On this trip, I was able to reach the final table twice in four tournaments and cashed each time. That leaves me at a place in 11 of 30 tournaments I've entered lifetime in Vegas over ten years. I'm 6 out of 16 at the Treasure Island, 3 of 6 at the Mandalay Bay, 0 for 6 at the unmentionable places and now.....1 for 2 at Planet Hollywood with a $1,000 first place finish on this past Monday morning. If you want descriptions of these or any of the past cash games, you can just google the site and catch mind numbing poker non-fiction at its worst. You see, my memory has a carbon date of around 1 day, so within a week, I only remember 1% of what happened and so it's fun to diary these things. Now life provides a website where fellow degenerate gamblers actually read (or enjoy?!?) these diatribes, so why not? Here goes again.
Golden Nugget 6 AM on a Sunday morning, 1-2 No Limit. Still an after-party for most and I'm having the first cup of coffee. I'm a scavenger for weak games - all of the fun of poker and only a 10 % chance of losing. I wake up that early anyways for work, so you might say that the job has turned this into prime time (for me at least). As usual, the Golden Nugget brings out the best and worst that society has to offer. Two tables at this point. I'm playing with a 60+ Mom and Dad, along with their 30 or so son. There's a lady just filling in time before Church. There's a dude from Dallas, a guy from Minnesota and just an overflow of goodwill. "Nice hand Ma'am" "Well, looks like I'm facing off against both Mom AND Dad, I think I'm in for it now..." or post flop: "Anybody here know how to play these Jacks? I'm sure doing it wrong!" Half the non contested hands have people showing anyways "Got you biting on the flush showing on the board, Tony... ha ha". But then this....
At the table across the room, we are overhearing a torrent of F-bombs as two players are apparently dueling it out. There's a beautiful young couple (well, the lady was beautiful at least) who were just out for a good time and this scumwad goes off with "Well, I hope your new wife is better in bed than she is playing poker....Ha Ha". "What's wrong with you buddy, didn't get laid tonight.... the price may still be right down the road,..Ho Ho Ho if you know what I mean" "Did you hear the one about the guy jacking off in the waiting room at the dentist?" Really? Did anyone drunk or otherwise want to hear the crud of life in the early morning? But I remember that this IS a thing - players will actually TRY to distract with the worst humor possible to max the cash. Basically, so the theory goes, if you raise the ire of fellow players (most of who secretly see themselves as the white knight) these same Tight Aggressive players will go loose aggressive against the Dark Knight, lose track of pot odds and yep, the bad guy will cash according to his bitter plan.
And so it goes....A German guy, equally drunk, begins coughing up the chips trying to take down the Mouth Odor guy with high pair, low kicker. Or Middle pair, flush draw calling an all-in. Respectable efforts against medium bets... ridiculously outmatched when facing an all-in. And as the Lone Ranger returns from the ATM machine for the second time, Mouth Odor guy has taken in a cool $1 K.
One sidelight to this was a remarkable willingness for Mouth Odor to become a tip station. The dealer gives the standard f-bomb warning. Mr. Texas turns cavalier and says "now why don't you go on and pay the lady a chip every time you use a cuss word. She'll be heading off to church in just a little while and may pray for your sorry soul one time". And the villain, up 10 big bills at this point, goes along with it. Of course, little miss Church can't accept the money, so she forwards the $1 to the dealer. About $20 in an hour goes to F-bomb tips, from the smiling Miss Church to the dealer. Surely there's a lesson here for any dealer, where the F-bomb penalty could make either the lovely lady or the dealer some extra money on the side. Enough on that though.
Well, the books say that when people are out of their comfort zone, you just need to figure where people are overcompensating. I don't like it, but the obnoxious winner does cause unbalanced play. Interestingly, other players get more polite with EACH OTHER. When Mouth Odor folds, the rest of the table breathes a sigh of relief and are surprisingly more willing to fold a good hand to the other good fellow. It's like "oh, after you, sir..." or "this pot is yours, ma'am" and of course, the response for me is to loosen up and anticipate the folds. I'm able to pull off 2-3 bluffs from early position with suited connectors and the like causing folds after the flop with a continuation bet. Frankly, it was like truth serum was passed out for everyone but Mouth Odor.
So here's the Planet Hollywood tournament story, the highlight of the trip or any trip of my part time once-a-year poker career. I lost 3 Big Bets on the NFL the day before where Houston (vs. Miami), Pittsburgh (vs. Kansas City) and Atlanta (vs. Tennessee) each cost me $220, leaving me down for the trip $800. But there's always the last tournament to get even, right? I normally play Mandalay Bay, but the prize would not have been the breakeven I was hoping for. Instead, I sign up for the $1.5 K guaranteed at Planet Hollywood. There's 25 entries, with only a 1st place ($1K - hey, that would put me ahead!) and 2nd place ($500) awarded.
One guy, I'll call him Matt Leinart (
has been a first table nemesis all morning. Lots of pre-flop raises against the good citizens on vacation. Definitely sees himself as the Alpha Male. At one point, ol' Matt is on the phone in the tournament facing down Truck Driver Joe and Matt is laughing and chuckling while Truck Driver Joe faces his tournament ending all-in. Nothing more insulting than taking a man's money while you're babbling with the wife about extending your trip an extra day. Nice one, Matt, putting yourself in the doghouse at home and insulting your fellow player at the table.
An aside: why is the real Matt Leinart in the Fox Sports studio these days???? Don't you have to be either a hall-of-famer or an ex-Super Bowl player to be in the studio? But I am jaded by his AZ Cardinals lack of success when Kurt Warner came through and therefore am a bit chippy towards Matt. And, after all, the sorority girls are all grown up now and maybe he's got them watching the game off the week for CBS. They say every celebrity has their demographic and maybe the sorority girls are underserved by Kirk and Lee.
Anyhow, The Biggest Hand and only one worth talking about: I'm dealt a Jack-10 suited in early position. I limp in. Suited connectors, always playable against a Tight Aggressive crowd and sure enough.... raise to 2.5 x, an all-in to $3.5 K and a raise to $7 K from the Small Blind and back to me. I figure 1 chance in 3 is all I need to make suited connectors worthwhile and I call the $7 K and the 2.5x folds. 3 players, side pot of $7K, main pot of $14K. The flop has no suited help, but is a 10 - 8 -5 with 2 of the wrong suit. So I now have a pair of 10s with a Jack kicker.
Leinart goes $7K into the side pot of $7K.
Well, I want to say, "you never bet into a dry (or nearly dry) pot, Matt." But I don't trust the guy and what's more, I've been seen as tight all day.... I have folded much more than called or raised and he'd be likely to overbet to get rid of me.
I love hitting the high pair, but it's actually a blind spot in my game. I habitually put everyone who pre-flop raised on an A-K or other premium non-pairs and therefore any high pair in the absence of picture cards and Aces, actually puts the underdog in the lead. I see aggressive opponents as overplaying blowhards during tournament play, just because the stereotype fits most times. Anyhow, I look at the $7K, dream up a scenario where Matt has A-K and convince myself to raise if I'm in the top 10.
What's top 10? In any big decision situation, I've taught myself to count to 10, to name the top 10 hands in this situation. So, after counting the 3 trips, the 3 variants of 2-pair, the AA, KK, QQ, JJ and A-10, K-10, Q-10, I'm sitting there at number 14 out of 169 possible hands. But I rationalize that the various 2-pairs wouldn't have called pre-flop and that even the trip 5's wouldn't have called the 7x BB pre-flop. So, having rationalized that I am in fact in the top 10...I raise to $25 K.
Leinart thinks about it, looks over his cards carefully. People that look over their cards either (a) checking their suits when the board shows 3-of-a-suit or (b) about ready to kiss their pre-flop pair goodbye. It suddenly occurs to me that he has pre-flop AA or KK and I'm trailing. I can feel myself being stared at. He says, "Well, I can't believe you hit..... but you must have". And the cards go angrily in, followed by disbelief at the J-10. I take down the all-in pair of 7s and double up, but more importantly crippler Marc chip-wise and confidence-wise. Suddenly, his phone is less interesting and here comes the Q-and-A:
"Well, is that your 'lucky hand'?"
"The lucky hand is the one that wins..."
"Well, you sure played that strong."
"On the contrary, I merely limped in pre-flop before you went crazy with yours."
"Why did you think I'd bet into the side pot (if I didn't have it?)"
"Well, I just thought it'd be fun. Didn't you?"
So a bad ju-ju moment occurs when Marc is knocked out and there's 4 of us left. There are only 2 prizes for this 25-person tournament. One guy says he'd like to chop and the 2nd/3rd place players are quick to say "Oh Yeah!". I refuse to chop, expressing my chagrin at losing all sports bets. Blame it on the Steelers or the Falcons, but I have no mercy at this point.
Everyone gives me a stinkeye. Now I ask you, is it really so bad NOT to chop? What if you just enjoy poker? With the blinds raised, the last rounds go lightning quick anyhow. The early rounds are slow at times and now all of a sudden you get to put your chip power to work - it's like a whole different game, where stack size strategy is more important than the individual hands. It's like switching from checkers to chess when there's 4-5 players left, where the remaining players are among the better ones you'll ever see. Who'd want to rush through that moment?
As usual, the last hands are the quckest of all. One lady sticks around after she gets knocked out to cheer for the 2nd place guy ("you're the best ever!", she gushes). But remarkably, my luck holds, getting looser as the 2-person showdown usually goes to the irrational raiser which is me on this day. i win with Ace-7 suited heads up against Jacks where the Ace hits.
10 Benjamins are waiting on the counter. I can't stand up straight but wander on over with wobbly legs. Great staff at the Planet Hollywood. Yep, the place is loud, distracting, but the dealers did a fantastic job calling out the number of players and exact bet above the noise. Only complaint is that they (and Treasure Island too) allow cell phone use during the game. The complaint is more to the players though - just step to the rail if the call's so important.