Oh say can you sing?
One hundred thirty-four players showed up at Bally's for the main event, which conflicted with a bigger tournament in Monte Carlo. In addition to the traditional Harrah's $10 food comp, our hosts spread out a nice selection of complimentary soft drinks in front of the cash bar. I asked the bartender if the soft drinks were free and he said yes, but suggested a tip. I said I'd tip myself as I grabbed a Diet Coke from the ice bucket. Everybody's hustling in Vegas.
Our day began with an embarrassing and inappropriate a capella rendition of the National Anthem in which the amateur singer got the lyrics wrong in five places and the notes wrong in more. There was no flag to gaze at so I remembered my training as a baseball umpire and stood soberly, contemplating what a wonderful country we live in. Finally it was over and the long day began.
I drew table 11, seat seven. It was a tough table with Billy Gazes on my left in seat eight, Steve Hudak in seat nine, Lee Watkinson in seat one, New Orleans circuit event winner Walter Chambers in seat two, Lee Salem in seat five, and Paul "Eskimo" Clark in seat six. Soon seat four busted out and top tournament player David "The Dragon" Pham came in. I was determined to play my game and finished level one up slightly at 10,400 chips. Then early in level two I reraised Lee Watkinson with pocket Jacks and he called. The flop came Nine-Eight-Seven and he moved in for a little more than the pot and about half my stack. With six outs even if I didn't already have the best hand, I called and his Queens held up, bringing me down to 4700. Then "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan took seat three and started ordering Heinekens two at a time alternating with green tea and coffee. What an act that guy had. I finished level two with 5200.
Level three went nowhere for me and I was down to 3550. I won a few small pots in level four, chipping up to 5250, and then lost a coinflip to the short-stacked Billy Gazes when his Ace-King beat my pocket Tens and I was down to the felt at 1475. Then it folded to me in the small blind. I saw Ace-Queen and pushed in. Billy called with the same hand and we chopped. Then I won all-ins with pocket Kings v. Ace-Eight and Ace-Deuce v. Lee Watkinson's Ace-Queen and I was back in business with 5900. I had 5375 when they broke the table.
My new assignment was table two, seat eight. Amnon Filippi was in seat one, Paul "Taker" Phillips in seat three sipping gin and tonics, and Scotty Nguyen in seat seven. I had 5050 at the end of level five. I got it in with pocket Nines against Scotty's Ten-Nine and was up to 7900 and finished level six with 6550. On the last hand of the day it folded to me on Paul Phillips's big blind and I jammed with pocket Fours. He thought awhile and made a big deal of saying what a marginal call this was but finally put it in with Jack-Ten of Diamonds. The flop came Ace-Seven-Five rainbow. The turn was the Five of Diamonds, giving Paul a Flush draw. The river was another Seven and Paul extended his hand thinking he had won before we both realized it was a chop, the Two Pair on the board with Ace kicker beating both our hole cards. Allen "Knish" Kessler did me the favor of busting on another table at the same time and I was headed to day two with my short stack of 6875 and 45 players remaining.
I headed over to Bally's for what would likely be one hand of poker. I drew table three, seat six. Actually I didn't draw it: tournament director Jimmy Somerfield's philosophy was that instead of a random draw, he would sort the tables by chips so that the short and large stacks would be evenly distributed. I wasn't sure whether or not I liked that but it was an interesting difference from most tournaments. I asked the tournament staff if I could get a second $10 food comp for day two but it was not possible what with the high cost of prices and all.
Billy Gazes was two to my left on seat eight; Lars Bonding, seat nine; Paul "X-22" Magriel, seat one; chip leader Doug Lee, seat three, and Alex Prendes, seat four. In the first orbit the very loose Doug Lee opened under the gun. I saw Ace-Jack and thought that was plenty good enough to push it in against him. It folded around and he called with Ace-Queen. "Doug!" I said, "What are you doing with a real hand?" He shrugged apologetically as Canadians will do. His kicker held up and I was out of the contest in 44th place.