Oklahoma State Championship
Last weekend, I visited Tulsa, Oklahoma for the $3000+$100 No-Limit Hold'em Oklahoma State Championship. This was the first time I have ever visited Oklahoma, so I didn't know what to expect from Tulsa or the Cherokee Casino, which was hosting the event.
After parking my car in between a Waffle House and a Taco Bueno, I strolled into the casino and noticed the prominent "No Weapons Allowed" sign, so much for flashing my hand gun to straighten out a cocktail waitress who was taking her sweet time with my Mai Tai order. I waded through the sea of middle-aged men in cowboy hats to find the poker room.
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While the Cherokee Casino was small by Vegas standards, the poker room still boasted thirty tables. The poker room was also one of the most efficiently run poker rooms I've seen. Players signed up for cash games at an electronic kiosk. After swiping your player's club card into the kiosk, you could put yourself on the waiting list for games. You could also see which games had open seating at the time. This was a much more efficient method than usual "wait in line to tell a person which game you want to sign up for, then realize you're in the wrong line so you have to go to a different line, and then once you get into the right line, the casino employee has to check with the cardroom manager which games are open, and then they tell you it'll be at least an hour's wait so you might as well go play the slots or the roulette table."
While most were expecting a field of about 200 players, only 130 bought into the event. For a $3,000 buy-in event with a small field, the structure left something to be desired. Players started with 5,000 in chips. The blind levels began at 25-50 and increased every 45 minutes. The event was scheduled to be a two-day event, but they could have completed the tournament in twelve hours if they really tried.
Scotty Nguyen and Barry Johnston, both previous winners of the WSOP Main Event, were in attendance. For the most part though, the field was composed of players that lived within driving distance of the casino.
The opportunity to play a tournament like this does not come along very often. The buy-in was quite high, but not high enough to lure tournament circuit pros to make a trip to this relatively out-of-the-way area. This yielded a field of players that was much softer than most high buy-in tournaments. Unlike lower and medium buy-in tournaments though, the tolerable structure and the small field still meant the tournament wasn't just a high-stakes bingo game, which is what many of the $1000-$2500 buy-in WSOP events have become. This, plus the affordable $100 tournament fee, meant the tournament was a pretty good value.
My first big hand came when the blinds were still 25-50. I had about 4k in chips at this time. I limped with pocket fives under the gun. A loose-passive player limped in mid-position, and a loose-aggressive player raised it to 250 on the button. I decided to call and so did the mid-position player.
The flop came a beautiful 885. I checked and so did the mid-position player. The button made it 400, and I decided to smooth call. Interestingly, the mid-position player raised it to 1,400. The button player quickly folded, and I was left with a decision to make. I decided to go all-in there, since even if he folded, I would have nearly doubled up. My opponent had four or five outs, depending on whether or not he had a pocket pair or trips, so slowplaying too much could have been costly. It took the player about two minutes of thinking to figure out that folding his jacks was the right play.
Several minutes later, the blinds were 50-100 and I had pocket nines in the small blind. It was folded to the button, who raised it to 300. I called and the flop came 522. I checked, the button led out for 300. I raised to 900, and the button decided to fold.
After this hand. Barry Johnston, who happened to be playing at my table, noticed my PokerTips.org shirt and inquired about the site. A player next to him jokingly asked if we gave strategy advice on how to play paired boards. I jokingly replied, "Of course. The site specifically says that you only bet when the board is paired, since that is only time you are likely to win."
Apparently unable to sense sarcasm, a strapping young player at the other end of the table said, "Really? That's bad advice." A remark like that kind of let me know that the player wasn't terribly bright; not because he couldn't tell I was being sarcastic, but because everyone knows betting only on paired boards is optimal play. I mean, duh!
About five minutes later, I limped into a pot with T8o. Five players saw the flop, which came T84 rainbow. The strapping young genius I mentioned previously ignored my advice to only bet on paired boards and led out for 400. A couple players folded, and I made it 1,200. He continued to disregard my advice and pushed all-in. My hand held up against his 84. If only he had read PokerTips.org, he may have avoided this disastrous fate.
At this point, I had one of the largest stacks in the tournament. I would like to have reported that I continued to dominate the tables on route to a $124,000 payday, but alas, the cards did not fall that way. After losing hand after hand, I finally attempted to steal when I was a crippled 3k stack. Thee blinds were 300-600 at this point with a 50 chip ante. I raised all-in with 56s on the button, and the small blind made a somewhat loose call with A7s. He hit his ace and put my dreams of being the Oklahoma State Champion of poker on hold for another year.