WPT Los Angeles Trip Report
The World Poker Tour is in its tenth iteration. I've been playing poker for about eight years, and until last week, had only dreamed of participating in a World Poker Tour event.
That changed when I was able to land the right backing deal following my 133rd place run in this year's WSOP Main Event to do a bit of traveling around for major live tournaments. First stop: Los Angeles for the $3,500+$200 buy-in Legends of Poker at Bicycle Casino.
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I arrived in L.A. for the first time in my life the evening prior to Day 1A of the tournament. This particular tournament had an interesting twist: if you play, and bust, Day 1A, you can re-enter Day 1B the following day. Since playing the event twice wasn't an option for me, I decided to play Day 1B and use the day off to check out Los Angeles.
In a city that size, it's basically impossible to try to see everything in one day, so I didn't even bother with that tall ambition and instead opted for a day at the Venice Beach boardwalk. If you've never been, the best way I could describe it is to call it a carnival on a beach only without any rides. There are a lot of street shows, vendors, and bars. It makes for a rather interesting place to people watch. I spent the afternoon taking in the great weather, a couple of drinks, and some interesting street shows. Overall, it was a great west coast experience.
Walking into the Bicycle Casino's event center the following day, the first thing I saw was Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and the WPT's 'Royal Flush Girls' posing for a photo shoot. "Yup, this must be the right place," I thought.
With 30,000 starting chips, the action was not rushed in the slightest. I spent most of day one not really going out of my way to put myself in difficult situations. The table was significantly softer than I figured it would be. Not ideally, I did have to survive one all-in, and did so as a 62% favorite. I bagged up 45,000 chips at the end of day one.
I spoke with a friend whom was interviewed for last week's Weekly Shuffle, Jon Friedberg, who reported that his starting table was also surprisingly soft. It's always a nice feeling to find that a major live tournament is a bit softer than you imagined it would be. There's a certain sense of reassurance to be found regarding your time spent in the poker world when the games are softer than you assume they will be.
Table draw is such a ridiculously important part of your equity in any tournament. Sometimes you run well, sometimes you don't; (my Day 2 table in this year's WSOP Main Event was harder than my Day 5 table).
Day Two started off terribly, but not because of poker. I left my friend shaniac's Santa Monica apartment to find that my rental car wasn't where I left it. Panicked, I called Shane, who was staying at his girlfriend's, to ask what he thought I should do. I also called my backer. The consensus seemed to be to prioritize the tournament (which I agreed with) and deal with the car as I can, first by calling the Santa Monica police to determine if it had been towed.
Shane arranged for his friend, Owen Crowe, who was also still in the tournament, to come pick me up for the ride to the Bike. En route, I called the Santa Monica police to inquire if they towed my car. I was relieved to hear they did. At the time, I figured it was way better if the car had been towed than stolen. But I'm not sure if I still feel that way after paying a total of $468 in penalties and expenses to get the car back.
My Day Two table appeared to be a bit of a tougher spot. To my immediate right was Allen Kessler. Nicknamed 'Chainsaw', Allen has a reputation in the poker world for being very tight and a nit. While he does appear to be a nit about things like grinding casino comps, Allen is actually a really good tournament poker player. There are definitely better spots to have at your table than him.
A bigger problem was on my immediate left, Matt Affleck. Matt is the guy who went really deep in both the 2009 and 2010 WSOP Main Events holding the chip lead late in both but coming up just short of the November Nine each time. There are very few people in the world who might have a higher expected ROI in events like this than Matt.
Across the table providing quite a lot of entertainment was the guy who nicknamed Kessler 'Chainsaw', Gavin Smith. I had never played with Gavin before. By my observation, the crazy, fun personality he has a reputation for has no 'off' switch.
During 600/1200 with a 200 ante, Kessler raised to 3,000 under the gun. Next to act, I re-raised to 7,600 with Ace-King offsuit. Three-betting Allen Kessler from the UTG+1 position doesn't leave one too surprised to see the rest of the table fold pretty quickly.
With action back on Kessler, he called. We saw a flop of Ace-Six-Four, which is obviously about as good of a flop as I was hoping to see. Kessler checked. I bet 9,100. He wasted little time re-raising to 20,000. I didn't give anything other than re-raising all-in for around 35,000 total a thought. Not surprisingly, he called quickly. Before our cards were on their backs, I think I would have laid two-to-one that we were chopping the pot both holding Ace-King. I should have been so lucky. Kessler had two Aces to send me to the rail in a flash.
I wandered out of the Bike feeling a bit stunned for a few minutes after that hand. It's unfortunate to fly halfway across the country for a major tournament only to be sent home on a hand where you were drawing dead on a flop that you thought was great for you, but "that's poker".
Before heading home to Austin, Texas, I spent a couple more days in Los Angeles. I have to say, I liked the city, or more specifically, the west coast vibe, a lot. Everyone seems to carry a care-free, chilled-out attitude which is impressive considering the city sustains the greatest entertainment industry in human history.
L.A. is not cheap and the traffic seems rather terrible, but those two glaring issues aside, I think I could love living there.