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Tomorrow, TwoGun and I catch a plane home, so this will be the last Live from the WSOP entry for this year. Thanks to everyone who followed along, I hope it was enjoyable.

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I'll close with a funny story from a $1/$3 ($500 max buy-in) game I played at Treasure Island tonight: A European player bought in for the full $500. Most people only bought in for around $200, so I figured he was probably pretty good. After playing extremely loose and aggressive for the first half-hour, he made a live straddle from under-the-gun.

Now, the coolest part about straddling at Treasure Island is that you can straddle as much as you want, including all-in, which is exactly what he did without looking at his cards! His total straddle bet was $290. It folded to me on the button. I told him my range to call was enormous. I looked down at one card, an ace, and said, "call, I only looked at one card."

A drunk kid in the small blind thought for a little bit and called off his remaining $250 as well. I turned over my Ace and left the second card mysteriously face-down. The European left both of his cards down too. The kid showed King-Queen.

The flop came Ace-Ace-Jack! The turn was a Five, and the river a Three. We decided I'd show my second card first. It was a seven, so the European still had a little bit of hope. He turned his first card over, a Three. To win this $750 pot, I needed to dodge three outs on his second card (two Threes and one Ace). With much suspense, the European peered as his second card, giggled (which scared me a bit) and turned over a Five. Ship it! I left the table after that. It seemed fitting to end the trip on that hand, one of the most entertaining I've ever played.

My Bustout Story

Like Ozone, I busted out of the Main Event on my day one. It was a fairly unglamorous day. At its peak, my stack was about 25k during the 200-400 with a 50 ante round.

A few notable things happened at my table. First, I was fortunate (or should I say unfortunate) to have Chau Giang at my table. Despite his three WSOP bracelets, Giang is most famous for being a regular at the $4,000-$8,000 mixed game at the Bellagio, so the Main Event is almost low-stakes for this guy.

I played one big hand against Giang. During 200-400, I raised the pot to 1500 with queens in early position. Giang went all-in for about 4k more. I promptly called and he flipped over jacks.

The flop came 8-9-T rainbow. A jack came on the turn, giving Giang a set though me a straight. A horrible, horrible nine came on the river, filling up Giang and greatly reducing my stack.

During 300-600 + 75 ante round, my stack had dwindled down to about 9k. In the small blind, I got dealt 7-8 of clubs. The UTG player (a mediocre player) limped, the UTG+1 limped, and the button limped. I decided to go all-in, attempting to steal the blinds. If they folded, my stack would increase by about 35%. Even if someone called, I was most likely a 2-1 at worst. The big blind and UTG player folded, so things looked good for me. The UTG+1 player then called, and the button folded.

The UTG+1 player flipped over jacks (why he limped with jacks, I will never know, but this guy was also raising with A6 offsuit in early position, so who knows). The board came a horrible AQT on the flop, and I wasn't able to hit runner-runner to keep myself in the tournament.

Mostly, I found the competition to be fairly soft given it was a $10k buy-in, though more difficult than year's past. In this week's Weekly Shuffle, Ozone and I will provide more observations about the Main Event.

WSOP Main Event Day 1-D

I'll spare you the dramatics and start off by saying: I just busted out of the Main Event shortly after dinner break.

With 20,000 starting chips, I had built as high as 42,000 in the second level (most of which I got by flopping top set against a bad, maniacal player who gave me all of his chips with an overpair that was clearly no good). By the time dinner rolled around, I had dropped all the way down to 23,000. Most of that I lost to a loose (like, extremely loose) Asian guy who was playing pretty crazy, but admittedly not that terrible. Long story short, I had Ace-King and put a lot of chips in on the turn (the board was Ace-Nine-Four-Six, two spades). Unfortunately he called my big re-raise on the turn (by not shoving, I immediately put him on something like Ace-Jack of spades - I think he knew he was beat but knew that he had a flush draw and top pair in case I was on a stone bluff). The river was a spade. I didn't put him on a spade draw just to pay him off when a spade hit, so I check folded to his bet (which, by the size of it, screamed "I just hit my flush and want you to pay me off").

A few hands after dinner, I raised under-the-gun to 1,500 (this was during 200/400/50 - I started the hand with 22,000). James "Krazykanuck" Worth called my raise, leaving himself with just about 7,000 behind. The crazy Asian guy from before, who, at this point, had built up to over 90,000 and was raising about 50% of the pots, re-raised to 5,000. I figured his range to do this was pretty huge, possibly even any two cards (that's how loose he had been playing), so I shoved all-in for 17,000 more.

James Worth folded. The Crazian thought for over a minute. At this point, I figured if he called, I was racing, but chances are, he was going to fold. After enough thinking, he said "call", I flipped over my Ace-King fairly quickly knowing there was a strong chance I had him dominated or was racing him. He turned over King-King! It must have really looked like I had Aces, because he took forever to make that call.

Needless to say, the board brought me no help and I was gone. I'm going to go get hammered now so I don't feel so bummed. Yay drinking to cope!!

Eve of the Main Event

Tomorrow I play Day 1-D of the Main Event (table 18, seat 4 for anyone who cares to stop by). Days ago I was nervous at the thought of it, but now I'm mostly sick of waiting for my turn to play.

It's a surreal (yet all too common) feeling that since my infancy in the poker world, I have dreamed of playing this tournament, and now that such an opportunity has arrived, I am strangely apathetic.

Shane Schleger just summarized it to me perfectly online, "it's just one stupid event." Although it seems counterintuitive, keeping that thought at the front of my mind might be a big key to success.

Random Merchants And Random Shootings

Today is the first day one of the WSOP. I don't begin playing until Sunday, so I have some time off. Ozone and I went to the Rio to watch some of the WSOP action as well as check out the WSOP Expo.

For those of you unfamiliar with the WSOP Expo, it's basically a small convention where poker merchants show off their products. Typical stands include poker magazines, online poker sites, poker paraphernalia, and misc. poker products (chips, tables, video games, etc.)

This year's expo was notably different from the past. First, there was an absence of online poker rooms (most likely the result of the UIGEA). Last year, quite a few poker rooms had stands for their ".net" sites. Merchants that sold products of interest to poker players generally replaced these stands. There were golf stands, energy drink stands, and a lot of strip clubs had stands too.

My personal favorite was the "World Series of Craps" stand, where some guy was trying to explain how a craps tournament involved skill. Apparently, if you have a better "feel" for the game and just know that snake eyes are coming, you can beat out the other players in a race for the most chips. This town is full of stupid people.

At the expo, Activision was showing off their WSOP 2008 video game. The graphics of the game look phenomenal. If you are into play money poker (I'm not, but there has to be some people in the world that are), this will probably be a great game to check out.

Another difference about this year's WSOP is the lack of hospitality booths. In the past, online poker sites that sent players the Main Event generally had a hospitality booth right outside the Amazon room (even if it was technically for their ".net" site). At these places, their players could get drinks and just have a quiet place to sit. This year, only a few poker sites had booths; I noticed ones for Party Poker and Ladbrokes Poker. Notably missing were any booths for US-facing poker sites, since Harrah's doesn't want to have any connection with them.

In other Vegas news, there was a random shooting at the New York New York casino. From what I understand, a Vegas local just went up to the balcony and started firing his handgun at random people. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, though at least three people were shot. Several off-duty cops that happened to be in the area were able to wrestle the man to the floor quickly.

I'm sure the gun rights movement will be all over this story, since this obviously proves that everyone in America needs a handgun. After all, if everyone had a gun, then someone could have shot the shooter to prevent this disaster form happening. That would be a lot more effective than increased gun control since if we didn't have handguns, the King of England would enslave us all.

Chop At The Venetian

I played the Venetian's $1,000 tournament today. Their tournaments have absolutely impeccable structure. At one point, with about a dozen players left, my stack was 150 big blinds. A stack that huge is almost unheard of in live tournament poker.

Anyway, just 68 players showed up for the event. When we got down to 6, someone suggested we make a chop. First was scheduled at $21k, sixth at $4k. At this point, I was the shortstack in the tournament (but still had 15 big blinds, so I wasn't entirely desperate).

Two of the other five players said they were registered to play the Main Event tomorrow. At this point, it was almost 2:00 am, so they clearly didn't want to be awake for much longer. Some of the others were kinda nitty and just wanted to chop to get a guaranteed $10,000 or whatever. Realizing that I had a huge position of leverage against these guys, I basically negotiated a chop-deal that got me $9,000, which was the same as two other guys both of whom had twice as many chips as me!

After the tournament director ran the numbers for the chip-count payouts, everyone was like "agree, agree, agree, agree, agree," then it got to me. I had been sitting there in complete silence the whole time the director was calculating the numbers. When it was my turn to speak, I said "I need $10,000 to stop playing." By the chip counts, I was only entitled to $7,500. The other players were clearly miffed at me since, in their minds, the deal was all but done.

After some bantering, I interrupted and said, "okay, listen, basement offer, I'm not going any lower, I'll chop if I can get $9,000, otherwise we play." They talked amongst themselves and worked out an arrangement to meet my request. The six of us got $12,000 (chipleader who had over three times as many chips as I did!!), $9,300, $9,300, $9,300, $9,000, and $9,000.

At one point during the discussion, one of the players said to me "what makes you think you should get as much of a prize as us? You don't even have that many chips." The chipleader intervened on my behalf and said, "uhh, because he's better than you at poker." That made me giggle.

Finally, although clearly unhappy with the situation, everyone agreed on the chop and I walked out with basically the same payout as three players that all had me dominated in the chip count. It was a really sweet feeling.

An even sweeter feeling is that not once in the entire tournament did I have to survive an all-in. I was basically able to build up a stack by winning a lot of small pots and calling all-ins from shortstacks with premium starting hands that held up. It was one of the best tournaments I've played in my life. Having the desire to end on a high note, I'm going to take the next three days off and go into the Main Event on Monday with the confidence today's tournament instilled.

The Heat, My God The Heat!

Apparently some record temperatures are being set in the Southwestern part of the US. Vegas got up to like 117 degrees today or something ridiculous. I know it seems counterintuitive, but I'll take 117 in the desert over 85 and disgustingly humid.

Anyway, yesterday TwoGun, myself, and my friend Dave played the $500 tournament Binion's. We made an interesting prop bet where the first one of us to bust out will have the word "Owned" stamped on their forehead by whichever one of the remaining two has the most chips. We're able to do this thanks to a custom "Owned" rubber stamp I bought online a couple weeks ago.

Anyway, although the structure was great and the field was reasonably soft, I was having a horrible time at the table. Every time I raised, someone would re-raise me. Normally that's not a bad thing, but in this instance, I was card-dead and had to keep folding.

Finally, during 600/1,200, I picked up Jack-Jack and moved all-in for about 11,000. A lady in the big blind called all-in with Ten-Ten and hit a ten on the flop. That left me with a paltry 1,400 chips. On the next hand, I looked down at Jack-Nine. Just as I was about to splash the rest of my chips into the pot, I became aware of the fact that Dave called himself all-in at a table two away from mine. Giddy at the possibility that I wouldn't be the first one eliminated, I told the table "I'm going to wait to see what happens to my friend before making a decision, anyone is welcome to call the clock, I'd call the clock on me too." At this point, everyone at the table knew what was going on and was cool with me waiting. I was using the "Owned" stamp as my card protector, so it (as well as the prop-bet) had been a topic of interest to everyone.

Anyway, as fate would have it, Dave took a bad beat and busted out. TwoGun promptly stamped him on the face. I pushed all-in, had four callers, lost, and stamped myself on the face too. Fifteen minutes later, TwoGun busted out of the tournament. Feeling dejected and looking at his two friends with the word "Owned" written on their face, TwoGun decided to join the club. The three of us merrily headed off for a nice dinner with the word "Owned" stamped on our faces.

Today, I took a break from poker. I went to the Rio for a few minutes to register for the Main Event. There will be four "Day 1s". I'm playing the last of them, Day 1-D, on Monday. TwoGun is playing on Sunday. In the meantime, I'm going to take it easy with the gambling to stay in a good frame of mind for the Main Event. That will be easy to do since a few random (non-poker) friends are in town this weekend to hang out. However, it's possible I'll play the Venetian's $1,000 tournament tomorrow if I'm not hungover. This was supposed to be a short entry. Sorry about that, and thanks for reading.

No Wonder T.J. Loves It

Last night TwoGun and I went to the Casino Royale to play the variance game craps-style. It was a memorable night thanks to a run-in with a "craps professional".

I had been drinking and was kinda all over the place, but TwoGun kinda nudged me and motioned to the guy who walked up next to us. He kinda giggled and said, "I can have some fun with this," referring to the pen and pad of paper the guy was holding. You see, TwoGun knew exactly what was going on: we had a professional craps player next to us.

TwoGun: What's the pen and pad of paper for?

Professional: I'm a professional craps player, I come here to make money.

TwoGun: Orly? That's great! Can you show me some craps moves?

Professional: I charge $1,000 for two hours, I take your money and increase it 30% nightly.

After glancing at his stack of 30 one-dollar white chips, TwoGun asked for some credencials. And boy, were we delivered credentials. The man pulled out a business card that said "Pedro Perez: Change Your Fun Into Huge Cash Following The Only Master Of The Craps Table" (this was also translated into Spanish - Pedro's a man of the people like that).

Mr. Perez explained to us that his method of playing craps is just like professional horse betting. He said that the other players at the table are his horses (even his "employees") and that we're his method of making money. While TwoGun was foolishly fooling around with his black chips, the professional was destined to increase his stack by 30% thanks to his mastery of the craps table.

He kinda disappeared without us realizing it, probably because some beautiful girls were mystified by his secret system of how to beat the craps.

Anyway, Mr. Perez wasn't the sole reason for the load of fun at the table last night. Two other things: alcohol and an eight-grand upswing had me feeling pretty elated at bedtime. I'm going to play the Main Event now. Yay variance!

For now, we're headed off to magical downtown Las Vegas for a $500 tournament at Binion's Horseshoe. More on that later.

$1k NL Re-Buy Event

Today, I played in the $1k NL re-buy event, which in reality is one of the heftiest buy-ins of all the no-limit hold'em WSOP events.

To play re-buy tournaments effectively, you need to budget a bare minimum of 3 buy-ins for the event (one for the buy-in, at least one re-buy, and the add-on). Since most places will let you re-buy immediately to increase your stack, it's rare that you will be in for just three buy-ins. This WSOP event also had a double add-on, so the budget for this event is really at least $4k. Many good players in the tourney ended up in for $8-$20k.

Most of the EV for good players in this event comes from casual players that just buy-in for $1k, with the attitude of just re-buying once or maybe doing the add-on. These types of players have virtually no chance of finishing near the top, which is where all the money is in these top-heavy payout tournaments.

The players at this tournament were mixed. I'd say about 10-15% were the dead money I mentioned, as well as a mix of solid players and a lot of well-known pros. At every table I sat in, there was well-recognized pro. The most entertaining of which was definitely Phil Hellmuth, but unfortunately I busted out about 10 minutes after I got to his table.

About 1000 players entered today's event and I busted out in about 200th place. This means I didn't bubble out, but I almost came close to bubbling out, so I can't really complain about not winning any money, but I still have that unsatisfied feeling that comes from a bubble out.

Bellagio Busto and Rant

I played in the $1,500 Bellagio Cup tournament today. For some reason, I was under the impression that we were getting 10,000 starting chips. When I got there, I saw we only got 3,000 starting chips. Ouch.

In the first two levels, I cruised up to 7,500 without ever risking all my chips. I just played tight and won a fair number of small and medium sized pots when I held a good hand.

In the third level, an old guy (I'd set an over/under of 73.5 for his age) came to our table. He had about 6,000 chips and I started licking my chops (figuratively) since usually old guys aren't very good. I realize stereotyping is bad, yada-yada-yada, but I'd say there's a better than 90% chance that any random 70+ year old playing poker in Las Vegas right now could be classified as "bad" by a panel of poker afficionados.

Anyway, I raised to 550 preflop with Ace-Queen. The old guy called. The flop was Ace-Six-Two. I bet out 700. He grabbed a stack of chips and raised me to 3,000. I almost beat him to the pot with my all-in raise. He made the call, showed Ace-Ten, and hit a ten on the turn. That pot would have given me 14,000 chips when the average stack was just 5,500, so needless to say, that was a frustrating three-outter (not to suggest that a non-frustrating three-outter exists).

If you're not up for reading a rant, feel free to stop reading at this point.

This tournament drew 243 players. A reasonable payout table would call for 27 players to be paid. As of when I left, the payout sheet was advertising that only the top 18 places got paid. That's pretty brutal, and it gets worse from here.

In a prize pool that was just $360,000, first place was scheduled to receive $130,000 and second place $77,000. That means the top two finishers (out of over 200, mind you) receive about 58% of the prize pool. I'm not one who is averse to gambling, but creating a payout table with such an immensely top-heavy structure results in a ton of variance imposed on the players.

Now, such a top-heavy structure wouldn't bother me if a typical final-table average stack was, say, 40 big blinds. The reality is that the average stack at the final table is probably going to be about 10 big blinds, maybe less. At such a point, skill is a diminished factor in determining the outcome.

This situation isn't unique to Bellagio either. Most live tournaments have a similarly brutal payout structure. I'm beginning to become fed up with tournament directors who structure their events to resemble a game of high-stakes pick-a-card at the end.

While still slightly unreasonable, the Venetian has always done a fair enough job of keeping their tournaments respectable. I should have played their event today.

Alright, that's enough about that. Last I heard, TwoGun has 13,000 chips during 200/400 at the $1,000 rebuy WSOP event. Hopefully he can land a nice score. I'm going to go downstairs to the sportsbook and track a little wager I made before dinner. Thanks for reading.

Back For A Marathon Stay

TwoGun and I returned to Las Vegas tonight where we will be for 10-nights (possibly longer if one of us goes deep in the Main Event).

For the first few nights of this trip, we're staying at New York, New York, which is actually one of my favorite casinos in Las Vegas. I really can't tolerate the gaudy materialism of places like Wynn, Bellagio, and the Venetian. But the other end of the spectrum, dumps like Barbary Coast, Flamingo, or Imperial Palace aren't desirable either. New York, New York is one of the few casinos that seems to strike the perfect balance of nice, without too much pretentiousness.

We're heading out now to head to the Rio, then the Bellagio. At the Rio, TwoGun will register for tomorrow's $1,000 rebuy WSOP event as well as the Main Event. Then at the Bellagio I'm going to register for tomorrow's $1,500 Bellagio Cup event.

My past dealings with the poker staff at Bellagio have them on thin ice in my book. They've always managed to be pretty snobbish to their customers. If I encounter that while registering tonight, I might say "screw it" and head over to the Venetian (which might be the best poker room in Las Vegas) to register for their $1,000 tournament tomorrow.

Anyway, TwoGun and I will both be blogging from Las Vegas for the next several days. I hope it's a worthwhile read.

What A Table Draw!

Eating lunch around 11:30 am today, I asked TwoGun what table he drew for the $1k Venetian tournament. He pulled out his registration card and said he was at table 31. I looked at mine, lo and behold, I too was at table 31. Not a minute later, I got a text from skeptix saying "hey, I'm at table 31." This tournament had 25 starting tables, do the math, the odds of us all being at the same table were astronomical!

After finishing my sandwich, I left for the Venetian and met skeptix for the first time, who was seated at our table. I had sent him a text message saying that both TwoGun and I were also at his table, but apparently he hadn't read the message before I got there to tell him in person. His response summed up how I felt too: "haha... I'm not sure if I like that."

The competition at our table was pretty horrible, but got a lot tougher after the bad players donked off their chips. In the sixth level, TwoGun busted a short-stacked skeptix in a blind-vs-blind coinflip situation.

Shortly after that, our table broke. At my new table, during 400/800/75, I pushed all-in for 9k in early position with Ace-Jack of diamonds. Things went great until it got to the big blind, who called immediately and turned over Aces.

The entire tournament my stack never got lower than 8k and never higher than 15k. I made a very difficult laydown during 300/600/50. A fairly agressive, young player made it 1,800 in early position. The player in the cutoff re-raised to 5,100. From the button, with a stack of 14k, I looked down at Queen-Queen. My read on the player who re-raised was that he probably wouldn't re-raise an early position raisor, especially for about half his stack, without something super-premium. I figured, at worst, the guy had Ace-King. I also was worried that the original raisor was sitting on a monster. After thinking through all of this, I folded the Queens and was elated when the players got all-in: the original raisor had Tens, the other guy had Aces. Phew!

Overall I have no qualms with how I played, I just ran scarce on good hands and situations to pick-up chips.

TwoGun is still in the tournament and had about 25,000 as of twenty minutes ago. They're down to 100 players (250 started), 27 places pay, and first is $75,000. Hopefully TwoGun can go deep enough to give us a good sweat.

I'm going to head back to the Venetian now. The tournament is about to go on dinner break, and I think skeptix is going to join TwoGun and I for some food.

Prop Bets Are Fun, So Are Passed-Out Drunks

Tomorrow, I plan on playing the $1000 tournament at the Venetian with Ozone. I had originally planned on playing the $3k WSOP tournament, but decided to play the Venetian tourney instead. The Venetian tourney has better structure (especially when you take into account the buy-in), so I'm going to give it a shot.

Ozone and I have a pretty interesting prop bet going into the tournament based around our friend Warren, who plans on playing the tournament too. He's a good poker player, but he also seems to be on track for pulling an all-nighter, meaning he'd be awake for about 40 hours when the event starts. Ozone thinks this will greatly affect his EV in the tournament, so much so, that he'll match 10% of whatever Warren wins for $25. So, if Warren washes out, I pay Ozone $25. If Warren takes down $100k, Ozone owes me $9,975.

I'm feeling pretty good about this bet. While pretty much any other mortal is going to play awful after 40 hours of no sleep, Warren is no average man. I know this guy, and he's a beast. I'm pretty sure he went without sleep in all of 2003, so I really like my EV in this bet.

Another interesting occurrence happened at our hotel this afternoon. As I was heading back to my room at around 4:30 p.m., I couldn't help but notice that some mid-twenties douchebag was passed out three feet away from my door. I visit Vegas frequently, so seeing passed-out douchebags isn't exactly new to me. However, seeing a passed-out douchebag in the afternoon right by my door is quite novel.

After several failed attempts to wake him up, I called the front desk and notified them about the situation. They told me they already knew about it (apparently other people had called five to ten minutes ago) and said security was on their way up. I told him they should probably send up a doctor or some sort of medical staff too, which they seem to balk at. Mental note: never pass out in the middle of a Vegas hotel. Apparently, my life isn't worth the cost of a two-minute doctor visit to these places.

While we were waiting on security, a woman suggested putting a cold towel on his head, which we did. Security eventually came about five minutes later and was able to wake him up. Well, sort-of wake him up. He kept on saying "I'm all-in" as they brought him to consciousness. A pretty good representation for the average player you might see here in a low-stakes no-limit game.

That Was Ugly

For the first six levels of the Venetian $550, I played awesome and built my 10,000 stack up to 30,000 while only showing one hand the entire time (no joke!)

Going into 400/800/75, I was feeling pretty confident with how things were going. The average stack was only about 18,000. I got knocked down to 20,000 in kind of an unavoidable QQ versus KK situation. From there, I just decided I'd play like an idiot.

A guy who had been raising a lot made it 2,400 in late position. I looked down at King-Nine puppyfeet (spades) and asked him how much he had left. He told me he had 11,000 more. Looking back, pushing all-in might not been that bad of a play since I knew his opening range was pretty big. Optimally, folding was the best play. I did neither of these, I called.

The flop came King-Seven-Three, all diamonds. I thought about how I wanted to play the hand. If I bet, and he raised all-in, I'd have to call him. I mean, the reason I called with this hand in the first place was to flop a king, so it's not like I can just fold. I decided I'd let him put more chips in the pot, and then raise him all-in. He bet 5,000, I pushed, he insta-called and turned over Jack-Eight of diamonds. That was about the worst I've played a hand in a live tournament that I can ever remember. I was pretty mad at myself afterwards for not just folding preflop, which I knew is what I needed to do as soon as I looked at my cards.

So anyway, that dropped me down to 10,000. I pushed all-in with Ace-Ten puppyfeet after a player limped in. It folded back to the limper, he called with Kings, and my 30,000 was reduced to 0 in less than 40 minutes.

Bad decisions are so incredibly costly in tournament poker. A bad decision is 100x as bad than a good decision is good (I hope that makes sense).

I registered for tomorrow's $1000+$70 tournament at the Venetian. TwoGun and a friend of ours, Warren, is also going to play. I'm taking the rest of the day off of poker to clear my mind for tomorrow's tournament. Aside from today's blow-up, I feel like I've been playing really well on this trip. Hopefully tomorrow can pay off.

A closing note: over 500 players participated in the Venetian tournament today, the same day that the WSOP was running a $1,500 no-limit event. I think the huge turnout at the Venetian is indicative of what I was thinking before even getting into town, that being there are better options than the WSOP for players with modest bankrolls.

A Little Vindication

I got a little vindication via the Caesars Palace $540 last night. Just 53 players participated. I wound up taking 5th for a couple thousand. When we got down to six (only six places paid), I was the chipleader, but the average stack was just six big blinds! With structure that bad, the game essentially turns into bingo. The scheduled first place payout was $10,000. Sixth place was $1,300. Since all of our stacks were between 4-8 big blinds, it clearly made sense to me that we chop up the money and each take $4k-$5k home. After proposing this idea, some British guy actually turned it down! I was kinda mad that we had to play such a high-variance form of poker to split up $26,000 rather than just amicably agree on a chop. Normally I'm against chops and would just prefer to gamble, but when you're the chip leader and only have eight big blinds, chopping sounds optimal.

So anyway, very first hand after the chop discussion is busted, some guy pushes four big blinds. I look at Nine-Nine from the big blind, of course I have to call, yada-yada-yada, he has pocket jacks, a few minutes later I was out in fifth. That's why I wanted to chop!

Oh a little sidenote, any of you coming to Vegas during the WSOP, avoid the tournaments at Caesars Palace. The structure was absolutely awful. I wouldn't have played if I had looked at the structure sheet beforehand.

It's about 11:40 am. I just woke up and am now going to head to the Venetian for their $500+$50 tournament. I absolutely love the Venetian's tournaments. Incredible structure, horrible competition; you can't beat it.

I'll end this entry with a funny story from last night's tournament to emphasize what I mean when I say "horrible competition." During 200/400, an older gentleman raised to 1,200. A younger blinged-out guy called that raise. I looked down at King-King from the small blind. Even though I had 12,000 in chips, I knew I'd get called by one of them if I shoved, so I did. The older guy debated for a while and folded. Mr. Bling kinda shrugged, said "I guess I have to call", and put about 80% of his stack in the pot and turned over pocket twos. Pocket Twos!! The moral of the story is: that's not exactly a rare play to see, even for a $500 tournament. If you can get away for a couple days, come out to Vegas. There's so much dead money out here it's ridiculous.

Yay Coinflips!

I woke up this morning at 10:45 after only five hours of sleep, but I felt surprisingly refreshed. After taking a shower, I went downstairs, had a chicken salad sandwich, and played a little blackjack at $5 a hand. TwoGun finished getting ready and made his way downstairs around 11:50. We caught a cab and headed off to the Rio for the $2,000 no-limit WSOP event.

In order to accommodate more players per tournament, Harrah's added a temporary air-conditioned tent which houses about 60 tables. Both TwoGun and I drew a seat in the tent. The atmosphere was a little better than I was anticipating, but it was still pretty hot and mildly uncomfortable.

I didn't recognize anyone at my starting table, which was a good sign that the competition would be pretty bad. That prediction ended up being true. It only took about 10 minutes of observing the opposition to realize that many of them had no idea what they were doing. We started with 4,000 chips. I was down to 3,500 when the following hand came up. Two loose, bad players limped for 50 chips. From the small blind, I made it 200 with Ace-King. In an online tournament, I would have probably raised to 300 or 350 in this spot, but my reasoning was different in this tournament. I knew if I made it 300 or 350, both of the limpers would call. Since I had no chance of taking down the pot preflop, it made sense to give myself a little bit of a discount and focus on getting the chips in the pot once I actually have a pair rather than preflop, out of position, against two bad players.

After I raised, the big blind re-raised me to 800. Both of the limpers folded, and I had a fairly easy decision. I moved all-in for 3,500 total. The big blind called almost instantly, turned over QQ, and I was out of the tournament before the clock hit 12:30 pm.

You might think I'd be mad to be out of the tournament so early, but I was actually fairly relieved. I'd much rather lose a coinflip at that point than eight hours into the tournament. I got on my phone and called the Venetian Poker Room. I knew they had a $500+$50 tournament that started at noon. I was pumped when the lady told me that registration didn't close until 2:00 pm, so I hopped in a cab and headed to the Venetian.

For the first two levels I played, everything was fairly standard. During 100/200/25, a young Irish player called an all-in with Jack-Jack versus someone's Ace-Queen. When a Queen came on the river, the Irish kid seemed pretty disgusted, but he still had plenty of chips. On the very next hand, the Irish kid raised to 700 and stole the blinds. On the hand after that, he raised to 700, and again, stole the blinds. For the third time in a row, the Irish kid raised, this time to 900 after someone limped, and again, he stole the pot. By now, it was pretty clear that the player was tilting from losing the race. The very next hand, for the fifth time in a row, something I've maybe never seen in a tournament, he raises again to 700 from under-the-gun. It folded to me on the button. I looked down at Eight-Eight, which felt like Ace-Ace in this situation, and re-raised him to 2,200. When it folded back to him, he immediately grabbed all of his chips and threw them into the middle of the pot. Without hesitating, I called off my remaining 5,500 and was a little bummed out when he turned over King-Queen. It wouldn't have surprised me if he turned over Six-Two in that spot. As the dealer dealt the flop, the door card was a Queen. Obviously that was disappointing, but I was anxious to see the other two flop cards in hopes there was an Eight. She revealed the other two cards: another Queen, and a King! Wow, talk about being owned by the coinflip gods!. I smiled, grabbed my things, and headed back to the hotel.

Of course, this wasn't the most optimal way I was hoping to start the trip, but I'm at peace with how I played both tournaments. As I type this, it's only 3:10 pm, so there is definitely more poker left in the day for me.

Caesars Palace is having a $500+$40 buy-in tournament at 7:00 pm tonight. The structure looks pretty good for a $540 tournament, so I might play that. It's also possible I'll take a break from tournaments and hit up the cash game tables for a while. Tomorrow I'm heading back to the Venetian for another $500+$50. Here's hoping that the worst of this trip is behind me!


TwoGun and I arrived in Vegas very late Thursday night (as I write this it's 4:30 am Vegas time Friday morning). I'm going to keep this short since I should probably get some rest before tomorrow's $2,000 buy-in WSOP event. Both TwoGun and I are playing.

When we got into town, we checked in at Treasure Island. Neither of us have stayed here before, which is a large reason why we decided on this place. Novelty rules. After checking in, my friend Dave picked us up and drove us to the Rio to register for the $2,000 event. Evidently 2:00 am is a great time to register for WSOP events. I've read many stories of long registration lines, but we had no wait at all.

Alright, that's all for now. Expect a more thorough entry tomorrow.

One Day Sans-Poker; Very Refreshing

Yesterday TwoGun, myself, and 8 friends went sightseeing around Las Vegas. Some of our friends were out here for the first time, so we did our best to try to take them to as many places as possible.

We started out at the Venetian. Throughout the day we made it to the Casino Royale, Mirage, Caesar's Palace, Bellagio, and Paris. I would have to say my favorite part of the day was watching the fountains at the Bellagio. I had never seen them before yesterday. For those of you who haven't done so before, I'd highly recommend checking out the Bellagio fountains on your next trip to Las Vegas. It's one of the classiest parts of Las Vegas that I have yet to encounter.

Last night all of us put on our wannabe clothes and headed to "Pure", a nightclub located in Caesar's Palace that is partially owned by Shaquille O'Neal (and some other notables). I guess Kevin Federline was shooting a music video there last night. So, needless to say, the line to get into the club was staggeringly large. I'm not one for waiting in a line to hang out with a bunch of posers, so a few of us split off and went to the Voodoo Lounge.

The Voodoo Lounge is another part of Las Vegas that I would highly recommend checking out. Located on the roof of the Rio, it is a huge outdoor lounge with a really laid-back atmosphere and an amazing view of the Strip.

All in all, it was nice to take a day off of poker. At one point during the afternoon, my friend Dave called me and started talking about something related to poker. I cut him off in the middle of the sentence and told him "tell me tomorrow"!

Today 2muchMoney (Kim) is playing in the Main Event. I'm sure I'll make my way down there at some point to sweat him and maybe meet up with another Pokertipper who is in Vegas; zolaboy. My schedule is pretty wide open for the day, so I'm anxious to see how it turns out.

Good luck to 2muchMONEY in the Main Event...

All Hail The Set

Yesterday, I played in the Main Event. Things were going decently, but I ended up busting out near the end of the first day.

The hand I went out on was a classic coin flip that needs to be won if you hope to win a tournament. With about 12k in chips, I was dealt JTh in mid-late position. The blinds were 200-400 with a 50 ante. Someone in early position makes it 1k. I call. It's folded around and a blind calls.

The flop is Kh Qd 4h, so I have an outside straight draw and a flush draw. The blind checks. The pre-flop raiser bets 2500. In this sort of situation, there really is only one correct play for me. I raise all-in. The blind folds and the pre-flop raiser calls. He flips over QQ, giving him a set of queens. Needless to say, the turn and river were both blanks, so I ended up busting out on this hand.

There were a few other interesting hands I played. Some I played well, whereas looking back on others, I made a few mistakes. There were two instances where I hit a set when I held pocket two's. The first time, the blinds were 25-50. I limped and saw the flop with four other people. The flop came 2-2-9, giving me quads. I was the third to act, and I checked (only play to do here). The person after me bet 150, and it was folded around to me. I called.

The turn came a 9, the money card. I decided to bet out 350, hoping he'd raise me and I could go over the top. He just called. By the way he called though, I was fairly certain he had a 9.

The river came an 8. I led out 1500, about a 1.5X pot bet. He was startled for a second, but called. I flipped over my quads and he mucked. Looking back on this hand, I doubt I could have gotten his entire stack (blinds were just too small), but I probably missed out on some value. I could have gone for the check-raise on the turn, which would have built he pot up more. Thing is though is this player was pretty tricky, so I wouldn't put it past him to check the turn after me.

On the river, betting very hard wasn't a bad play since I guaranteed myself a fair amount of chips. However, a lead-in there probably would have worked. If I had bet about 400-500, he probably would have raised me. He'd probably make it 1000 though, and I'd then re-raise to about 2500-3000. He probably would call, but he might suspect a trick and would fold. If he was a total fish, I probably could have gotten his stack (he probably would have raised my turn bet). But since this player was pretty decent and tricky, the best I could hope for was just more value out of the pot.

The other set with pocket two's I hit was a board of 2-9-10. Pre-flop, the blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante. I limped in mid-position. It was folded around to the small blind who made it 700. I called.

At the flop, he bet out 1500. I determined that he had no good draw on me. He was a pretty ABC player, so he likely had a larger pocket pair or AK. I also decided to not worry too much about being drawn out on. If he does in fact have a higher pocket pair and hits a two outer, so be it. At this point in the tournament, I need to take a few risks and build up a stack.

I go ahead and call..deciding to be a little tricky. I figured if he has a higher pocket pair, he will lead out again on the turn. However, if I come over the top on him, he might suspect a set and fold. Also, I think there's a very good chance he has AK/AQ or something. If he spikes a pair, he'll pay me off more. I decide to play the hand to make it look like I have pocket 8's or something.

The turn is an ace. He checks. I check again, pretending I have pocket 8's. The river is a ten. He checks. I put him on AK/AQ at this point and bet out 2500. He takes about 3 seconds and decides to call. He mucks his hand. With that quick of a call, it's pretty obvious he had AK/AQ.

Overall, the competition at the WSOP was about what I'd expect. It wasn't any different from most $1k buy-in WSOP events or casual tournaments I'd play live. There are so many satellite winners that the field is fairly soft for a $10k event. While this makes the WSOP a good value for a $10k tournament, the WSOP has also turned into a circus. To make a long story short, it seems Harrah's is sacrificing the prestige of the WSOP for every dollar possible. You can read my thoughts about how Harrah's is running the Main Event in August 6th's Weekly Shuffle.

Sweating TwoGun and Meeting a Pokertipper

Yesterday TwoGun played in the Main Event. A few friends from Houston came into town, so I balanced my day between hanging with them and sweating TwoGun.

Later in the evening I got a call from 2muchMONEY (Kim) saying he was in the Rio. We met up and watched TwoGun for a few minutes. After that the two of us headed to a bar in the Rio and talked for the better part of 3 hours. It was really relaxing, because I had spent most of the day running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

I learned quite a bit about Germany from talking to Kim. For example, I had no idea that there is still a Nazi party in Germany, and that they still lasso about 2% of the votes. I also did not know that military service (or social work) is mandatory for young males in Germany. What makes it not so bad is the fact that the mandatory military service is only nine months, which really isn't too long at all. Talking to Kim was really cool. I hope he was able to learn a thing or two about our side of the pond as well.

While talking with Kim I excused myself to take a phone call. I was standing in an area of the Rio by the VIP registration desk. I saw a tall man dressed in black listening to an iPod approaching me. I realized it was Phil Hellmuth. I overheard the hotel desk guy saying things to him like "well, I'll need to see your VIP pass and your ID". I couldn't help but butt in and say "do you have any idea who this guy is?!?!" The hotel desk guy looked like a deer in the headlights. I told him "he's kind of a big deal". Phil loved having his ego stroked like that, and was generous enough to let me snap a picture of the two of us on my camera phone. It was kind of neat.

Alright, in the interest of wrapping this thing up, I'll close by saying that late in the night TwoGun busted out of the Main Event. After he did so, a bunch of our friends headed back to the hotel room and raided the mini-bar a bit. It was a long day. I was pretty bummed for TwoGun. I knew when my cell phone started ringing about 15 minutes after we left the Rio, indicating it was him calling, the news couldn't be good. Next year...

An Interesting Day in the Amazon Room

Today I went to the Amazon Room to waste a little more money on one last attempt to qualify for the Main Event. I played a $200+$25 with rebuys and add-on satellite. I was very disappointed with the organization of the tournament. However, before I rant, I'll start with something cool.

About 5 minutes into the satellite, I look up from the table to see my poker hero walking through the Amazon Room. I could not contain myself. I immediately leaped up from my chair so I could go over and talk to him. The dealer said to me "sir, you cannot leave the table in the middle of a hand!" I fired back, "fine! muck my hand!", and made my way over to my favorite figure in the entire poker world.

I am not talking about Phil Ivey. It wasn't Doyle Brunson. Nor was it Johnny Chan. I am talking about Bill Fillmaff. Yes. THE Bill Fillmaff. 1998 Worldwide Poker Champion Bill Fillmaff.

I was like a kid in a candy store. For those of you not aware, the avatar I use on PokerStars is a picture of Bill Fillmaff. Fillmaff makes spoof poker instructional videos with many uncanny similarities to Phil Hellmuth. If you haven't already, watch some of his videos. I doubt many of you will able to admit the videos arenât downright hilarious.

Anyway, when I walked up to him, I said to him "Bill Fillmaff! You're my poker hero!" He shot back, right in character, "I'm everyone's hero". I asked him if he was going to play the Main Event, his reply was "uhhh, uhhh..... there's been some bankroll deficiencies lately." I was busting a gut. We talked for a minute or so. He answered all of my questions immediately all while remaining in character and providing hilarious responses.

I bought one of his instructional DVDs that he was carrying around in a backpack. He signed it "[Ozone], you are a donk. - Bill Fillmaff Jr." While I realize I'm taking things way overboard, I must admit that meeting Fillmaff was easily the highlight of my time in Las Vegas. What a character.

Alright; on to some serious stuff. The satellite I played made me lose a lot of respect for Harrah's and their organization of the WSOP. After 1.5 hours of play, we were told to go on a 30 minute break. The 30 minute break ended up turning into an hour while we all stood around the railing waiting for one single tournament director to go through the 31 tables and collect all of the rebuy money. It was completely unacceptable. I had no interest in standing around for an additional half-hour waiting to sit back down to my (average sized) stack of 8 big blinds.

After finally sitting down, myself and another player ask the dealer "can we add-on now?" The dealer said that no more rebuys or add-ons were allowed. Never at any point during the tournament was an announcement made informing us when we could add-on. We were told "okay, go on break for 30 minutes"; when things finally picked back up an hour later, evidently the add-on period had ended. Some of the players at my table were furious. I couldnât get too mad. There was no way I was going to sink more money into this horribly structured tournament.

The tournament was advertised with 30 minute levels. After coming back from break, the tournament director announced to us "we are changing the blind levels from 30 minutes down to 20 minutes". I flipped my chips. Literally. I threw my chips into the middle of the table and said to the dealer âwhat kind of excuse for a tournament is this?â I eventually composed myself and picked my chips back up, but I could never regain focus on the tournament, and busted out shortly thereafter. This was completely unacceptable. I checked the blind structure schedule and found no mention of a change in level-length.

Essentially the satellite felt like a giant game of bingo. The structure was awful. The dealers were incompetent. The tournament directors were making up new rules on the fly. All told I spent $825 dollars to play the most horribly organized poker tournament of my life. Several top professional players have been complaining recently that Harrah's is turning the WSOP into a greed-machine that gives no regard to the sanctity of the game. I am starting to understand where these pros are coming from. The WSOP does not feel like a prestigous environment to me. It feels like a good excuse for Harrah's to turn poker into a massive fleecing of poker enthusiasts, all while giving little regard to the dignity of the game.

Okay I'm getting off the soapbox. After the satellite my friend Dave picked me up from the Rio and took me off the Strip to this crappy local casino called "Arizona Charlie's". We enjoyed a medicore $4 buffet and caught up on things from our college days. It was relaxing.

TwoGun is playing in the Main Event tomorrow at noon. We have a few friends from various parts of the country flying in to hang out for the weekend and watch him play. Tomorrow I'm going to spend the first part of the day making sure our guests get set up in the hotel. Then I'm sure I'll head back to the Rio to watch the colossal affair of money, emotions, fame, and fleecing that is the World Series of Poker.

Good luck to TwoGun tomorrow. I will try to keep you guys updated on his progress through this blog.

That Was Rough

Yesterday afternoon I went over to the Amazon Room to watch the start of what would eventually be Phil Hellmuth's 10th bracelet final table. I gathered in the seats on the ESPN stage at about 1:45. The tournament was set to resume at 2:00. At about 2:05 all players were in their seats ready to go, save for Phil Hellmuth.

Hellmuth was nowhere to be found. The tournament director had to set up his chip stack for him and everything. Sure enough, at about 2:07, in walks Phil Hellmuth. While the other 8 players sat there ready to play poker, Hellmuth walked around the stage with a big smile on his face. The ESPN cameras were following him around like hawks. He walked around the stage smiling at the crowd, waving, shaking hands. It was quite the entrance. I couldn't help but observe with a smile. After shaking everyone's hand, and making sure the attention of the entire room was on himself, Hellmuth took his seat to being play.

On the very first hand, he gave away about 20% of his chips to Juha Helppi. It was hilarious watching him lose his temper immediately after being so elated. I must admit, he is one captivating guy to observe. Love him or hate him, you can't help but be drawn to his presense. He really has done a phenomenal job of marketing himself.

At the table, every time he opened his mouth, the ESPN guys would trip all over themselves trying to get a boom mike in his face. He had command of the entire room. Later that night when I heard that he won his 10th bracelet, I was happy for him.

Around 5:00, after TwoGun busted out of the $1,500 no-limit event, the two of us joined my friend Dave for a trip to the In-and-Out Burger. It was my first trip to the establishment. I gotta be honest, I was quite disappointed. I've heard people talk about In-and-Out Burger like it's the greatest thing ever to happen to America. I found it to be quite mediocre.

After finishing off that meal, we headed back to the Venetian so I could start a 24 session at the poker table. I want to save most of the details for the Weekly Shuffle, but I will tell you that about 16 hours into the session the dealer was having to wake me up at the table. I kinda said to myself "there is no way that you're going to be able to play for another 8 hours, so why not quit now and go to bed?" It sounded like a phenomenal idea at the time, so I did just that! I wish I could say I made it for the entire 24 hours, but it simply wasn't going to happen. I am weak. I am ashamed. I am not worthy.

I left the table after about 16 hours, a $400 winner. I immediately went to sleep for 7 hours. Around 5:00, TwoGun woke me up to drag me to the buffet at the Wynn. At the time, I just wanted to keep on sleeping, but now I'm kind of glad he woke me up. I figure if he just let me keep sleeping, I probably wouldn't have woken up until around 9:00, which would have totally screwed up my sleep schedule. At least this way I'm pretty tired and will likely go back to sleep at a reasonable hour.

On that note, I think we're going to head back to Casino Royale for a little slumming. I'm getting a little sick of being greeted as "sir" and bathing in Fiji water. It's time to hit up an old musty casino with weathered cockail waitresses who look like they've had a rough life!

Semi-Bluffing Is Sexy, Until You Miss

Today I played in a $1500 NL Hold'em event. I was gradually increasing my chip stack for awhile. Around four hours into the tournament, I got involved in a big hand. I had T9d and a flop of Kd 8d 3s. I bet into the flop, someone raised me all-in and it was folded to me. At this point, the pot was large enough to give me good pot odds, so I called. I missed and so went that tournament.

Like most of the past lower buy-in WSOP no-limit tournaments, this tournament had a huge field. Over 2800 people entered the tournament. My table was generally composed of the typical types of players you'd see at the WSOP, a mixture of wannabe professional players and good, casual players.

One glaring difference in Vegas now than two weeks ago is the amount of Party Poker advertising. Party Poker has gone ape shit advertising their "Monster." On most of the ads, it doesn't even say what this "Monster" is. I'm not sure what the "Monster" is, but I see it advertised on every taxi cab, billboard, and sexy woman in Vegas. My understanding is that Party is having some large freeroll, as well as the largest prize pool tournament in online poker history. Whatever the case may be, I'm sure there'll be more information coming about it soon.

Ozone just started his 24 hour poker playing quest. Hopefully, I won't find his collapsed on the poker table, drooling all over his chips tomorrow. After all, he's wearing a shirt and that wouldn't be good advertising for the website.

Back in Vegas

TwoGun and I arrived back in Las Vegas yesterday evening. On this go around, we're staying at the Venetian. Let me tell you, this is easily the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at in my life. I mean, I thought the Rio was pretty nice. Now, looking back, the Rio seems like a Motel 6 compared to this gorgeous facility.

Last night, after grabbing some food at the Wynn, we went to Casino Royale to play some craps. Now, contrary to the name, Casino Royale is a total hole-in-the-wall joint. I mean, it is located right in the heart of the strip, but even our cab driver had to ask "where on Earth is that?" when we told him to take us to Casino Royale. The lure of Casino Royale is that it is the only place left in Las Vegas that offers 100x odds at their craps tables. Without getting into too much detail, 100x odds essentially means that you can bet $5 on the pass line (thus only giving up about $.05 worth of EV), and then bet up to $500 on the points. That second bet is a break even bet (from an EV standpoint). So basically you can bet $5 on the pass line (while losing virtually nothing from an EV standpoint), and then throw around a few hundred on the points. To the average bypasser, we looked like complete high rollers. However, being the poker-playing EV-minded people that we are, we were literally giving up a mere $.05 worth of EV per series to toss around some big bills and look like a bunch of whales! It was fun. God bless the fact that most people don't understand EV enough to know that we giving up a smaller edge to the casino than Grandma on the slot machines behind us.

Soon TwoGun is heading over to the Rio to play in the $1,500 no-limit hold'em WSOP event. I am going to head over an hour or so after he does because I need to shower and grab some lunch. Today, Phil Hellmuth is playing at a final table where he enters with a commanding chip lead. I plan on hanging around the Amazon Room most of the afternoon to watch Hellmuth on the ESPN stage, and keep an eye on TwoGun as well.

Later this evening I am going to embark on a little adventure. Sometime tonight, likely around 9:00 pm, I am going to sit down at a $1/$2 no-limit game in the poker room at the Venetian. I will not stop this session until I have played for 24 straight hours. The experience will be detailed in an upcoming Weekly Shuffle. I've never came anywhere close to playing poker for that long. I've heard stories of guys like Phil Ivey, etc, who have played for upwards of 40 straight hours before. 24 seems plenty daunting to me. So, needless to say, you won't be reading any Live from the WSOP blogs from ol' Ozone for a little while. TwoGun will keep you guys updated on my progress and let you know how many IV needles I'm requesting tomorrow morning. Wish me luck! If anyone is in Vegas and wants to come sit with me for a while, I have buzzed orange hair and will be wearing jeans with a blue PokerTips T-shirt. There is a max buy-in of $200 on the game.

Leaving Las Vegas

Yesterday early-evening TwoGun and I headed over to Caesar's Palace. We were both in the mood to play some poker, so I suggested Caesar's, because I had heard good things about their new poker room. While the room was kinda blandly decorated, it did have a lot of poker tables (read: short waiting lists), so it was nice. I bought in for $200 in a $1/$2 no-limit game. Generally when I play live poker, I play very tight-aggressive and usually find myself bored out of my mind waiting for strong starting hands. Yesterday I told myself I was going to play ultra loose-aggressive just to keep myself entertained. Let me tell you people, not only did it entertain me, but it made me some money too.

I was getting completely ridiculous when I thought I could get away with it. I won at least three pots where I raised preflop and bet on the flop without ever having had looked at my cards. Granted it was just a small stakes game, but it felt nice to have the whole table crippled in fear! I'll only bore you with the details of one hand. An aggressive player open raised to $17 in early position. We were both fairly deep (about $400 each), so I decided to make an implied odds call with my 22. To my delight, both of the blinds called as well. Right before the dealer put out the flop, I said aloud "please flop me a four!!!". As the flop came 654, I proclaimed, "yessss!!!!" Because of this little tactic, everyone checked around to me, including the original raisor, who clearly had an overpair. As I bet out $40, I said to everyone, "I have to protect my bottom set, guys." Both of the blinds folded, and the original raisor began to contemplate. He started flickering around his cards indicating that a fold was in the future. I was literally jumping for joy inside that this little tactic of mine was actually going to buy me this nice sized pot. However, the original raisor did a U-turn on me, went back to his chips, and made a min-raise to $80. I instantly KNEW he wouldn't be able to handle a three-bet, so I put $140 out there and said "$100 more". He folded after about 5 seconds. I flipped up my 22 and said "oh, I thought I had fours, oops!" Needless to say the original raisor wasn't too pleased with his fold. I left after about 2.5 hours with $600 and a great feeling. I've never felt that good in a live poker game in my life. Maybe there's a method to the madness of some of those ultra loose-aggressive guys like Gus Hansen, etc.

Last night TwoGun and I went to the Strip and migrated from crappy casino to crappy casino. Sometimes we like to do this just to remind ourselves how nice places like Bellagio, Wynn, and the Venetian are. One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is the fact that it does not have an open container law. There is something so invigorating about ordering a drink in one casino, then sipping that drink as you walk down the sidewalk to the next casino. I love Las Vegas.

In about a half hour we're heading to the airport to catch a flight home. We will be back in Vegas from July 24th through August 3rd to report on the Main Event and resume posting Live from the WSOP blogs. Until then....

$50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Observations

After posting the last blog, TwoGun and I lined our stomachs with crab and other various buffet items. Around 10:30 last night we went up to the roof of the Rio where they have this nice lounge called the VooDoo Lounge. The lounge is literally on the roof of the 51 story Rio tower, so the view of the Vegas Strip is amazing. I would have to say that being up on the VooDoo lounge was one of the coolest things I've done in Las Vegas. We were up there for a couple of hours enjoying some drinks, music, and conversation with random girls. It was a great way to unwind from all of the hustle-bustle at the WSOP.

Early today after enjoying a hideously unhealthy lunch, I made my way to the Amazon Room to check in on the inaugural $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event. Several weeks ago I read some things on the internet about how some players feel this event will eventually be considered more prestigious than the $10,000 no-limit hold'em event. At the time I read that, I thought to myself that no poker tournament will ever be considered more important than the Main Event. However, after observing the $50k event today, I can totally understand why some people might consider it more important than the $10,000 championship event.

A field of 143 of poker's most familiar names showed up to participate in the H.O.R.S.E. event. While standing on the rail observing the action, I literally could see about every world-class player within 100 feet in front of me. Imagine 15 poker tables where you recognize at least half of the players at every table. It was quite the sight.

I positioned myself in front of a table that featured Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Barry Greenstein. Next to that table was Mike Matusow and Marcel Luske. While observing the action, I noticed Phil Hellmuth walking towards Matusow's table with a rack of chips. Matusow (loud enough for anyone within 100 feet to hear) said "oh please tell me they're not sending YOU over here!!!" Hellmuth just smiled and basked in all of the attention as he took a seat next to Matusow.

At one point Hellmuth stood up and faced the railbirds (which, based on where I was standing, happened to be RIGHT in front of me), and said to all of us "would anyone like to see the payout structure??" I grabbed the paper out of his hand and looked at the payout structure. Next to the $1.7 million first place prize was Hellmuth's name in magic marker with a caption that read "bracelet #10, baby!" I gave him back the paper, and took a picture of him while he was standing right in front of me. He slowly walked up and down the row of spectators showing everyone the piece of paper. It was kinda childish, but at the same time made Hellmuth seem like a pretty cool cat in my mind. While his reputation with a lot of people is that of a whining idiot, I can tell you that he casts an energy of a friendly guy who is really just a kid at heart.

A few more random notes about what I observed at the H.O.R.S.E. event:

- Paul Phillips was wearing a T-shirt that was parodying the upcoming Samuel L. Jackson movie, "Snakes on a Plane". His shirt read "I want these mother****ing snakes off the mother****ing plane!!". I asked him where he got it, and he said he couldn't remember, but it was somewhere on the internet. Needless to say I thought it was ballsy of him to wear that shirt in front of all of the ESPN cameras. And there were plenty of cameras at his table; he was playing with Doyle Brunson.

- A certain "poker ambassador", who, for the purposes of libel, shall remain nameless; kinda grossed me out. After sneezing into his hands, he pulled out a Kleenex and blew his nose, then wiped his hands on the Klennex, put the Kleenex back into his pocket, and then immediately began touching poker chips and throwing them into the pot. I'm generally not too obsessive-compulsive about that type of stuff, but witnessing that made me want to bring some hand sanitizer with me to the table with me next time I play.

- Phil Ivey is taller than you might think, and has a face that honestly makes him look like a 21 year old kid. Though, the fact that he was wearing baggy jeans and a basketball jersey probably helps cast a childish image.

- Daniel Negreanu (and while I'm talking about it, Barry Greenstein) are VERY little guys. Granted, being 6'4", everyone looks little to me, but those two look smaller than most petite girls I know. Also, Negreanu must be really obsessed with golf, not to mention unafraid of what others think about him. During a break, he was standing in the middle of the poker tables intensely practicing his golf swing using an invisible club for several minutes in front of hundreds of people. It struck me as rather eccentric.

Alright, that's enough rambling. TwoGun and I are off to Caesar's Palace to play in some cash games. If I don't lose my fingers in the game, I'll post another blog later on tonight. Until then....

The Bull-agg-ee-oh!

This morning I woke up around 9:00 am, thanks in part to the neighbors who sounded to be engaging in some noisy activities, if you know what I mean. Around noon TwoGun and I headed to the Bellagio. He registered for the $1,000 daily tournament which was set to start at 2:00. In the meantime, we checked out "The Buffet" at the Bellagio. I was very impressed with the buffet. I generally don't go for the whole "stuff your face till you feel sick" type of atmosphere that you usually find in buffets, but the nicer ones here in Vegas seem to be different. Each of them cost around $20-$30, and typically have crab-legs and other various items that make it far-and-away classier than what you'd find at a Sizzler.

After eating and wandering around the casino for a bit, we made our way to the poker room. I put my name on the waiting list for a $2/$5 No-Limit Hold'em game. While waiting, I stood near TwoGun's table and watched him play the daily tournament. I had to wait to get a seat in that cash game for a little more than two hours. Right as I was getting close to being called for a seat, TwoGun busted out of the tournament. I really wanted to sit down and play for a while after having done nothing but wait for the last two hours. TwoGun told me he was going back to the Rio, so I told him I'd catch up with him later, and took a seat in the cash game.

I bought in for $400. The very first hand I played was from the big blind. A player opened in early position to $35. Not having a read on him, I decided to just smooth call with AK. The flop came A65. I like going for a check-raise in this spot, because I feel AK is pretty well concealed. I checked, and he bet just $25 (which appeared very weak to me). I decided to test the waters in a big way, and made it $125 total. I knew if he had AQ or maybe even AJ, I was going to stack him in this spot. However, he folded to my raise.

In general I was playing very loose-aggressive. One hand I limped in early position with 53 offsuit. The player next to me made it $25, and I felt prompted to see the flop after two other players called his raise. The flop came 664. I checked, the raisor bet $60, and the two other players folded. For whatever reason, I instinctually pushed all-in for about $350 more. My opponent disgustedly folded AK face-up. I showed him my 53 and he literally grabbed his chips, said "bye", and left the table. I think he was fed up with being bluffed; the hand before that someone pushed him off top pair and showed him queen-high. Poor guy. After about an hour of that cash game I left with just a $50 profit and made my way back to the Rio.

I went into the Amazon Room and observed the WSOP action a bit. Tomorrow the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event starts, which I am pretty anxious to observe. It will be interesting to see how many players participate in the event. I will set the over/under at 125; but realize my frame-of-reference for setting this over/under is about as good as a panda bear.

TwoGun and I are about to go chow down on some more crab at this delicious seafood-buffet they have downstairs. If I don't kill myself via iodine poisoning from eating too much crab, I'll be back to report on things later. Until then...

I Heart Punting Part Deux

I played in a daily $1000+$60 at the Bellagio today. Like the WSOP $1k event, not much really happened for me. One thing I like about these $1k events though is they are pretty good practice for the Main Event. The tournaments are structured to give a decent amount of playing time, and the competition is similar to what one would find at the Main Event.

During the Main Event, there are more internet qualifier-type players, but the quality of play is still quite similar to these $1k events. The Main Event is structured to allow more play, but one's chip stack gets threatened quite quickly in the ME...moreso than you'd hope. The average person that's not in the money lasts about twice as long in the Main Event than in these smaller events. So while it costs 10X as much, the typical bust-out Joe gets only about twice as much playing time. This doesn't apply to people in the money. The in the money play lasts a lot longer in the main event than in these smaller events.

Anyways, I highly recommend anyone who has won a seat in the Main Event to try out one of these $1k events if they have limited B&M tournament experience (and can afford to bankroll a $1k event). I think they're a great way to get in the zone for the Main Event.

WSOP Virginity Gone, Wallet A Little Thinner

While I insinuated I would be going to bed pretty early last night; TwoGun and I ended up heading over to the Bellagio (and eventually Paris and the Aladdin) to have a drink or two and check out the scenery. I wound up passing out around 1 am.

This morning I woke up at 9:30 pumped up to play in the $1,000 no-limit event at noon. I got in the shower only to realize that the shower was dispensing nothing but scalding hot water, regardless of the temperature setting on the handle. So much for taking a shower before the tournament.

TwoGun and I made our way downstairs for an early lunch at this "Sports Café". I had some Hawaiian Pizza. Eventually we made our way to the tournament room. I will spare you the details of the tournament in the blog. If anyone is interested, I made a comprehensive post in the WSOP & WPT forum with a review of the key hands I played in the tournament.

We started with 1,500 in chips. At one point I had built as high as 4,225; but ultimately it wasn't my day as I lost a couple of key races and found myself out somewhere probably in 1,600th place (2,891 started).

After the tournament an old college friend of mine who recently moved out here, Dave took TwoGun and I away from the Strip and out into a suburb of Vegas for a nice dinner. I had some Jumbalaya while we discussed everything from poker to girls to the ins-and-outs of being a Vegas local.

As I type this I am currently sitting in the PokerStars hospitality booth. Joe Hachem just walked in and is standing like ten feet from me. He says "hi" to everyone on Pokertips (I think).

After I finish up a little business on the computer, I think TwoGun and I are going to head to the strip to check out the Vegas nightlife a little bit. Not the best day for Pokertips moderators at the tables!

Until next time...

I Heart Punting

Today, Ozone and I played in a $1k NL hold'em WSOP tourney. All said and done, there were about 2900 entrants. I ended up busting out in a little less than four hours time.

Not much to say about this event. My stack never got higher than the initial 1500 in chips we were given.

There was one interesting hand played when I was on the respirator. I had 225 chips, and the blinds were 50-100. I was in mid-position and was dealt pocket 6's. Someone a little before me reaised to 300, and I went ahead and pushed. Someone in late position then raised all-in to 1200. The blinds folded. The initial raiser thought about it and decided to fold.

Sure enough, my opponent had aces. What was nice though was the equity I was getting, even though I was dominated. There was a total of 825 in the pot (225 from three people + 150 blinds). So while I was a significant underdog, I stood to more than triple up if I lucked out.

Sure enough, the luckbox in me found a way to stay alive that hand. The flop was 632. The turn was a 2, and the river was a harmless 4. Of course, this bout of luck wasn't enough to keep me in the tournament for long. I ended up busting out about half an hour later.

Tonight, Ozone (he busted out a little later than me) and I will probably go out for a couple of drinks and maybe a few bad decisions. Tomorrow, all else being equal, I plan on playing the daily $1k NL tournament at the Bellagio.

Future Sardine Checking In

TwoGun and I left for Vegas this afternoon. The flight didn't go quite as planned. We had to stop for a holding pattern over Arizona to wait for a storm to pass through Las Vegas (who knew it ever rained in the desert?). I am generally a somewhat impatient and antsy person, but the holding pattern was kind of peaceful. We kept flying in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. Between the Canyon, all of these massive puffy clouds, and the gorgeous sunsoaked desert landscape; it was kinda hard to justify being in a pissy mood.

After our flight landed, I was pretty excited to get to the Rio to observe the WSOP action. When you walk into the Amazon Room you hear an orchestra of chips clanging together and see an endless room full of poker hopefuls vying for the next WSOP bracelet. It really is quite the sight. I walked around for a while and watched Max Pescatori win the $2,500 no-limit event. It was kind of fitting that Pescatori (an Italian) won a WSOP bracelet on the same day that Italy won the World Cup.

Outside of the Amazon Room is a bunch of booths and rooms for various poker business to pimp out their brand-name. Some of the major online sites have a "hospitality room" where you can rest your feet and get a drink. I was very impressed with the Full Tilt hospitality room. Last year it was a small dark room that didn't seem very inviting. This year it is much larger, well-lit, and loaded with cute girls hired to pass out various marketing trinkets featuring the Full Tilt logo. The entire WSOP atmosphere really is a must-see for anyone submerced in the poker world.

Tomorrow TwoGun and I are playing in the $1,000 no-limit hold'em event. I'm pretty stoked about losing my WSOP virginity. I was out here last year during the World Series, but didn't play any of the events. When the registration lady handed TwoGun his card, it said he was on "Seat #11". I immediately said to her "eleven to a table, huh? That kinda sucks." She informed me that actually there would be twelve players at each table for the first few levels of the event. Not to be a cry baby, but twelve to a table at the World Series of Poker is completely unacceptable. No-limit hold'em was meant to be played with 9 to a table. I can tolerate 10. Eleven is way out-of-line. Twelve? I had never even heard of twelve to a table before tonight. Twelve is absolutely ridiculous. Harrah's should be ashamed that they have all year to prepare for the WSOP, but can't avoid packing people into the table like sardines. However, I'm not rebellious enough to go so far as to boycott the event over this, so I should probably stop whining.

After registering for the tournament, I saw that I was at table 206 (seat 8). All over the Amazon room are these little signs that hang from the rafters which display the number of the table positioned directly below. After finally locating the "206" sign, I looked down but did not see a table. Rather, a roped off area for people to wait in a line and cash-out their chips. I am assuming that since an incredibly large number of entrants is expected for tomorrow's event, they are probably going to have some temporary tables set up in odd places to attempt to accomodate everyone.

So with that said, I'm assuming my table will be one of the first ones broken down. This kinda makes me happy, because 206 is in the corner of the room. I'd rather be somewhere in the middle of the room so I can take in the full experience. Hopefully I will survive long enough to get moved to a new table. The structure to the tournament isn't exactly amazing. Each player starts with 1,000 tournament chips and the blinds at 25-25. The blind levels are one hour long, and move up to 25-50 for level two.

So with just 40 big blinds to start, not to mention twelve players to a table, this is pretty much going to be a "pick your spot and hope to get lucky" festival. If I am fortunate enough to climb up around 3-4 thousand in chips (while the blinds are still somewhat low), I feel confident about my chances to make good decisions and hopefully go into day two with 10-15 thousand in chips. However, my realistic expectations for this tournament don't go past just wanting to have fun and make good decisions at the table. I will keep a scrap piece of paper with me so I can log the interesting hands to share with you guys in the next blog. Hopefully I can last long enough to play some interesting hands and don't find myself sandwiched in between Phil Ivey and Barry Greenstein (even though I suppose that would make for a good story).

It's getting close to 10 pm here. The tournament starts tomorrow at noon. I'm pretty tired, and plan on calling it a night soon. But, it is Vegas, so you never know...

Arrived in Vegas

Ozone and I arrived in Vegas today to cover some of the WSOP events. We'll be here for 5 days, and then we'll return to Vegas again for the Main Event. Like last year, the WSOP is at the Rio and the vibe around here is very similar. The poker action is taking place in a convention center that's about a 7 minute walk from the main casino area.

The poker room is humongous. There are over 200 tables set up. During peak hours, most of them are in use too. During the evening, after the tournament begins to wind down, more and more cash games spring up. Typical cash games are about 10-20/20-40 for limit games, and 2-5/5-10 for no-limit games. There's a waitlist for most games, but it's generally not hellishly long.

The online poker rooms have as big of a presence here as ever. During the Main Event is when the online sites really make their presence known since so many internet qualifiers arrive just for the Main Event. Nonetheless, the poker rooms already have their hospitality booths set up right outside the poker room. They are very posh, kinda like mini-lounges. Many people are sporting online poker paraphernalia; I assume a lot of people either work of the sites or are sponsored players.

The synergy created between the online sites and the major tournaments like the WSOP always astounds me. The two seem more married than ever. While the WSOP has other sponsors like Milwaukee's Best (a type of beer), the online sites are clearly the ones driving the most traffic to these events. Many (most likely the majority) of Main Event entrants win their way through online satellites, and the number of advertisements for the online sites dwarfs those of other companies.

Like last year, a lot of booths are set up right outside the poker room. Most are poker companies, like Cardplayer or poker t-shirt makers. Not anything in particular caught my eye, save perhaps the women handing out business cards for the Sapphire (the world's largest strip club). During the Main Event, they have an entire expo where poker-related companies show off their products. Many are online poker sites, but others sell stuff like poker chips, poker tables, poker magazines, and an assortment of other products (may favorite last year was poker player bobble head dolls).

Ozone and I are both playing the $1000 NL event tomorrow. The WSOP event are so packed that they are putting 12 people per table in tomorrow's event at the beginning of the tournament.


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