June 30, 2005

Nine card nothing: 2005 WSOP Event #12, $2000 Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys

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Lionfish and Devilfish

I was looking forward to playing my favorite game, pot-limit Omaha, in today's tournament. They started more than a half-hour late because at the last minute they figured out they couldn't do the rebuys with cash because it would interfere with the Government's right to know the details of all cash transactions so they made us line up and buy chips in advance. There were 212 entrants and I drew table seven, seat six. Seat eight was Roy "The Boy" Brindley; seat two was Chou Giang, sporting a "Doyle's Room" Stetson about nine gallons too big for his head; the rest of the table were thankfully unfamiliar faces, especially considering the table behind me had Daniel Negreanu, Robert Williamson III, and Layne "Back to Back" Flack – a guaranteed wild ride. I bought in for $6000, with a rebuy necessary when I flopped top set against Roy the Boy's Straight, and chipped up to 7500 by the first break after winning several nice pots.


Then they broke our happy table and moved me to 129/8, with the very tricky and aggressive David "Devilfish" Ulliott on my left in seat nine. Thor Hansen was in seat six and Jeff Rine in seat seven, both good Omaha players. I didn't play many pots and decided to add on for another $4000 at the end of the rebuy period.


Dave "El Blondie" Colclough came into seat one and Mel Judah seat four. I found Ace-Ace-Eight-Four with no suits on the small blind and with a raise and a call from two short stacks I decided to reraise the pot and get it in good, hopefully isolating one of them or taking the pot down right there. The original raiser went all in, as did the other player, but a Spade Flush came and I lost the pot., bringing me down to 7100.


Huck Seed came into seat five and when Thor busted, Andrew Miller took his spot, so the table wasn't getting any easier. I picked up Ace-Ace with a suit and reraised Andrew Miller in position. The flop came all Hearts, Ace high, and he check-folded to my top set. Andrew busted later on a bad beat and was replaced by the very aggressive John Kabbaj, to whom I had given far too much respect last time I played him in Tunica. With every pot being raised and not getting many good starting hands or hitting flops when I did, I was down to 6025 at the next break.


Pete Moore came into seat four and when Huck busted, Mickey Appleman took seat five. Pete quickly busted and Russ Hamilton took seat four. This was a tough table! I won a small pot and was up to 6400 at the dinner break.


I was sick of the Rio buffet so I drove to the Mirage and ate at theirs, washed down by an iced tea.


With the blinds up to 200/400, I didn't have much elbow room and I saw a few flops and missed. Down to 1100, I won blinds twice with preflop raises but the third time, under the gun with a suited Ace-Queen, John Kabbaj made an inexplicable call with rags from the small blind and made Jacks and Sixes to bust me. I was out 53rd.


June 28, 2005

Oh so close: 2005 WSOP Event #11, $2000 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em

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Feast and famine

After taking the day off during the $2000 limit Hold 'Em event I was refreshed going into the $2000 pot-limit Hold 'Em competition, which drew a mere 540 players. I started at table 138, seat four, and was happy to recognize only two name players, neither very tricky and both on my right: Fred Berger in seat one and David "Harpo" Levi in seat three. A fellow retired semi-pro, David "Twinkyboy" Knauff, sat between them in seat two. Harpo was Israeli as were two other guys at the table I didn't know. One, in seat eight, was eating an apple and drinking a bottle of apple juice so I asked him if it was kosher to combine the flesh and the milk like that. With a wink and a smile he assured me it was. The other was a nice kid named Misha in seat 10


My first major action was when Harpo raised a pot with many limpers and I found pocket Kings so I reraised, which put me all in.. It folded to him and he called, so I figured I was behind, given how tight he played. Sure enough he turned over the pocket rockets. I didn't suck out and in fact he made four Aces. Fortunately I had him covered but I was down to 650. Then I limped along with many others with my lucky hand, Nine-Eight of Spades, with which I had busted TJ Cloutier at Rincon. The flop came Ten-Seven-Six with two Diamonds, giving me the nuts.  Misha bet the pot and I reraised all in. for my last 550. He called with Seven-Six and didn't improve so I was back up to 1550.


Twinkyboy busted and was replaced by Bill Chen, a well-known Internet poker-math guy who writes a blog along with a friend and is coming out with a book soon. He check-raise-bluffed me out of a small pot with the best hand. Then the tough and tricky Bill Gazes took seat six. I limped under the gun with pocket Nines. Billy made it 300 and Fred and I called. The flop came Nine-Deuce-Deuce, giving me second nuts. I checked and Billy bet the pot. Fred mucked and I reraised all in for only a little more. Billy called the pocket change but was drawing dead to runner-runner with his Ace-King. That crippled Billy and brought me up to 3050.


Then seat eight made it 350 with blinds of 75/150 and I defended my big blind with King-Jack of Spades. The flop came King-Queen-Ten rainbow and I check-called 500. The Ace of Clubs came on the turn, giving me the nuts, and I checked to induce the bluff, which came. He bet all in and I called. His Ace-Six of Spades was dead to a chop if one of the two remaining Jacks came, which it didn't, so I was up to 5600. Finally I was getting some cards!


Billy lost  his few remaining chips and tournament legend TJ Cloutier took seat six. Harpo was out too and yet another Israeli, Robert "Who's Bad?" Mizrachi, brother of The Grinder, took seat three on my right. He played a lot of pots and when he limped under the gun I limped behind with Ten-Eight of Hearts and several others limped as well. The flop came Queen-Eight-Trey with two Hearts, giving me a pair and a Flush draw. Misha bet 500 and I called. The turn was the Nine of Hearts and he bet 1200. I reraised all in and he called with Queen-Nine. He didn't catch his four-outer and I was up to 8750. Casey Kastle came into seat seven and threw down an amazing bluff-raise on the river for all his chips versus Robert Mizrachi, who folded Queen-Jack face up on a board of King-Queen-Jack and two rags and turned green as Casey showed pocket Tens for a busted Straight draw. Casey was well known as a rock up until this point so everyone at the table was shocked  I went to the break with a nice stack of 8725.


Fred busted and David Benyamine took seat one. With the blinds 150/300, Misha, now with a short stack, opened for the maximum 1050. I reraised the pot with pocket Jacks and then TJ reraised the pot again. The three of us got it all in, Misha showing King-Seven and TJ Ace-King. My Jacks held up and I was up to 10,600. I went to the dinner break with a nice 10,500.


After dinner, though, the feast was over and the famine hit. They broke our table and moved me to 117/4. "Captain" Tommy Franklin was on my left in seat five; Andy "The Rock" Bloch was in seat seven; An "The Boss" Tran, seat eight; and Steve "Z" Zolotow, seat 10. Nothing worked and I was quickly down to 3900. David Plastik took seat seven. I won a few small pots and worked my stack back up to 7900 at the next break.


Then "Tall" Phil Gordon came into seat one with a nice stack and Shar Koumi, the Cypress-born Brit, took seat three. They moved The Boss to another table for balance and with six tables left we went to nine-handed. They paid 45 so I had only nine places to go to my first cash of the 2005 series. But it was not to be: with 5300 left I reraised seat three's middle-position opener all in with pocket Queens. He called with Ace-King of Spades and made a Flush on the turn to bust me in 50th place, just five from the money.


June 25, 2005

The drubbing continues: 2005 WSOP Event #9, $2000 No-Limit Hold 'Em

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AK sucks

I plunked down another two dimes to enter the $2000 NLHE event and drew table 58, seat nine, in a rollicking field of 1403. Paul Darden was in seat two and Gary Bush in seat five. I played some small pots and went to the first break with 2070. Then seat eight completed his small blind and I rapped pat with Six-Five offsuit. The flop came Jack-Six-Six. He checked and I bet 150. He made it 400 and I called. The turn was a Deuce and he bet 800. I moved in and he called, showing Ten-Six of Spades. I lucked out when the river was a Jack and we split the pot. Then I opened in the cutoff with Ace-King offsuit. Paul Darden called on the big blind. The flop was Ace-Ace-Four with two Diamonds. I made a weakish bet of 350 and Paul moved in. I called and he showed two Diamond rags. The turn was a diamond but the river was a Four, giving me a Full House and crippling Paul. I was up to 3850 and went to the next break with 3175.


As soon as I got back, I moved in over the top of an early position raise with Ace-King but seat 10 woke up with King-King. I didn't hit my Ace and I was out of the contest in 470th place.


June 22, 2005

Rock! The World Series of Roshambo

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Rock! The World Series of Roshambo


I entered the $200, winner-take-all, 64-person World Series of Roshambo tournament since I knew the optimal strategy and the whole thing was televised on ESPN. Roshambo is the game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors," and has some important elements of poker in it, namely reading your opponent and exploiting his weaknesses. The optimal strategy is to throw at random. However, like poker, better-than-average results can be achieved against players who do not use the optimal strategy if you can figure out what their next move is likely to be.


I got paired with Rick Wampler for the first round and was prepared with a seven-throw random series. However, at the last minute, they changed the first round from a single throw to best four out of seven, meaning that with ties, my seven random throws might not be enough. Rick went up on me two-nothing and three-one when I managed to climb back to even it up at three. But I was out of throws! I had thrown two rocks in a row and didn't think he'd put me on a third rock so that's what I threw. He unleashed the dreaded paper and I was on my way to ESPN for my exit interview.


June 21, 2005

A nice picture of me

Courtesy of Card Player, here

Rebuy! 2005 WSOP Event #7, $1000 NLHE with rebuys

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Coin flips

The big $1000 No-Limit Hold 'Em rebuy tournament drew a field of 826 and I got a nice table draw, 37-3, with only one big-name pro, Farzad "Freddy" Bonyadi. He was on my left in seat four. Gabe "Mr. Kotter" Kaplan was in seat 10 and top Internet tourney player Cliff "Johnny Bax" Josephy was in seat one. I rebought right away, giving me 2000 chips. Early on, I limped under the gun with Queen-Eight of Hearts and saw a multiway flop of Ace-Ten-Nine with two hearts. I check-raised seat seven all in with my big draw and he called with Ace-Seven of Spades! I hit both my Straight and my Flush and was up to 4000. Then Dan Heimiller took seat eight, arriving late. When Johnny Bax limped under the gun for 50 I made a hefty raise to 250 with pocket Kings. He thought for a bit then moved all in for 2000. I called and he showed Sixes, which didn't improve, and I was up to 6000 with the gift. Then the guy on my right raised on the button and I made it 625 in the small blind with pocket Aces. He called with no hesitation and the flop came Ten-Ten-Seven. He had about 1300 left and I bet it. He called, showing Ace-Ten, and just like that I was down to 4000. I lost a coin flip with Ace-King versus pocket Eights with a short stack and was down to 2400. Then I got involved in another pot with Johnny Bax. I had Ace-Nine of Diamonds and called his river bet on a board of Nine-Eight-Seven-Six-Deuce. He showed King-Ten and I was down to 750 at the end of the rebuy period. I took a triple rebuy and had 3750, in for $5000 now.


After the break Tom McCormack took seat five. I lost a couple small pots and was down to 2150 at the next break. Then I doubled up with pocket Sevens when I got a call from Ace-Jack. I raised under the gun with pocket Jacks and won a multiway pot when the flop came all low cards. That put me into the black at 5625. Mr. Kotter busted to Dan and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi took seat 10. Farzad busted as well and Steve "Notso" Brite took his spot on my left. Then Jon "Big Daddy" Brody, who spells his name wrong, took seat five and Chip Jett took seat two on my right. The table was getting tough. Toto Leonidas then took seat 10 when The Grinder busted. I chipped up to 6950 by the next break.


I was all the way up to 10,550 when Dan Heimiller raised in early position and Chip called on the button. I found Ace-King and decided to move all in against those two loose players. Dan folded but Chip called with pocket Eights. I hit my Ace on the turn but Chip spiked one of the two remaining Eights on the river and I was out 190th, my best finish so far but still out of the money.


June 19, 2005

Short Shorthanded: 2005 WSOP Event #6, $2500 six-handed No-Limit Hold 'Em

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I was looking forward to this event since I considered shorthanded No-Limit to be my best game. I drew table 127, seat two, in the field of 548. Reza Payvar, a friend of Amir Vahedi's who played much like him, had seat four. I got no love from the cards and was down to 2075 at the break. Top player Humberto Brenes came in on my right in seat one and started raising a lot of pots. I continued getting nothing and lost my desperation all-in, out 352nd.

Dinner was at the Silverton steakhouse with Perry "The Baiter" Friedman, Rafe "Tiltboy" Furst, and Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman. The food was decent but the most expensive wine they had was the 2001 Mt. Veeder Cabernet so we ordered that, which was nice.

Tomorrow was the big $1000 rebuy No-Limit Hold 'Em event.

June 16, 2005

No love from Nebraska: 2005 WSOP Event #5, $1500 Limit Omaha 8

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Cell mate

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I'd never had the slightest bit of luck in Omaha Hi/Low Eight or Better tourneys, even on line, yet I entered another, believing I played at least as well as the field full of no-limit hold 'em specialists and other assorted donkeys. I drew table 24, seat nine, in the field of 699. There were a few recognized players at my table: Chuck Humphreys on my left in seat 10, Tommy Grimes in seat five, and Jean-Robert "Bobby" Bellande in seat six. Bobby got into a kafuffle with the floorman over use of his cell phone/radio, which they ruled violated the ban on using cell phones at the table even in radio mode with an earphone. He had called the floor over in the middle of a big pot with a silly request for an interpretation of the oversized-chip rule that everyone else at the table agreed he was wrong about, and while the floorman was there he noticed the cell phone and killed Bobby's hand. Bobby argued and argued and, amazingly, got the floorman to reverse his decision and award Bobby half the pot.


As for me, I got no cards, made one bad chase and one bad laydown of a King-high Flush on the Turn to a great raise by Tommy Grimes, who had the dry Ace and a wheel, and I was out early.


Dinner was the first of many at the Carnival World buffet at the Rio. I talked them into letting me combine the $10 off coupons since I was a "Seven Stars" elite gamb00ler and they had a "just say yes" policy for valuable fish like me.


June 15, 2005

Flushed out: 2005 WSOP Event #4, $1500 Limit Hold 'Em

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Teddy and the Monkey

I didn't really enjoy limit tournaments but I had done well in the past so I entered the $1500 Limit Hold 'Em tournament at the Rio. There were a stunning 1049 entrants and I drew table 141, seat 10. The very loose Steve Shkolnik was on my left in seat one; Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest, one of the top players in the world, had seat two; Robert Williamson III had seat six; the aggressive David Williams, seat seven; another good player I recognized but didn't catch his name was in seat eight; and tournament pro Gioi Luong was in seat nine on my right. I said hi to Ted, whom I liked, just not at my table, and he noted that since it was limit there would be no need for me to make the monkey face. I flashed one at him and he quickly averted his eyes, I thought he was genuinely scared of the monkey face. I played solid and was dead even at 1500 at the first break.


Williams aggressed off all his chips and was gone when I defended my blind in a multiway pot with Ten-Seven of Clubs and flopped a Flush. I bet out and got two callers: Shkolnik and the guy who replaced Williams. Turn was a Nine, pairing the board. I bet again and both players called. River was another Nine. The only hands I could beat now were an unlikely smaller Flush and overcards with the Ace of Clubs. I checked, Shkolnik bet, seat seven raised, and I cheerfully mucked. Shkolnik called and seat seven showed Ace-Nine for quads with the nut Flush draw.


I threw in my last chips when it folded to me on the button and I saw paint, but I forgot to make the monkey face and Teddy bear called on his big blind, beat me, and I was out early.


Dinner was at Andiamo at the Las Vegas Hilton. I had my usual osso bucco, washed down with the last bottle of 2001 Caymus Special Selection as the Maitre D' told us how he was on the lam from Florida authorities for strangling a robber to death in the parking lot of his night club and losing a civil suit by the criminal's estate after being acquitted on criminal charges. Only in Vegas.


June 11, 2005

Pot shot: 2005 Event #3, $1500 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em

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Pot shot: 2005 Event #3, $1500 Pot-Limit Hold 'Em

Presto Gonzo

With the exception of the bathrooms, things seemed to be much more under control at the Rio for the second event in to 2005 World Series. Pot-Limit Hold 'Em was a game that some said required more skill than no-limit but to me the main difference was that antes were never used at any time during the tournament. In No-Limit tournaments they added antes after a few levels, making more dead money in each pot and therefore increasing action.


"Only" 1071 players entered this event, not quite as glamorous as the TV game No-Limit Hold 'Em (presumably because you couldn't yell "All in!" as much). I drew table 114, seat one, and verified that we weren't all in alphabetical order today. My buddy from Harrah's Rincon, Al Adler, was at seat eight and told me he had taken my advice to quit smoking and was down to only a few cigarettes a day with a target of zero. Al was studying my game and kept giving me knowing smiles every time I took down a pot, which I did quite a bit since the only "name" player at the table was Max Stern in seat nine. I won many small pots and chipped up to 4050 from my starting 1500 at the first break.


Then Kevin "Bleu" Peterson, a Full Tilt regular, came in at seat six. I was up to around 5000 chips when with the blinds 75/150 a new player with a big stack made it 325 from early position in seat 10 on my right. He actually tried to make it 425 but made a string raise, which I pointed out to the dealer and made him take back. Then I looked my cards and mentally kicked myself: pocket Aces! I raised the size of the pot, another 875. It folded to him and he called. The flop came King-Seven-Five. He checked and I bet a third of my chips. It was all going in if he had AK or if he had me beat and I wanted him to have room to bluff as well. He did check-raise me all in and I expected him to turn over KK like JC Tran did at Bellagio but instead he turned over Presto, pocket Fives for the set. I didn't hit my two-outer and I was out of the contest early. It was so early they hadn't even put up the number of remaining players.


Dinner was at Mistral with Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman, his wife Gail, and his brother Noam. Avi had two Diet Cokes and the rest of us had the 1970 B.V. Georges La Tour Cabernet, slightly more acidy than the bottle we had had before but still sublime and a bargain at just over $200 on their excellent wine list.


Next up: $1500 Limit Hold 'Em.


June 8, 2005

I went to the Animal Fair: The 2005 World Series of Poker

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I flew into Vegas the day before the first WSOP event to get a jump on registration. Hertz had a Hyundai Affront sitting in my space but I begged for an upgrade and they switched it for a silver Buick Coronary. I drove over to the Rio, new home of the World Series since Harrah's bought the rights to the name, and got about 10 steps into the convention center when I ran into the back of the registration line. There were two lines: a short one to get your WSOP ID card and a very, very long one to sign up for the events. Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman had been holding a place in the short line for me and had just about reached the front when I got there. ID card in hand, I walked over to the long line. What a zoo! It was barely moving and looked to be several hours long so I took a friend up on his offer to take my card and money and sign me up for the first event.


Full Tilt had a sweet suite right next to the tournament room so I checked it out. Because of the uncertain legal climate around online poker, it was actually the "FullTiltPoker.Net" suite. Somehow the ".net" suffix had come to mean a play-money site, which was OK to advertise without fear of the Justice Department sending in a SWAT team. They gave me a cool baseball jersey to wear that had "Quiet Lion" on the back along with my number, 5, which I figured meant I was the fifth best player in the world.


I found Perry "The Baiter" Friedman and bought him dinner at the Las Vegas Hilton steakhouse in return for him giving me tips on winning a bracelet, which would actually be my second since I held the 2004 bracelet in croquet. He suggested I win all the pots. I just had a couple Grey Goose martinis in honor of my twin, David Grey.


Event #2: $1500 No-Limit Hold 'Em

Exceeding all expectations, the first event (called event #2 because event #1 was only for casino employees) sold out late the night before at 2305 players: 2200 starters with 11 players at 200 tables; 100 alternates, and I guessed five VIPs who juiced the tournament staff to get in after it was sold out.  I wore my nifty Full Tilt Quiet Lion baseball jersey and headed for my table assignment at table 154. When I got there the dealer asked if I had looked at the list of redraws, which was posted on the wall outside the tournament room. Apparently an error had caused 200 people to be assigned to table 154 and they had to redraw. So I went out to fight my way through the crowd of people looking at that list and discovered I was now at table 159.


I settled into table 159, seat five, and happily didn't recognize anyone there. There was a brouhaha at the next table because Todd Brunson and Doyle Brunson were seated next to each other. I recalled that at the World Poker Tour event in the Bahamas they had seated the tables alphabetically and wondered if they had done the unthinkable here and repeated that fiasco. I asked everyone at the table to raise his hand if his last name didn't begin with B. No hands went up. In fact, we were all B-R.


I wasn't going to make a fuss since there were no top players at my table but I smiled and wondered what the Nguyen table was like. It boggled my mind that anyone, at any level of management, could possibly think it was OK to seat people alphabetically rather than by a random draw no matter what computer screw-up they were claiming. The Brunsons made enough noise that they got switched, along with all the husband-wife, father-son, and brother pairs.


As the tournament began, we also learned that they had now decided to make this a three-day event rather than a two-day one. They really didn't see anything wrong with making significant changes in the schedule after people had come from all over the world at great expense and plunked down $1500 to play in this thing. Well, at least we got vouchers for $10 off the buffet.


At any rate, we finally started. I played a few small pots and then I limped under the gun for a quarter with pocket Sixes and it got all the way around to the button in seat two, who made it 100. I called and it came Eight-Seven-Four with two Spades. I checked and he bet 200. I figured he had an overpair or Ace-King and I called. The turn was the Queen of Spades. He really looked like he didn't like the Spade and I had the Six of Spades. He put his last 425 in. I figured he had a big pair with no Spade, giving me 14 outs, or Ace-King with a Spade, in which case I had the best hand. I called and he showed two Aces, no Spade. My Flush came on the river and I knocked him out, giving me over 2000.


Next, the loose player on my right raised in late position and I found pocket Kings two off the button. I decided to play it conservatively and move in but the button woke up with Aces and called. I didn't improve and was down to 475. I saw a few cheap flops but didn't connect and was down to 250 at the break.


With the blinds up to 50-100, I didn't have much room to maneuver and when seat one limped on my big blind and seat four completed, I put my last 150 in with King-Jack offsuit. The limper called with King-Queen and I was out of the contest around 1700th.


Dinner was room service at the Hilton with a bottle of Mondavi Cabernet, sipped out on the terrace overlooking the Strip. The evening air was perfect skin temperature. I'd have another chance tomorrow.


June 4, 2005

So Long Shana: Season Four of the WPT at the Mirage

Movie Star

Shana had quit the World Poker Tour to try her luck at being a movie star but I entered the first event of season four anyway. The Mirage wanted $10,200 to play and I plunked it down in the now all-too-familiar ritual. There were 317 entered, smallish for a WPT event, and I drew table 34, seat four. A real movie star, Jennifer Tilly, was two seats to my left in seat six, looking gorgeous and 10 years younger than her 46. David Benyamine, prevented by the US government for a year from entering the country because someone with the same name was on the terrorist watch list, was back in competition in seat eight. Seat 10 was last year's WPT champion, Martin "The Knife" De Knijff. Seat one was the talkative but now sober Mike Laing. And on my right was WSOP champ Huck Seed in seat three.


With all those great players at the table it was Jennifer who got hit with the deck, flopping sets and Straights and piling up huge stacks of chips. I found pocket Queens in early position and raised. David re-popped me in middle position and I called. The flop came Ace-Nine-Eight with two Hearts. I checked to David, who bet 1500. I probably should have just folded there but I saw something funny in his face and decided to take a stab at the pot, making it 5000. He called and I was done with the hand. The turn was a King I checked and he thought for a long time before he checked behind me. Now I was confused. Could he have reraised me with something like Jack-Ten of Hearts? The river was a Ten. I deliberated mostly so as not to appear weak, then checked. David thought for a while and then bet only 4000. If he had Jack-Ten I don't think he would have bet there. I decided he had Ace-King or Ace-Ace and I mucked. He later said he had Ace-Ace. I was down to 8000 at the break from my starting 20,000.


Seats five and nine busted and Pete Moore, a tourney regular, came into seat nine. Marc Aubin, whose Aces I cracked in Tahoe, took seat nine. They moved Huck to another table for balance and my bad luck continued. I was down to 5500 at the break. I won a couple small pots in the next 90 minutes and scratched my way back to 6950 at the next break. Then Paul "Pretty Boy" Phillips, one of my favorite players, came in on my right in seat three. I loved playing with Paul because of his wit and energy but every time we had been at the table one of us busted within 10 minutes. This time it was me. I got my chips in on a three-way pot with a Flush draw that didn't come and I was out of the contest 208th.


That was it until the World Series in June.


June 2, 2005

Mirage barrage: Two preliminary tourneys at the Mirage

Starting off small

Hoping the novice tournament staff at the Mirage had corrected the lunch problem I entered two smaller tournaments in preparation for the premiere Season Four WPT event. The first was a $2600 No-Limit Hold 'Em event with 159 entrants. I drew table 38, seat two, and finally had a table I was happy with. There were four tournament regulars at my table, but three were to my left and all tight players: Tony "C" Cousineau, seat three; David "Harpo" Levi, seat four; and Allen Kessler, seat six. The aggressive Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori was right where I wanted him, on my right in seat one. I was running over the table with some success when suddenly they moved me! The Mirage was obsessive about balancing tables. Whereas most tournament venues only pulled a player off a full table for balance early in a tournament if there were three empty seats at another table, the Mirage had decided to do it even if a table was only down two, rather than simply wait until a table broke naturally by virtue of enough empty seats in the whole room to accommodate the nine or 10 players at the next table in the break order.


They moved me to table 42, seat eight. WSOP champ Huck Seed had seat two; Davood Mehrmand had seat four. As I was sitting down seat 10 got his Aces cracked and top pro Allen Cunningham took his seat. When the next player busted we went to nine handed and got some elbow room. Davood busted and Tony C followed me, taking his place. Then real-estate promoter Tommy Vu took what was now seat four when the former seat five busted. I was up to 7600 from my starting 5000 when they broke our table.


My new home was table 38, seat eight. Alex Prendes was on my right in seat seven; famous Vegas entrepreneur Bob Stupak had seat four; and I didn't recognize anyone else, which was usually a good sign. As I sat down, seat three won a huge three-way pot when all three players flopped Club flushes but he had the nuts. I had 7800 at the break.


Like a puppy dog, Tony Cousineau followed me into yet another table, taking seat two when that player busted. Alex, short-stacked on my right, made a desperation all-in, which I called on the small blind with pocket Sevens. He turned over Queen-Seven offsuit and didn't catch, so he was out, replaced by the chatty Mark Dickstein. I had 7775 at the break.


When we returned I won a few small pots and was up near 10,000 when I found Ace-Queen offsuit on the small blind facing many limpers. I chose to complete the bet and see a flop, which came Queen-Seven-Deuce with two Diamonds. I checked and it checked to Bob Stupak, who bet 1500 into the 2100 pot. It folded to me and I raised it to 3500, figuring him for a Flush draw or something like Queen-Jack. It folded to Bob and he moved all in. He had me covered and I had about 6000 more. He could have Sevens or Deuces, leaving me drawing mighty slim, or a Flush draw, possibly with a Pair and/or and overcard. I decided the Flush draw was more likely and, getting good pot odds, I called. He turned over pocket Sevens. The Deuce of Diamonds hit the turn, giving me two Queen outs, but it was not to be and I was out of the contest on my bad read, finishing 87th. Later I learned he was a pretty tight player and probably wouldn't have moved in on the draw.


Busting out in time for dinner, I called Andy "The Rock" Bloch, who brought his lovely girlfriend Jen and a friend from home to have yummy sushi with me at Shibuya at the MGM Grand, washed down by a couple different sakes recommended by the sake sommelier there.

So close

Next up was the last event before the big WPT one, a $3100 No-Limit Hold 'Em tourney with a nice turnout of 195. I drew table 51, seat two. Seasoned pro Young Phan was in seat seven; big-cash-game player Nick Frangos in seat 10; and strange faces around the rest of the table. They immediately moved Young to another table due to their obsessive balancing disorder and I was in heaven. I won several small pots and lost a medium one and was up from my starting 6000 to 6700 at the break.


I chipped up to 7600 and they broke my nice table, moving me to tournament hell. I got table 54, seat 7, and it looked like they had airlifted me into Poker Superstars. Allen Cunningham had seat one; Chip Jett seat two; Amir Vahedi seat three; Chris Bigler seat four; and Erik Seidel seat six. To make matters worse, I kept getting playable starting hands and losing, missing all my draws and getting my bluffs called. I was down to the felt with 1525 at the break. I had outlasted Allen and Erik, though, both of whom had busted. Amir had amassed a nice stack.


I won some desperation all-ins and was back up to 4800 at the next break, when I caught a break. Amir and the guy to my right, both with big stacks, had both gone all in when I found pocket Aces on the button. I called with my puny stack and won the main pot, tripling up to 15,000. Chip Jett was out and Ken Goldstein took his place in seat two. Now that I had chips I was in bullying mode and I was up to 29,200 when we got down to 27 players and redrew for seats.


My new draw was not so lucky. I was at the same table, now seat three. I had the very loose and aggressive Terry Fleischer on my left, who wouldn't let me get away with anything, and Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren, who I didn't want within 100 feet of my table, across in seat nine. Terry re-stole a pot from me when I made a move on a flop of Queen-Queen-Seven in a blind battle. Then I made a small raise on Erick's blind with Eight-Six of Clubs, getting calls from both blinds. The flop came Jack-Six-Four. It checked to me and I figured to have the best hand so I deliberated about how much to bet. I decided to bet half my chips, 9000, so that E-Dog couldn't bluff me out of the pot with a check-raise. He did check-raise me and I knew at this point he had me beat but getting more than four-to-one I had odds to call, hoping for a five-outer. "I might as well lose all my chips to you one more time," I said, and shoved them in. He turned over Queen-Jack of Diamonds and my cards didn't come so I was out of the contest in 25th, so close to 18th place and the money. The nicest guy in poker, Erick immediately came over and sympathized with me, saying it could just as easily have gone the other way. I was waiting for that day.


It was late so I just did a rerun of Shibuya, solo this time. I had seat five and had a nice chat with a young Asian-American guy in seat six. He ordered a fabulous-looking teriyaki beef but bemoaned the fact that in these highfalutin gourmet Japanese places you couldn't order a goddamn bowl of noodles.


The Mirage WPT event was next.