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.
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.