Missing the Cut in the NAPT
A couple of months ago, a few friends and I planned a Vegas trip for this weekend. After we planned the trip, PokerStars announced the first-ever North American Poker Tour (NAPT) event would take place at the Venetian, the hotel I'm staying at, during the weekend my friends and I are in town. Sweet!
The buy-in for the NAPT Main Event is $5,000. This is no ordinary $5,000 buy-in event; a few days ago, it was announced that ESPN2 will broadcast the final tables from the NAPT's first season. Anytime a tournament is going to be televised, hoards of pros and fish alike flock to the tables in hopes of gaining or furthering their stardom. Plus the overlay value of endorsement deals that can arise from being featured on television coverage make the event even juicier. Being that I'm in Vegas already, I had to at least try to play in this event. I wasn't quite prepared to buy-in to the event directly, so I took a shot in a $200 rebuy satellite tournament one day prior to the start of the $5k.
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The rebuy satellite got a surprisingly large amount of participation. Nearly 300 players sat down to take a shot at winning a $5k seat. Some had deep pockets for the rebuys, others were playing on just a single barrel.
One player who was probably playing with a little deeper pockets than most people was one-time WPT champion Arnold Spee. I called a raise from Spee on one hand with Pocket Fives. We checked the flop of King-Seven-Six. The turn was a Five. I called his bet of 350. The river was a Seven. He bet 600 and called my all-in raise to 2600. After seeing my hand he kind of went on a Hellmuthian rant. He was saying things like, "unbelievable. Un-f***in-believable." If I had felt like his rant was directed at the cards or the luck of the game, it wouldn't have really seemed like a big deal. But it actually sort of seemed like he was attacking me personally for the way I played the hand or something. I think that being a successful pro who has been featured on TV winning a WPT event comes with a little bit of responsibility to try to be a somewhat decent ambassador for the game that has given you so much. I'm not saying it's not okay to show some frustration, of course it is, but there's a big difference between hating the game and hating the player.
This wasn't a huge dilemma; I don't think Spee was wayyy out of line or anything like that. I was mostly unbothered by his comments. But what if there had been a player at the table who really looked up to him because he's seen him on TV before? That player might go back home thinking, "huh, maybe those guys aren't so cool after all," and feel less interest in returning to Vegas to play poker.
Shortly after that double-up, I got most of my chips in against Tommy Vu, yes that Tommy Vu, the famous late night informercial king who promised his viewers in the 1980s that they too would become rich and prosperous by following the advice he dispensed in videos like this one and this one, with Ace-Queen against his Ace-Ten of diamonds on an Ace-high turn with two diamonds. Tommy, much to his delight, hit a fifth diamond on the river and left me with just five big blinds.
The end of the rebuy period was soon approaching, so I got pretty aggressive about just trying to go broke. I decided that if I made it to the break, I would add-on, but if I didn't, I wouldn't rebuy and would just call it a day. Just before the break, I moved all-in with Queen-Eight and was called by a gentleman with pocket Nines. I flopped a Queen to double-up and force me to shell out another $200 for the add-on. That was probably the 9th or 10th all-in and a call at my table and I swear the underdog won in all but one of them. We were all having a pretty good chuckle and rolling our eyes when I flopped that Queen.
After the add-on period, I went on a pretty nice run. I was never all-in or involved in any huge pots, I just kind of chipped up from around 5.5k in chips to 20k. The satellite was really soft. Tommy Vu kept calling me, "the online kid," because apparently I fit the stereotype of most online players (young, aggressive). I was the only player at the table under 40 and quite possibly the only one who plays a considerable amount of online poker. I joked with Tommy tongue in cheek that he's got me all wrong and that I would never play the online poker. I don't think I fooedl him for a second.
For a time, winning a $5k seat started to seem like a pretty tangible possibility. With 70 players left and 26 seats up for grabs, I shoved 15 big blinds all-in with pocket Queens. The player in the big blind looked at his hand and immediately announced, "call!" I was thinking, "eek... that can't be good." But he turned over pocket Eights as if they were the stone cold nuts. Phew! "I win this double up, I'm in pretty good position to wind up in the $5k," I was thinking as the Ace-Six-Four flop was dealt. After the Five on the turn my thoughts went into panic mode, "no seven, no eight! No seven, no eight!" Bink! Seven on the river.
Poker can give you some gross feelings sometimes!
I walked back to my room feeling bummed and frustrated. Getting knocked out of a tournament is never fun, but it's especially painful when you get your money in really good in a tournament where you really liked your chances.
As I write this, Day One of the $5k is taking place downstairs in the Venetian Poker Room. I saw a lot of top pros wandering around this morning as I sought out breakfast: Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker and Daniel Negreanu just to name a few.
Despite being brand new, I think the NAPT is positioned to be a tremendous success. Having the backing of ESPN2 to televise episodes is huge. It helps the NAPT immediately leapfrog the World Poker Tour (WPT) in terms of television prestige. Moreover, the $5k buy-ins for the Main Event are a lot friendlier, especially during a recession, than the $10k and up buy-ins that the WPT commands. The WPT is already hurting pretty bad in terms of participation and TV ratings. If the NAPT turns out to be as much of a success as many people think it will, it could doom the WPT.