Tilting in Tahoe
I flew into Reno the night before and drove the Hertz rental up to Tahoe in time to make the Full Tilt dinner at Friday's Station atop Harrah's, where the other Full Tilt pros and I met our satellite winners for the event, including Josh "Professor Plum" Prager and his lovely wife Helen. I snagged Howard "Bub" Lederer (The Professor) to sit next to me since he had been so busy I had barely had two words with him in the last year. He and I liked the same kind of wine and he introduced me to the 2001 Duckhorn Paraduxx, a yummy Zinfandel-Cabernet blend from the esteemed Napa winery. Former support god JDN, now in charge of Full Tilt special events, paid the bill and we all rested up for the main event tomorrow.
I plunked down ten dimes at Harvey's Lake Tahoe to register for the next-to-last WSOP Circuit event and try to qualify for the Tournament of Champions freeroll. Since Harrah's was adding roughly $400,000 to each of these events in the form of entries to that freeroll they decided to eliminate one of the only two comps poker players got: the free buffet. Complimentary drinks were still available while playing so I made sure I took them for several bottles of water. I drew table 46, seat four. Frequent RGP poster Oliver Tse, a satellite winner, was on my left in seat five. Gabriel Thaler, a tough pro, had seat six. Marc Aubin, with whom I had played two years ago in Aruba, had seat seven. Doug Lee of Calgary, winner of the Rio WSOP Circuit event, had seat eight. A player Tony, unknown to me and sporting a pony tail, had seat nine. Seat 10 was The Man: 2004 Player of the Year Daniel Negreanu, the hottest thing in poker. In seat one was Alex Prendes, with whom I had briefly played in Reno; seat two was cash-game player Cuco Quintero, and in seat three was the aggressive, cigar-chomping, singing Amir Vahedi.
I tried to play pots against the players whose pictures weren't on the wall at Binion's and ended up raising early with pocket Queens and calling a reraise by Marc Aubin along with Gabe Thaler, who called my raise and then Marc's reraise. The flop was a bingo, Queen-Seven-Six, giving me top set. It checked to Marc, who bet 2000. I check-raised to 5000 and Gabe quickly mucked. Marc thought for a long time and I put him on Aces. Finally, he moved in for the rest of his almost 10,000 and I quickly called, turning over the nuts. He did have Aces and didn't improve, cleaning him out save one black chip and doubling me to 20,025. Marc didn't last much longer and Scotty Nguyen came into seat seven. Seats one and nine busted and I had a nice 19,025 at the break.
Nothing worked after the break and I lost several small pots to bring me down to 8000 by the next break. Jeff Lisandro came into seat two after Cuco busted. I continued my downward spiral and had only 3000 when I reraised Daniel all in on my small blind with pocket threes. Unfortunately he had picked up Jacks and happily called. I didn't improve and I was out of the contest, finishing 105 out of 173.
Josh was still in the running at the dinner break and when I saw him wandering I invited him to dinner before I found out Helen had already gone home. We salvaged a little conversation at Caesars Tahoe's steakhouse but as he was still playing he didn't try any of the yummy Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullinger Cabernet, unfortunately a 2000 vintage being all they had. I changed my flight and headed back to Vegas for the next event: the final Professional Poker Tour freeroll, at the Mirage.