Back-to-back Heartbreak at Caesar’s

With a day free before the WSOP Academy, I went over to Caesar’s and registered for their daily noon tournament. Over 250 people paid $200 apiece with the final 18 getting paid. My early strategy continues to work well, playing small pots, stealing blinds when the situation arises, and taking advantage of others’ ill-timed bluffs. In the first level, I took the last $2500 from a tourist overplaying an A-5 and continued to build a stack that was consistently above average for the first 4 hours.

As the blinds increased and antes kicked in, players started to dwindle fast. I ran card-dead for about 45 minutes, very tough in such a fast structure. With 40 players left, I found 6-6 on the button and pushed. I ended up all-in with the big blind who’s A-J did not improve through the flop and the turn. An ugly ace of diamonds, however, killed me on the river, 16 spots from the money. Another good run, very close to the finish, but mild in disappointment compared to the evening session.

After registering for the 7:00 pm tournament, I took a walk and got some dinner. While I love the constant availability of a poker game 24/7 in Vegas, I find myself wishing it were not in Vegas. The “oooh, look, it’s shiny” feeling seems to wear off after about the first 15 minutes, and then all I see are the overweight tourists losing more money than they can afford, and the huge immigrant labor force, legal or otherwise, killing themselves to make the place run. A few choice ‘overheard in Las Vegas’ lines while I was having dinner in the Caesar’s Forum:

— “I told you we shouldn’t bring the baby”
— “… and he’s got this AWESOME personality”
— “What do you mean, all of it? You were only gone 15 minutes …”

At least in the tournament poker room, you don’t see people over-extend themselves. Those playing can usually afford it. In the cash games, the inexperienced are very quickly parted with their money, but somehow it isn’t quite as depressing.

The 7:00 pm tournament was smaller, with about 150 people posting $300 each. First prize was $14K, but only the top 9 paid. Similar to the others, I began building chips early on. This time, however, I found myself surviving a couple larger confrontations (AK v. A-9, and JJ v. 99). I went through a stretch of busting 4 players in a row as the tournament wound down to the final 2 tables. With 12 players left, blinds at $2000/$4000 and antes at $400, I had an above average stack of $45,000. I found KJc (king and jack of clubs) and raised to $14,000. I got two callers, one person on my left who had fewer chips then me and the chip leader who had been bleeding chips quickly. With over $50,000 in the pot, the flop came down 2-5-6 with two clubs. I had two overcards and the second highest flush draw. More importantly, I felt the other two were not feeling confident on that flop.

I moved my last $31K into the pot. The shorter stack to my left quickly folded, and the chip leader went into the tank, thinking hard. I stared him down for 2 minutes while he tried to work it out. He made the call with a 7-6. While he had a pair of 6’s, I was still in decent shape. The table (as was I) was shocked to see him not only call the preflop bet with such a poor hand, but also to call half his tournament-leading stack with such a pair. The dealer flipped over a glorious king on the turn, giving me a big lead in the hand. He had 3 outs: two 7s and one 6 left in the deck that were not clubs. I was sure I was about to take the chip lead and a final table run. Everyone shouted “ooooh” as the 6 of diamonds hit the felt. After a grimmace, and a handshake with the other 5 at the table, I walked in a daze to the parking lot. 2:00 am, 2 seats from the money, and another lesson learned. Thinking it through two dozen times since, I’m not sure I’d play it differently if faced with a similar situation. Perhaps not playing a KJ in early position, but because we were playing 6-handed at the table, it was a stronger hand than nomal. I’ll as the pros at the Q&A later today what they’d have done.

The key to this game is to take what you can from each session and not dwell on the what-could-have-beens. Although this all may sound very depressing, to play so long and get so close each time, all for naught, my spirits are actually doing quite well. For me, what would be truly depressing is to last 45 minutes each time. While it would be tough to find myself in the same situation in the Main Event, I’d still rather die on the bubble than take the long walk without getting the hours of play or feeling like I played too conservatively to give me a real chance of winning.


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