Las Vegas is getting an NFL team and an NHL team, but the city’s most popular sport has always been people racing to give casinos their money.
But the World Series of Poker is a separate entity, pitting players’ minds against one another as the quests for bracelets and life-changing pay days roll through the Vegas summer heat each year. This is my fourth trip to the WSOP and little has changed. Sure, the Rio decided to eliminate half of the convenient food options and was apparently doling out Legionnaires Diseased water to its clientele, but those are just some more topics for poker players to complain about at the tables — and poker players sure do love complaining.
I didn’t get to Vegas until later in the Series than usual, but there were some great results before I even arrived. One Kauai resident, who shall go nameless for now, made deep runs and cashed in both the Seniors and Super Seniors events. This year’s Seniors event set a record with 5,389 players as the turnout among the over-50 crowd continues to grow and become one of the more enjoyable events of the summer calendar. Coupling a cash in that field with another in the 1,720-player Super Senior event is a great accomplishment and couldn’t have been achieved by a nicer guy. So if you know who it was, give him a congratulations.
As for my efforts so far, I can’t say it’s been as successful. I’ve entered a pair of bracelet events and didn’t survive all that long in either. The first was a Shootout, which is essentially a large number of one-table tournaments all playing at the same time. If you win your table, you make the money and move on to Day 2. I used to play a high volume of single-table tournaments, so I like this structure. But I would have liked it much better if I had been able to survive even the first hour.
Still in the first level with blinds at just 25/50, I raised in first position to 125 with pocket kings. There was one call, then the button raised it up to 400. The gentleman in the big blind decided to move all-in for about 6,500 chips. Without getting into the minutiae, let’s just say that’s a fairly ludicrous play with any hand. I certainly wasn’t folding kings, so I moved in my stack of about 6,200 and was quite pleased when he turned over jacks.
I was less pleased when a jack rolled off on the turn.
Just like Teddy KGB, I felt so unsatisfied. I wished the table good luck and headed out of the Amazon Room before I had even finished my morning smoothie. It was a good table, so I was disappointed in the early exit. I headed for the cash games and luckily ran quite hot at a pot-limit Omaha table. My satellite efforts hadn’t been stellar and now I’d just busted a bracelet event, but that cash game covered those losses and brought me back into the black for the trip.
The second bracelet effort came Saturday with the Monster Stack event. This tournament drew 6,927 players last year and should have a similar turnout after today, with the field splitting into two separate day ones.
I started at a great table. It was talkative, friendly and full of weaker players. I felt very comfortable controlling the action and chipped up my stack from 15,000 to 20,000 with little resistance. Unfortunately, it was the very first table to be broken up out of the 250 or so playing this event. That was bad luck for me, as my new table was much tougher and had a few tricky pros in the mix.
T.J. Cloutier, who is an old-school legend with six WSOP bracelets and a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee, was two seats to my left. Cloutier, 77, was not one of the pros I was concerned about, as he had doubled up early and wasn’t interested in playing many hands. But he certainly does like to talk and I was a willing listener. It’s also interesting that the little intricacies that players have about vocalizing what they folded don’t appear to go away with age. “Oh, I would have flopped two pair” or “I would have rivered a set” kept coming from Cloutier, who said that he remembers every face and how every person plays, despite not being able to remember any names.
My tournament came to an end after about six hours as I had lost a couple key pots and was getting short on chips. With the blinds at 200/400, I had 8,100 chips remaining. Action folded around to the button, who raised to 1,050. In the big blind, I had A-3 of diamonds. It’s not the best hand in the world, but against a random hand on the button and with an ace blocker, I decided to move all-in, hoping to take the 2,000 chips already in the pot.
That didn’t exactly happen. The player on the button called and turned over two queens. That wasn’t part of the plan. The flop was 567, which gave me a gutshot straight draw, now winning with either an ace or a four. But the jack on the turn and queen on the river provided no help. It was an earlier night and a longer dinner break than I was hoping for.
But there is still action to be had and hopefully some better opportunities. I’ll have more details on Wednesday but until then, I’ll try to avoid the Vegas flu, the Rio water and, maybe most importantly, the pit games.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.