on the World Poker Tour. There were 361 starters and no one I recognized was at my table, which was great, although I later found out that seat five was occupied by Alex Prendes, who had recently made a major final table. Shortly after the start, James van Alstyne sat down fashionably late on my right in seat one. He had been on my left with a huge chip stack at the Bellagio $15,000 event and I much preferred him on my right, where I had position on him. When I had first met him at Bellagio I tried to figure out who he was and then it clicked. "You're the guy who won that thing," I had said. The Stanford grad turned his sharp eyes toward me, expressionless, and said, "Yeah, I won the thing." Someone else at the table piped up, "What did you get for winning the thing?" James replied, without missing a beat, "Some stuff."


The table was full of what are known as "calling stations," players who don't fold marginal hands. James tested a few of them unsuccessfully and bluffed off most of his chips while I sat back and waited for hands, which weren't forthcoming. I was down to 7675 at the first break and hovered around that level as the blinds and antes increased and the table got tougher and tougher. Seat six busted and was replaced by Richard "Got Milk" Grijalva, finalist at the 2004 WPT Championship. James couldn't make anything happen with his short stack and busted out, to be replaced by the dreaded Phil Ivey, who immediately started raising 50% of the pots. That wasn't so bad for me but I needed a decent hand to play back at him with. I decided to see a flop on the button with King-Queen offsuit but mucked it to Ivey's bet when an Ace hit and my cards didn't. Rich Grijalva busted and my buddy Andy "The Rock" Bloch, looking mean in his Full Tilt sunglasses, took seat six. I was practically down to the felt and when the button open-limped and Ivey completed the small blind, I found pocket Nines on the big and moved in the rest of my chips. The button called, Ivey folded, and to my surprise the button turned over pocket Kings. I would have called had he raised anyway but I thought it was a weird play. I didn't improve and I was out of the contest, finishing 261st.


I headed to the high-limit slot room to play a little video poker and the bust-outs dribbled in behind me: John "JJ" Juanda, Allen Kessler, and finally Josh Arieh. I got no love from the machines and the elk was calling so I went for another round with Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman, this time accompanied by the 2001 Caymus Special Selection, yummy out of the bottle but deep and lush after 45 minutes or so.


Next stop: Bellagio. Civilization. Ahh.


No comments: