Monday, July 10, 2006
The floating WWdN tournament
A couple of weeks ago I played in another Tuesday night tournament with Wil Wheaton. This tourney was different from the others of his that I have played in, though. For one thing, it was live instead of on PokerStars. For another, it was held on the Holland America cruise ship ms Maasdam, as one of the events of this year's Cruise Trek. Hey, Wil is no dummy; even a Former Star Trek Actor who doesn't want to be remembered just for that is smart enough to take advantage of a cruise vacation when the opportunity comes up. You can read more about the cruise itself, which was fantastic, on my personal blog.
I actually helped put the tourney together. My family and I had already planned to go on the cruise, and I contacted Charlie, the owner of Cruise Trek, when I found out that he was intending to hold a tournament on this year's cruise but the tourney host had to cancel. Charlie said he would be happy to let me take charge of planning it out, determining the blinds structure, chip colors and counts, and all the stuff that putting together a tournament entails. It took some work, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot about how a tourney is arranged and run.
A few weeks after I had agreed to do all this and had started working on it, I was playing in one of the weekly WWdN tournaments on PokerStars, when Wil said to me in the girly chat box,
"Hey Dave, I just signed up to go on this year's Cruise Trek."
"No way!" I said.
"Way," he replied.
"We're going too!" I declared.
"I know, Charlie told me," he answered.
"Did he also tell you that I am organizing a poker tournament on the cruise?"
"Yeah, and I'm going to kick your ass," he snorted.
Or maybe he said, "Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," or something along those lines. My memory is a little foggy there.
So we now had a bona fide poker star (or at least, PokerStar) heading up our cruise tournament. I took care of the logistical details of structuring the tourney, while Wil rounded up sponsorship from PokerStars and some prizes for the tourney winners, including signed books and PokerStars goodies.
I would wager that of the 45 people who signed up for the tournament, which was a freeroll, 42 of them had never played in a tournament before, and most of those had only seen Hold 'Em on TV if anywhere. The great majority of the "experienced" players in the tourney had only played draw or stud poker at their kitchen tables for toothpicks or pennies. Anticipating this, Wil held a poker and tournament basics lesson the day before the big game. Several people took notes and brought them to the tables when they played. Some went into the ship's library and practiced by playing for M&Ms. Many entered the tourney for the heck of it, and just wanted to play in the same game as Wil and a few of the other Star Trek celebs who joined in.
As you might expect, the play in the tournament itself was slow and weak. At my table, it was fold or call, with very little raising. I acted as "table captain" by helping with the flow of the game, making sure everyone knew when it was their turn to act, how much the bet was, and all that. I could hear Wil doing the same at his table. I was quite card dead, but managed to take enough small pots to survive to the final table. Wil didn't fare so well; he busted out about 30 minutes before we got down to the final ten players. Too bad we didn't make a last-longer bet.
The final table was played the following night, and Wil was our dealer. I started the final with 4900 in chips, about the third-shortest stack. Blinds were 1000/2000, so my M was crap. I ended up UTG for the first hand, and picked up KQo. I pushed right away, knowing that if I got called I was no better than a coin flip to just about anything but also knowing that I had to take a risk and could do a lot worse than those cards. However, everybody folded and I took the blinds. I got nothing to play for the rest of the orbit, and when the BB got around to me again, I had 83o, and the blinds had gone up to 2000/4000. It folded to the SB, who completed. With 4000 of my 4900 chips in, I went ahead and threw in my last chips, figuring that I might get lucky and either steal the blinds or catch a card or two if I got called. The SB hesitated for longer than I thought he would, and almost folded, but finally called. He showed JT sooooted, and I didn't improve. I finished in sixth place and won an autographed copy of The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King, by Michael Craig. I had been wanting to read that, so now I will have the chance. I watched the rest of the game, and the winner, Jeffrey Lu, turned out to be a guy who had never played Hold 'Em before. He obviously caught on quickly enough, and got lucky enough, to finish first. He won a Poker Stars jersey and a buy-in to a WSOP satellite on PokerStars. Second place won a PokerStars chip set, and the other final tablers won various autographed books. Everyone who made the final two tables got either a PokerStars hat or T-shirt.
The tourney seemed to be a big success among those who played and even many who watched. Wil did a fine job as host and poker guru, and it was a pleasure working with him to make it all happen. Hopefully there will be more Cruise Trek poker tournaments in the future for both of us.