Venetian Tournament Write-Up
Always on a quest for good value, my friend Dave, a newly minted Vegas local, recently informed me about a weekly $500+$50 tournament at the Venetian. In quite a salesman's tone, Dave emphasized the importance of being sure to participate in this Saturday event on my next trip to Sin City. He would go on to explain that the tournament's blind levels parallel those of the WSOP Main Event, with the only difference being the levels are forty minutes long rather than ninety. Complete with 10,000 starting chips and a weak field, the question wasn't "do I want to play?," it was "how can I not?" Alright Dave, you sold me. I'll play.
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After pushing coupons off of the passenger seat to make room for myself, I climbed into Dave's SUV at a staggeringly early 10:00 am to head to the Venetian. On the way, I would explain to Dave that I only got five hours of sleep and that he'd better be right about the quality of this tournament. Looking back, the lone fact that Dave was putting up $550 of his own money to play in this event should have been enough reason for me to trust that the tournament's structure must be pretty damn good. Dave would stop in the middle of a busy highway if he thought he saw a penny on the side of the road. Well, maybe not a penny but definitely a quarter.
It took a mere two minutes at the table before I immediately begin to question my decision to play in the event. Out of fourteen tables, I was placed at the one with all of the annoying guys. It was one of those tables where you've got the degenerate poker bum, the deliberate young WPT wanna-be, the second-guesser, the instigator, the hand commentator, the social butterfly tourist, and the poker instructor all packed into a ten-foot area vying for each other's attention and acceptance. I played the role of "guy who keeps taking an ear-bud out to ask the dealer what just happened because he's listening to his Ipod in an effort to drown out the undesired banter." Everyone loves that guy... probably.
Due largely to a controversial river bet that turned out to not go my way, it took a whopping 10 minutes for my 10,000 starting chips to look more like 4,000 and my optimistic anticipation to look more like helpless frustration. I might not be here too long.
Thanks to six cups of coffee I found myself fighting back jitteriness while raking in a few pots. I got back up to 11,000, and even better, moved to a new table. Three hours into the tournament a surprising 110 of the 137 entrants still remained. That is a sign of two things: great structure and pretty solid competition. As I was moved from table to table, I noticed that the average participant in the tournament was really quick to get on my nerves. Maybe I was on a short fuse from the lack of sleep, or just generally don't like other people. Whatever the reason, I couldn't help but observe the overwhelming amount of unchecked excitement that was unfortunately channeled into annoying table banter.
With the blinds creeping up on my stack, still around 10,000 after nearly four hours of play, I open-completed the small blind with king six. True to form, the player in the big blind began goading me by saying "you couldn't just fold? Now I must raise you!" I felt like I was in one of those video games loaded with cheesy trash talking. I called the man's raise and led out for a bet on the flop of Q62. He raised me all in. As I decided what to do with my remaining 6,000 in chips I came out of my shell, seeking information, and asked "how good is your kicker with that queen?" I immediately called the all-in after he said "I don't have a queen," only to look like a complete fool when he turned over pocket aces. Observing that you're only about halfway done reading this commentary probably tipped off that, yes, I sucked out. I now had twenty-two thousand in chips and an angry, angry man to my left.
Still steaming over the hand a half-hour later, the man asked me, "I just want to know, how could you call that with king six? How?!" Getting frustrated by his endless whining I replied, "Did you want me to call?" He said, "Of course."
I brought closure to the situation, and a smile to a few faces at the table by telling him, "Okay good, you got what you wanted then. Hate the game, not the player." Thank you, hip-hop lyrics.
After building up to around 30,000 in chips I won a key pot and busted two players in the process when I got pocket sixes all-in on a flop of Q65. The other two were basically drawing dead with KQ and Q9. That brought me up to around 90,000 and a ticket to a new table. Before I could even sit down and take my chips out of the rack I looked down at ace-jack of clubs and splashed in a raise. The only player at the table, and possibly in the whole tournament with more chips than me called in the big blind.
The flop came 78K, all clubs. He checked, I bet four-thousand, then grew giddy with excitement after he raised all-in to 105,000. I said "Call! I've got the nut flush!" He turned over a two outer, ten-nine of clubs, which thankfully did not get there for a pot worth 15% of the chips in play with still 45 players remaining. It was at this point that I realized I would be able to cruise to a top eighteen money-finish.
With nineteen players left, I made a few enemies by being the only player in the tournament to outwardly object to giving the 19th place finisher a buy-in refund taken from the first-place payout. I felt kind of bad about it later, but I feel my objection to the change had a solid basis. My reasoning was that we've known for eight hours that the top eighteen spots pay out, why make it nineteen all of the sudden? Being the chipleader, I suppose it was easy to reach such a conclusion, since the change was -EV for me. Nevertheless, I like to think I would have felt the same way even if I had a short stack.
Resolved not to do anything stupid, I slowly built my chip stack up to 425,000, a third of the chips in play, as we combined into a final table of ten players. I looked around at my nine opponents and noticed that not a single one of them were any of the guys I had mentally tagged as "annoying" earlier in the event. Coincidence? Not likely.
Dave, who had busted out of the event several hours earlier, joined TwoGun on the rail to watch the final table. I was zeroed in on the first-place payout of just over $20,000. Shell shocked as I made my way to the desk to collect the 7th place payout of $2,660, TwoGun offered some kind words, "you were really the victim of some bad decisions by the other players."
With around 450,000 in chips I posted the big blind of 6,000. A loose aggressive player who was careless with his stack of 350,000 chips made it 16,000 on button. I called with 54 of diamonds hoping to flop a big hand and stack him. The flop came 36T, one diamond. I led out for 27,000 knowing he would raise that bet. He did just that, 75,000 more. I pushed all-in and was relieved when he did not instantly call. After thinking for over a minute, he said "okay, I call" and pushed in his remaining 250,000 chips with KJ, no draw. I wasn't at the time, nor am I looking back, sure whether to regard him as a genius or an idiot after making that call; those who saw the hand tend to think the latter. Even with his call it was still a post-flop coin-flip for 65% of the chips in play with 7 left. However, it wasn't my day to win. I lost that coin-flip then lost another coin fl ip with AK a few hands later for my remaining 100,000.
It took a solid 15 minutes for me to stop feeling sorry for myself. After I finally did, I looked at Dave with a smile and said, "You were right, that was one helluva great tournament to play."