Oct. 15 through Oct. 17
On this trip, I signed up for the 2:00 PM Friday game, the 7:00 Saturday game, and the 7:00 PM Sunday game.
First the accounting: In keeping with an uncanny and unrealistic winning streak, I placed in the money in 2 of the 3 tournaments. They are $50 buy in with $37 put into the prize pool. For finishing first out of 44 players on Friday, there was a $700 prize ($650 net of the entry fee). For finishing second out of 30 some players on Saturday, there was a $300 prize ($250 net of the entry fee). All told, I ended up ahead $850 (winning $1,000). The uncanny part is that I’ve now placed in 6 out of 12 tournaments at the Treasure Island. Normally, only around 10-15% of entrants actually place. Am I lucky? Am I any good? More on that later.
As always, the tournaments are well run at the Treasure Island, although I’m probably very biased at this point, as winning can cast a pleasant glow on any gambling joint. The outside of the El Cortez looks as inviting as a rocking chair on Momma’s porch to this gambler, having had several blackjack success stories there. By the same token, the lighting at the Treasure Island seems perfect, like a basketball court on the table and the audience in dimmer lighting. The big screens show the latest games but there is no distracting sound playing through. The music is contemporary but not too loud. And the dealers are the best of all: patient with the slow players, always on top of the betting sequence, polite to the confused players. Occasionally, there would be a misinterpretation and they would look the player in the eye (even one not involved in the hand) and make sure every person understood what the winner was. They are on top of their game, tournament ready and yet not bored by the whole process (every game must look about the same to these guys). Our cocktail waitress had the wow factor (almost like http://images.suite101.com/2111290_com_cast_thumb.jpg), was professional and best of all available the whole time, talking a bit with the office guys for 5 minutes before stepping back over to bring drinks at a moment’s notice. If I had to design a saloon from the poker rooms of Prescott, Arizona of the Old West, these dealers and this waitress would be in it.
At the opening table, we had the ultimate calling station. This was an Indian fellow. The dealer noted that he had learned to play in a lesson earlier in the day. Well, the guy was in every other hand at a 10 player tournament. John Elway lookalike (http://johnelwaybiography.com/images/john_elway_3.jpg) was on my side of the table and noted that Christmas was coming early for Detroit guy, a player randomly placed to Indian guy’s left. Every hand that Indian fellow called on and Detroit guy would double or maybe triple the big blind with only Indian guy calling. Eventually, there would be a collective groan from our side of the table as we could see the manipulation occurring. But get this. When the Indian guy busted out after half an hour, he rebought and sat down again! Same spot. By this time, Detroit guy was having Christmas along with Thanksgiving leftovers and maybe even a few Valentine’s day treats. The whole experience simply reinforced the well known belief that position is everything.
During the early game, I inexplicably was dealt paired Kings and paired Aces at the very moment another player went into spontaneous eruptions with all-in bets. Their pair of Jacks (quiet kid who deserved better) and King-Queen suited (New York Ranger guy who was about to bully us out of many a pot) quickly dimmed and the expected result actually happened. No one got trips or marched into a straight. Once again, a fairly obvious lesson learned again. Timing of the hand is everything. But betting has something to do with it. I actually bet 3 times the big blind on each hand before being raised to all-in with these unfoldable hands. So, I did represent strength. Too often a player will slow play and face either no eventual raise or get burned by a lucky hit. I’m proud that I actually played them straight and got rewarded for it. Sure it’s rare when a Ace Pair or King Pair scenario plays out as you expect, but it’s fun when it does.
Another random observation was from the final table. As we got more talkative at the point where all five of us were in the money, I learned that there was Cubs fan guy with the backwards Twins hat and St. Louis Cardinals fan guy (Josh Hartnett looking guy). Sorry, dude, but you just don’t look right declaring yourself a Cubs fan and then wearing a Twins hat. I marked you off as being unstable and your play as being a maniac. Hartnett on the other hand seemed reasonable, calculating, playing probably far too conservative for a 5-player deal. Sure enough, Hartnett got blinds drained and bowed out. Contrasted with this was schizophrenic Cubs fan going all-in spontaneously. I believe I knocked out Cubs fan with my Ace pairs against some kind of pair of 4s or some such thing. A lot of players go all-in happy at the final table where 3 times the big blind at least gives them survival hope after a bad beat. I believe and you just have to wait these guys out as they “crash by design”.
Elway was a solid player and deserved to win. Final showdown was between myself and a Bonnie Raitt (http://www.graphicshunt.com/ringtones/images/bonnie_raitt-1359.htm) type. She was ultra calculating, a classic “I’ll call your crazy bets because I know true odds and can figure the exact winning probability of this hand”. She was quiet (man, it got to be a chess match after Cubs fan left) and said she played a lot of Omaha on line. I didn’t think she was anything more than an on-line player until she casually mentioned at my question of “did you ever play at TI before?”, “um, yeah, I placed 3-4 times this week”. She might be an MIT grad or some such thing, but seemed down to earth. I was happy to be hitting cards, trips on the turn, flush on the river, all while playing the correct odds-respecting bets to take her down. Fun tournament and first time I had finished first.
Quiz time for experts. At one point, three people called a 3x big blind and the flop came over. I missed but wanted to represent high pair and after a check, check, I glanced at my chips and then made a 75 % pot bet. But I look over and see the turn card is now flipped (which did pair up my Queen). The dealer paused, realizing that he had completely disregarded my pit. The supervisor came over, some discussion ensued. Hartnett backed up my story that I had never checked and eventually they let the bet stand. But what is the proper house action here? Misdeal? Burn the exposed card? No one at the table nor the house seemed to know and yet I think this situation occurs occasionally.
Game 2 was interesting as both myself and my best friend were both in on the final table and then in on the final 3 players. We were going against Steve Dallas (http://www.avclub.com/assets/images/articles/article/12818/bloomcounty.jpg).
He was an over-the-top, bad winner, a lot of arm pumping and “Yessssss!” exortations with each river hit or whatever luck out happened to occur. My buddy didn’t respect the Steve Dallas game, but remarkably Steve had broken out at the 45 minute mark of the game and rebought. I have never seen a rebuy come back and win. He must have been doing something right though because after only a half hour from his rebuy, he was the chip leader.
Steve Dallas and I had a long duel going and saw many hands with no obvious huge bets (where are the high pairs when heads up?). He would frequently double the big blind as the dealer and I was sensing that he just played by rote, going aggressive just because it’s his nature. I would try to counter by leaning towards being a bit more patient, better to have a huge collection when his aggressiveness does not get backed up with decent cards. But the decent cards never came my way. I ended up going all-in with like a King-Jack suited against an Ace-9 or so and couldn’t pair up.
This leads to a favorite topic – is it a game of skill or luck? Between Steve Dallas and I, it was nearly 100 % luck. I think I would have beaten him 55 % of the time. However, against the Indian guy mentioned earlier, either Steve, I, Bonnie Raitt, Hartnett, Scitzo Cubs fan, Elway or my buddy would have a 99.9 % chance of winning. The key to tournament play is lucking out with enough medium to poor players to cover the 25 % house vigorish. At the TI, this would appear to be true. I would say 1/3 to ½ of the players are (a) extremely passive, (b) calling stations, (c) maniacs or (d) unfamiliar with pot odds. So, the odds of getting to a final table are good I think and I would recommend this place to my friends. So, I think the first hour is a game of skill with each successive minutes following this causing the luck bucket to gradually fill while draining out the skill bucket.
During the third and last game, I was met by the most obnoxious player I’ve run across at TI yet, sitting to my right. This girl, Rosie O’Donnell (http://media.hollyscoop.com/Images/PGImages/47692908---rosie_odonnell.jpg) with a couple of extra piercings, would do the following: (a) sing along with the music, (b) state ‘look for me to be in the WSOP (pronounced double-u-ess-oh-pee by her) by next year”, (c) go all-in with a pair of 8s on a 10-person table and win, (d) give play-by-play on the flop (“looks like someone must have 6s to bet like that”), (e) call somebody with a “hhhey, fella, I want you….” Like there was some sexual angle (clearly, he was not buying in to this version of the all-in). She claimed to have been a frequent on-line champion and sad thing was, she acted like she was in her den rather than a public room. The final over-the-top moment came when she asked if she could eat at the table. The dealer reluctantly said yes (!), imagining perhaps a bag of peanuts and she proceeded to leave mid-game and grab a pepperoni pizza. Very nice, rubbing her fingers on her skirt between picking up the cards. No one wanted this person in the game and I only hope she exited shortly after I did. Could the folks at TI actually post a rule of no eating at the table. Simple rule, simple logic behind it. I mean, come on Rosie, it’s 2 hours out of your life. Do you mind using the same etiquette most players learned in the 4th grade and play it clean? And don’t make it a sexist thing; I wouldn’t put up with a guy player doing the “finger licking good” at the card table. Somebody please write back and tell me she was gone before the final three, please. Better yet, tell me she was summararily ejected when she flipped off her shoes and socks and put her feet on the table.
Last word to the good folks at the TI: could you post the winners on-line? Just like a 10K result, the only feeling better than placing in the money is being able to tell your poker buds back home that you placed and seeing it for themselves. Watch and see how your sign up rate goes up after this one simple move. You’ve got the names already, you can have them check a box saying it’s OK to release their names for the website and boom, you’re done.