Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 WPBT Winter Classic Report – Eat, Walk, Play

Another WPBT Winter Classic is in the history books, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to be there. The three activities we engaged in the most on the trip are in the title of this post, with “Play” perhaps being the least of the three. Below is my report on this year’s shenanigans.

First, an observation: hardly anyone who attended this year’s gathering seems to have an active poker blog any more. So, a lot of the links you see below for named people will be for their Twitter handles, since that now seems to be the more common method of communication among this group. Maybe we should start calling it the WPTT (World Poker Tweeter Tour)?

Thursday Nov. 29

This evening was taken up by dinner and the screening of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event with our friends Ron and Barb Moore. Ron was the visual effects supervisor for TNG as well as many other TV shows and films. We met Ron and Barb on a couple of Cruise Treks and have been friends with them since. We had a great time catching up with them and watching the TNG episodes and bonus features at the screening. Side note: Ron has just written a book about his career in visual effects, titled “Flying Starships”; you can get more info about it at his website.

Friday Nov. 30

The big event Friday morning was the hike on Oak Creek Loop trail in Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas. Dan (aka PokerPeaker) suggested it, expecting two or three people to show interest. 15 of us showed up, and everyone enjoyed the easy and scenic hike. A group photo by Astin can be found here; I took some photos too, which you can see here.

Friday afternoon and evening was mixed games time at the Aria poker room. I played for a while and finished up a few dollars. These sessions are more about having fun playing with fellow bloggers, but walking away with a few extra bucks does sweeten the deal.

Saturday Dec. 1

Pat and I started our day with breakfast at the Hash House a Go-Go at The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace). The “twisted farm food” at the Hash House is excellent and highly recommended. We then walked through Bellagio to look at their Christmas decorations on our way to Aria for the WPBT tournament. Bellagio always puts up a fabulous holiday display in their Conservatory.

Things started out slowly for me in the tourney. I took a few pots to keep my stack from shrinking too quickly, but didn’t chip up as much as I would have liked. I made a couple of ill-advised plays that cost me some chips, but managed to stay in contention through the first two breaks. Near the end of the second break (or was it the third?), I was talking to Dan, who was seated to my left and had a very healthy chip stack. I mentioned that my stack was getting short and I was nearing the danger zone. He said a double-up would put me back into the thick of things. First hand of the next round, I picked up AQ and went all in. Dan insta-called with KK. I spiked an Ace on the flop and got that double-up. Those chips allowed me to steal a few pots to keep pace with the table and eventually stick around for the final table. I had never gone that deep in previous WPBT tourneys and was thrilled with making it that far. Plus, my last-longer partner Alan (aka metsfan) was still in the game and at my table, so I knew we had a good shot at winning that prize. My run would not last much longer, though, due to a cooler hand of KK vs. The WookieWay’s AA. He had me covered by about 800 chips, and I was out in 9th place out of 58 runners. I didn’t cash, but I’m very pleased with the deep run. I found out after the tourney ended, with CJ (aka the Luckbox) taking it down, that Alan and I tied with Dan and Michael (aka Grange95) for the last longer. My share of the last longer pool almost covered my buy-in to the tournament, so that worked out quite nicely.

When I tracked down VinNay to get my last longer winnings, I found him at the Monte Carlo Café with Alan and his fiancée Kat, plus my old pal Wil Wheaton, Shane Nickerson, Ryan (aka absinthetics), Chilly and another gent whose name I failed to get. They ate their dinner while Pat and I chatted with them, after which VinNay suggested that we have our own mini slot tournament: each player would choose a $0.25 machine and deposit $20. At the sound of the virtual bell, the contestants would play for 5 minutes, and player with the highest remaining total would take all the winnings of all players for the tournament. I joined in, expecting it to be a chop of zero money left for all of us. But, several of us hit a few winners during the 5 minutes, with Vinnie coming out on top. His haul was something like $180+; not bad for five minutes of slot play.

Sunday Dec. 2

Pat and I decided to go for the Caesars buffet pass, which gets you into any buffet at the Caesars properties, as often as you like, in a 24 hour period. Because, you know, we hadn't eaten enough already on the trip. We started by having brunch at the Flamingo buffet, and then drove away from the Strip which was being closed for the Rock and Roll Marathon to be run that afternoon and evening. We visited one of the outlet malls, plus Green Valley Ranch Casino, and the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and their Cactus Garden which was fully decorated with holiday lights (photos here). The traffic around the Strip was monstrous when we got back, which complicated matters a bit but didn’t prevent us from getting to the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood to use our buffet pass for dinner. Gotta get our money's worth.

Before I went to bed, I played in the Sunday night $3/$6 mixed game at The Quad (I still want to call it the IP). They were spreading some really weird games, only two of which I ended up playing. The first was Stud Eight, but the twist was that each player got four cards to start, all face down, and then each player would look at his cards and discard one. Then a designated player would turn up one card, and the player to the left would turn one up, etc. Play then continued as in regular Stud 8. I won over $40 in a few minutes playing this game, getting some good hands that got paid off. I gave it all back in the next game, though: 3-2-1 Omaha Eight. What the hell is that, you may ask? It starts like regular Omaha High-Low, but three flops are dealt, plus two turn cards and one river card. I’m not the best Omaha player but I have a decent idea of how to play it. This version, though, confused the crap out of me. After I lost my earlier winnings, I decided it was time to call it a day. I’m sure the regulars who were in this game wanted me to stick around so they could try to get more of my chips, but I didn’t feel like giving them that chance.

Monday Dec. 3

We used our buffet pass to stuff ourselves one last time with breakfast at Harrah’s, then headed for the airport for the flight to L.A. to visit Pat’s dad. We spent the week with him and came home Friday.

If I have any regrets from this trip, the first would be not having spent more time with some of my blogger friends, and not getting to spend any time with those who couldn’t be there this year. The second would be not taking more photos, especially at the tournament or mixed games. But overall I had a great time and look forward to doing it again next year. Many thanks for April for organizing the poker stuff, VinNay for handling the last longer, Dan for suggesting and leading the hike, and the Aria poker room staff for everything they did to make us WPBT folks feel welcome.

Happy Holidays to all, and see you next time!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 WPBT Winter Classic, and other updates

You heard right - it's time for another World Poker Blogger Tour Winter Classic gathering in Las Vegas, the weekend of November 29 through December 3. Check April's blog for more details, and RSVP if you haven't already at the Facebook event page. It is bound to be a fun time, so don't miss it.

I will be attending again, and staying at the Imperial Palace. Yes, it's not the classiest property in town, but the location and prices cannot be beat. My wife will be coming with me too, and we plan to do some non-pokery stuff while we are there. One of those things may be a tour of the Neon Museum, who have recently opened their new visitor's center. If we do that, it will most likely be Saturday morning. We are also going to meet some friends Thursday evening at the Orleans and go to the movie screening promoting the Blu-Ray release of the second season of Star Trek - The Next Generation. Beyond that, some other activities might include a trip out to Red Rock Canyon on Friday morning for an easy hike with some blogger friends, a visit to the Ethel M chocolate factory, hitting one or more of the outlet malls, and who knows what else. Anyone who wants to join us for any of these adventures, let me know.

In other news, I recently took an early retirement package from my job, and as of October 31 I am officially retired. I have taken advantage of my newfound free time to ride the players' bus up to Winstar Casino one day last week to play some poker. After losing a big chunk of my buy-in early, I came back and finished ahead by about 22 big blinds after roughly three hours of play. I probably could have done even better if I hadn't played as loosely as I did the first half of the session. I plan to go back up there on a semi-regular basis, depending on whatever else is going on.

I will do my best to post updates here, from the WPBT trip and from my future poker sessions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Not dead yet....

Six months is a long time to go between posts, I will agree. If only I had six month's worth of intriguing news to report. Still, just to prove that there is life remaining in this blog, I thought I would post an entry.

Yes, I have played a little poker since December. I've played for a few pennies on line at Bovada, but all I have left on that site is a few pennies, and I haven't logged on there in a while. I have put in a couple of live sessions up in Oklahoma, at the Winstar Casino just over the TX border and the Riverwind Casino in Norman, and both sessions were profitable. At the Winstar a few weeks ago, I left with about $12 more than I bought in with. This past weekend, my wife and I went up to Norman to visit our son who is at OU for summer classes. I nearly doubled my buy-in there after about a two hour session. Feels good to walk away ahead.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think of these results as signs that I am turning into a "good" player. I think most of my basic instincts are on track, but every time I sit down at the table, I realize how much I *don't* know about how to play poker well. I really need to play more ring games to get more experience under my belt. My profits in these sessions have mostly come from winning a few big pots when I caught cards and they held up. I know that I play too tight/weak a lot of the time, and probably concede some pots that I should go after. However, there was one hand at Riverwind where I decided to take a chance, and I am embarassed to say that I don't have a good feel for whether my decision was a smart one (not taking into account the result).

$1/$2 NLHE; my stack was about $250. I was in late position and started with AdJh. Preflop raises were not chasing a lot of people out of the pots at this table, so I decided to limp in behind a few others and see if I could hit something before committing much money to the pot. The player to my left also limped in, and the flop came cheap.

Flop: A J T rainbow

It was checked to me and I bet roughly the size of the pot with top two pair but a drawing board. The player on my left went all in for about $110 more. I thought about it for quite a while. My opponent said, "If you have KQ you have me beat, otherwise..." This player didn't strike me as very sneaky or deceptive, so my first reaction was to think that he did not have KQ himself. I did consider the possibility that he was trying reverse psychology on me if he did have that. I then considered that he might have a set of tens and was trying to push me off a draw. In the end, I had the gut feeling that he really didn't want me to call, and therefore might have a hand that I could beat like A-rag, so I called him. He turned over AsJc, the turn and river didn't change anything, and we chopped the pot.

I didn't feel particularly comfortable with that decision. What I want to develop is the ability to analyze these types of situations more clearly so those decisions will come a bit more easily. I can go back and re-read the poker books that I have, but I know that it requires actual experience more than anything else to improve my skills.

In on-line poker news, AlCan'tHang has joined forces with up-and-comer Face Up Gaming to start up a new blogger tournament series. They held an ice-breaker tournament June 9, which I was unable to play. Here is the info for the next tourney; more details at Al's site:

Tournament: Bloggers 2
Date: Saturday, June 30th
Time: 3pm ET - Noon PT
Buyin: Freeroll
Password: battle2

Face Up is a monthly subscription site; Al should be able to tell you whether you have to sign up for the subscription to play in the tourney. If everything works out for me to join the fun, I hope to play, and to see you there.