Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 World Series of Poker report - Doyle Brunson liked my shirt

I never said that I was prompt about posting trip reports. Better late than never, though, right?

My first ever World Series of Poker experience was, overall, fairly positive. I played in the Seniors Championship event, and although I didn't get very far in the tournament, I don't feel like I made any real boneheaded decisions that cost me a chance to go deep. I played a fair amount of poker outside the WSOP, and did some other touristy stuff; more about that shortly.

My adventure started when I flew into Las Vegas the morning of Thursday June 16, the day before the start of the Seniors event. I picked up my rental car and drove across town so I could register for said event. I'm glad I got there early in the day, because I only had to wait in the registration line at the Rio for about 15 minutes. By the time I finished, the line had grown out of the room and just got longer as the day wore on. I then wandered around the convention area of the Rio, where the WSOP events were being held, so I could figure our where everything was. I had never seen so many poker tables, or poker players, in the same place at once. I knew there would be a big field for the Seniors tournament, as well as hundreds of players for the other events. It didn't take long before I saw my first recognizable poker pro, Bertrand "ElkY" Grosspellier, walking through the Pavilion. Soon I was spotting pros every other minute, and I gave up trying to keep track of them all, so you won't see a list of them here.

Eventually I caught up with one of my blogger pals, AlCan'tHang, and chatted with him for a few minutes. Later I would meet up with Dr. Pauly, Special K, F-Train, CKBwoP, and other friends and acquaintances. I didn't do much more than soak up the atmosphere around the WSOP area at the Rio that afternoon.

After a brief trip downtown, I ended up at the Palms to play in the Pokerati mixed NLHE/PLO game Thursday evening. I wasn't playing very much, just treading water, until an interesting hand came up. In middle position, I called a straddle bet of $5 with T9 of clubs. The button, pro Matt Stout who was sitting in for some fun and games, raised to $15. I called the raise to see what might develop, and we were heads up. The flop was TKT, giving me trips. I bet $15, and Matt called. The turn was a 9, filling me up. I thought about checking but decided to see if Matt  would call me again like he did on the previous street. I bet $25, which he called fairly quickly. The river was an Ace. I announced all-in, which Matt snap-called. I showed my boat; he turned over QJ for the straight.  After that nice pot, I played for a short while longer and decided to call it a night, having been up since about 4:15 AM Dallas time.

The next morning, I attended an interview session with Phil Gordon and Doyle Brunson which was sponsored by, which had a booth at the WSOP asking players to donate 1% of their winnings to cancer research. Phil interviewed Doyle about his life in the poker world and about Doyle's own survival of cancer. After the interview, Doyle took questions from the audience. I got in line and asked Doyle how he liked playing in the cash game shows made for TV like The Big Game and High Stakes Poker. He said he loves playing in those games and isn't bothered by the televised nature of them. You may be wondering, where did the title of this post come from? Well, I wore my red Texas Rangers T-shirt that day, with "TEXAS" in big letters on the front. As he finished answering my question, Doyle, a Texas native himself, said, "I like your shirt, by the way."

The Seniors tourney started at 12:00 noon, or actually several minutes later, after the introduction by Oklahoma Johnny Hale and general ceremonial stuff. I had no pros or celebrities at my starting table, but those who were there were nice enough people. A couple of people got annoyed by this or that, but by and large things were pretty friendly. I played tight to start, as did everyone else. I took a few small pots, mostly playing position, but didn't build my chip stack. I made it to the first break with a few more chips than the 3,000 that everyone started with. I knew I was going to need to step things up a bit when we got back, but the cards weren't coming and my opponents had pretty much the same idea as I did, so I found it hard to play back at anyone. As my stack started to shrink, I was looking for a chance to double up while doing so would still gain me a decent stack. I found it when I got AK in late position and reraised all-in the UTG player's 3XBB opening raise. He called, showed QQ, and busted me when the A on the flop had a Q right next to it. I suppose I could have folded preflop, but really, how could I do that? And if I had just called, the chips would have ended up in the middle when the A hit the flop. I don't regret that move, or really anything else I did in the tournament. It just wasn't meant to be, for me, and I'm fine with that.

After I busted, I tracked down Special K, who busted ahead of me on a bad beat. He suggested that we play some cash at Caesars Palace, to check on that action and to get more information about a Super Seniors tourney they were hosting the next day (which turned out to be too pricey for us). We hopped the shuttle bus from the Gold Coast, where we were both staying, to the Strip and walked over to CP. We ended up seated at separate tables, and I think I got the luckier draw. On my immediate left was a gent who was in nearly every hand, making weird bets, calling down with very weak hands, and more or less giving his chips away. I managed to get some of them myself and doubled my buy-in before fatigue got the best of me. I would have loved to stay longer and try to get some more of his donations, but I really felt the need to crash, and to catch the shuttle back to the Gold Coast before it stopped running.

Saturday, I went back to the Rio, thinking about entering the daily $230 deepstack WSOP side tourney. I played some cash at the Rio's regular poker room early in the day, losing a little of my profit from the previous days. By the time I went to check on the deepstack tourney, it was full. I decided to take a break and see what shows were on that might be fun. I had seen an ad for "Recycled Percussion" at the Tropicana, which sounded a lot like Stomp! where the performers bang on all manner of household objects as percussion instruments. That sounded good, so I went to a discount ticket booth on the Strip and bought a ticket for that night's performance. I got a text from Special K, who wanted to play some poker at the MGM Grand. I told him I would meet him after the show.

"Recycled Percussion" was fabulous. A high-energy show with lots of audience participation: everyone coming into the theater was given a drumstick and asked to grab an item out of one of four bins of pots, pans, buckets, and other stuff to hit. It was almost certainly the loudest Vegas show I have ever attended. Go see it if you get the chance.

My session at the MGM Grand was not so fabulous. Just a few minutes after I sat down, I got involved in two big hands. In the first, I started with AA, raised and got one caller. Flop was J rag rag. I bet about half the pot and got called. Turn is another J. I bet half pot again and got smooth called. Figuring that my opponent called me with top pair on the flop and just turned trips, I checked the rag that fell on the river. Opponent bet, I thought for a few minutes and folded. A few hands later, I got AKo in the cutoff. I raised to $12 and got reraised by the button to $25, which I called. Heads up, the flop was KQx. I bet $25 with top pair; button raised all in and had me covered. If I had thought this through, I would have figured out that the three most likely hands where he would push like that, AA, KK and QQ, all had me crushed. My best hope was that he had AQ (I'm ahead) or AK (we probably chop). But, I didn't think it through, called him, and he showed AA. I didn't suck out, and decided to call it a night.

Sunday morning, I walked over to the Rio to sign up for their 10:00 AM daily (non-WSOP) tourney. Only $60+5 to enter. The structure was pretty fast but that didn't bother me for such a small buy-in. I got aggressive early, caught some hands and built my stack and put some pressure on the table. We only ended up with 24 entrants because of a shortage of dealers. After making it to the final table, the cards cooled off for me. I hung in and was the beneficiary of a four-way all-in that busted all three players who were shorter stacked than the winner of the hand. That took us down to four, with three places being paid. We all agreed on a save for the bubble of $20 each so the bubble would get (most of) the buy-in back. I was one of the shorter stacks but another player busted ahead of me, so I made the money. My short stack would not last long, though, and I finished in third place. That payout made up for the buy-in that I lost at the MGM Grand the night before.

I decided to take another tourist break and drive out to Red Rock Canyon Sunday afternoon. It was hot and dry out there, but the scenery was great and I was glad to get out and stretch my legs. I also picked up some nice souvenirs for my wife and son in their gift shop. Much better than the tacky crap in all the casino gift shops. On my way out of the park, I got a text from lightning36, who had just arrived in town for his WSOP trip. We met at the Harrah's buffet for dinner and had a great time catching up.

The trip turned out to be a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went. Not counting the Seniors event buy-in, I came home with more poker money than I started with, and that is always a nice feeling. Will I play in the WSOP again next year? A lot can happen between now and then, so I will make no commitments nor predictions now. What I will say is, I won't rule it out.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The WSOP competition just got easier - for now

By now you have probably heard that Phil Ivey has declared that he will not be playing in the World Series of Poker this year, and is suing Tiltware, which I believe is the software arm of FullTilt where he has been an icon for several years. The full statement, which was posted May 30, can be found here. While his absence from the WSOP is not likely to benefit me, since my only event will be the Seniors tourney, I suppose there are others who are glad that they won't have to worry about facing him across the table.

His statement, though, brings up a whole host of questions. Some of these points have been discussed all over the web and undoubtedly there will be much more analysis and speculation about what it all means. Here are a few thoughts that have crossed my mind.

One sentence of the statement says, "I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot." This appears to imply that Ivey is sympathetic to the players whose funds are stuck on FullTilt and who cannot cash out the money they intended to use to buy into various WSOP events. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. One would think that a top-notch player like Ivey would be happy to have less competition and smaller fields to contend with. How many players will be shut out of the WSOP because of their unavailable funds is unknown (to me, anyway) and may never be known precisely, so maybe it isn't a big number. But how a boycott of the WSOP by Ivey will benefit the stuck players is beyond me. Maybe he is trying to pressure the FullTilt honchos to step on the gas in their efforts to pay out to US players, and if they miraculously succeed, he will rescind his boycott and play in events later in the Series (with FullTilt patch in place). Plus, if his action appears to have had some success in getting players their money, he will gain a lot more positive press and fan appreciation.  It still seems to me, though, that the losers in this boycott are Caesars and the WSOP organization, who stand to lose some players who will join the boycott or decide not to show up if they think won't get a chance to interact with Ivey in or around the Series.

The last sentence of the statement says, at the end, "I will, as I have for the last six weeks, dedicate the entirety of my time and efforts to finding a solution for those who have been wronged by the painfully slow process of repayment." My question is, what can Phil Ivey do to "find a solution" to this issue? If he was part of the FullTilt group in charge of handling the player funds, which I seriously doubt, what can he do that he hasn't done already? If he is not part of that group, which I expect is the case, what influence can he have or what can he do about the payouts to the US (and other) players? Does he have enough money in his bank accounts to pay the players what they are owed? If he does, why would he do that? I just haven't figured out why he would say this except as a way to say to the players, "I'm on your side."

I have read a response to Ivey's statement from Tiltware (Pauly quotes it on his site here) which is very unflattering to Ivey and calls his motives into question. It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out over the next few weeks. Will Ivey and Tiltware kiss and make up? Will a lot of dirty laundry see the light of day? Will FullTilt US members ever see their money? We are in for some entertaining and potentially enlightening exchanges in the near future, methinks.

Meanwhile, two weeks from today I will arrive in Las Vegas to prepare for WSOP Event # 30, the Seniors Texas Hold'Em Championship (No-Limit) which begins at 12:00 noon June 17. I've been doing a lot of reading of my poker books and playing when I have had a chance in the local bar league tournaments. As I type this, I am playing on line in a tournament on the new RISE Poker site, a freeroll with a $1,000 prize pool. My game plan for the WSOP tourney is to play my usual tight-aggressive game and avoid marginal situations to the best of my ability. I fully expect to be outclassed by most of the competition in this tournament, and will be praying for the poker gods and the Card Fairy to smile on me during my participation. I will be sending updates from my plain old dumb cell phone to Twitter, so look for me there as @yestbay if you want to find out how I am doing.