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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poker, Santa, and Christmas with the Family

I have been admittedly sluggish about timely blog posting this month. I tend to go through periods where I am more fired up to blog than others. This seems to be one of those 'down' periods.

I just finished up a 10-day run at Harrah's New Orleans...in an event, that unless you were there, might not have even known it took place. It's kind of fun to see your tourney cashes post to Cardplayer...and see where you rank in P.O.Y. rankings. But as I write this...and the event ended almost a week ago...there still is not one result posted...so cashes #97, #98 and #99 currently don't exist, officially. I had no idea who won the main event over there...nor did hardly anyone else, until today when I checked out our front page here at GulfCoastPoker.net and saw that they allegedly did a 6-way chop for $25k each. Huh?

Now...I used to take a bad rap a few years back...by some who thought I was always the guy who was itching to do a chop deal. Truth be known...it was never anything like what people accused me of. I really only ever wanted to chop when the structure had outrun the skill factor, or when I had a paltry amount of chips and was being offered a chop that totally benefited me. But in the past two or three years, I have lost a lot of my desire to do deals...since many of the times when I did make deals, it resulted in me giving away a lot of money that I would have eventually won had I just played it out. Add to that a feeling that when players are begging to chop or do a deal, that its a sign to me that they are afraid to keep playing. Which motivates me to keep playing and try to bury them.

I can always tell the players who aren't accustomed to getting down to the final 5 or 6 in a tourney...and their inexperience shows in a lot of ways. My favorite is watching their body language, how they act around the people that are there watching them...and how awkward and clumsy their casual conversation becomes. I would say those people annoy me and I thirst to bury them...but that might come off as sounding mean, or condescending. More so I think, I just find it amusing...comical almost.

I didn't come into this post with this being my focal point. It was kind of just accidental. But hearing that these guys chopped 6 ways for $25k? I just find that utterly stupid. First place was $160k. How do you NOT want to shoot for that? There is no way the structure had gone to shit. At all. 

So what is it? The economy? The fact it was so close to Christmas, and 6 guys saw a chance to all make the 'ol lady happy? I'll tell you this...if I had made it down to 6 and told Squirrel we were doing a 6-way chop for $25k each, she would have divorced me.

Well, I didn't have to worry about getting down to 6. Thanks to Dan Schmeich. 

Day 1 went pretty seamlessly. I had a pretty good table draw. That and I stayed out of trouble. That and my pocket kings...which I got SEVEN times, never got cracked. When we bagged up our chips, we had 40 players left...and I had the 11th biggest stack. I was shocked that we got 165 players. Never in a million years, due to the turnout the rest of the event, would I have predicted more than 125.

On Day 2...we lost 10 players in the first level. At my table we had the tournament chipleader. He had over 300k in chips. He also had something else. A lobster claw for a left hand. Did I make fun of him? Of course not...I'm not a douchebag. 

But then he gave me...and the rest of the table...a reason to clown him, if any of us chose to do so. It was early in the first level and I raised with 10-10. I raised to 8500. Sitting behind was BJ McBrayer...and he re-raised to 22,000. Geez. Well, I didn't have to think about it too hard because 'Lobster Boy' goes ahead and grabs a stack of gray chips, representing about 150k and say's "All In."

We both folded. This little move of his happened about 4 times. The whole table had grown very tired of his move. That and he was talking all kinds of shit. I think it was pretty obvious that everyone on the table was praying to pick up AA or even KK so they could catch him pulling that move against him. Then we had a hand where five us were in to the flop. Someone bet the flop, then there was an all-in...I folded. BJ then hesitated, and folded. The next guy...sitting next to 'Lobster Boy' was still deciding what to do...when he starts crowing about "How can I possibly think about folding this hand here" and showing him his cards. Then folds. 

Huh? In case anyone had missed it, this event had already become the tournament that everyone would remember for a new world record for penalties handed out for exposing a card...usually on accident. But now...I'm sitting here, waiting for the dealer to do something, like, you know, call the floor! Since this is precisely why the rule was invented in the first place! But he wasn't doing a thing. You gotta be kidding me. I finally said something to the dealer. He calls the floor. Lobster Boy receives a penalty.  And starts talking more shit to me. Whatever. Go serve your penalty jerkoff.

He went...and soon after, our table broke. We were down to 27 already. 9 from the money. While I was sitting there picking up a few pots here and there...something really funny was happening over on the table behind me...as reported to me by Barth Melius. Once sitting on over 300k...Lobster Boy was committing one mistake after another. His little 'grab a stack of grays' and stick em out against a raiser had now backfired on him twice. He was now sitting on only 70k, plenty to work with...but an amount I was sure he would tilt right into someone elses stack.

And when we got down to 21 players...three from the money, guess who hit the bricks!?? You know it. That kind of made my day. A little bit later, we were in the money. Down to 18.

What's kind of interesting is how I got into this Main Event in the first place. The previous day, I was only able to play in one tourney to get into the Main. It was satellite day, but the Tournament of Champions was being played at 6pm. It was situated just perfect (sarcasm), so that I couldn't play the Mega at 4 or the one at 8. So here we have 67 qualifiers...and 45 people showed up. Typically in a freeroll, all the stacks that have been 'earned' stay in play until they blind out. And when I asked the floor guy in Level 3 if that was the case...I was told 'yes' that is the case. Awesome...since we only had 4 players on our table. But then, not even five minutes later, the TD makes an announcement that 'all dead stacks will be picked up off the tables at the end of the level.' Huh?

I ask the floor guy why they said they weren't and now they are? The reason I got? "I don't feel like making my dealers sit here and deal to a dead stack for the whole tourney." Hmmm. I didn't even know how to respond.

This was on the heels of the previous day...when I had bought into a very lightly attended $340 satellite...with only 24 players. There were two tables of 10 players...then 4 of us just sitting there waiting to play. You need 5 players to start dealing. And there weren't a rash of players signing up. That and we were playing 20 minute levels and were already in level 3. I merely asked one question. 

"Is there a reason why you can't pull the 10-seat from both tables...making us 6 handed...so we can at least start playing?"

I was pretty much ignored. Then heard him telling another player he was going to do it anyway...but just wanted to see how pissed off I would get before he decided to do it. Wow. Well, the thing is...I didn't get pissed off, I just sat there seething, wondering why in the hell he was acting like this. I've known this floor person for years...have always liked him...and always thought he'd done a great job. It made no sense. And with my 'history' with Harrah's and the whole WSOP bunch...the last thing I was going to do was give them a reason to back me into another corner that takes me years to get out of. So I just sat there biting my tongue. 

Oh there was more. But I will get to that later. For now...I'm talking about how I managed to get into the Main Event. We would get down to 10 players in this Freeroll with 7 winning entry. With 10 left, I had the chiplead. But not a huge one. I kept raising with great hands...and the small stacks kept pushing all in with worse hands. I doubled up 4 small stacks...all but three times with the best hand. Then I was short. I pick up 99 and shove...which amounted to about 18 BB's and was more of a frustration shove than anything. The big blind snap calls me with 66. And guess what? He flops a six. Perfect. And I was out. I tried to go play the nightly. Too late. I tried to play a sit n go....none running. None! Great. 

The move seemed to be getting in my car and driving home and calling it a day. But...for some reason, I decided to go play cash game. I sat down at a 1/2 game with $300. Over the course of the first three hours...the most interesting thing that happened was trying to guess who was going to win...the 'YES' I can use my iPad at the table or the 'NO' I can NOT use my iPad at the table votes. We had a plump little bitch of a dealer who had a runny nose...guessing she was sick and irritable, but for some reason, the center of her universe seemed to revolve around putting an end to me being able to escape into my own little world of watching 'Friday Night Lights' and not having to listen to the annoying, tedious conversation at the table. 

She starts with..."Ya know, I don't think you can use that thing at the table." To which I respond..."Well, last night it was deemed acceptable by your shift manager, so I am going to assume she knew what she was talking about." Well, that wasn't good enough for her. She then points to two floor people standing a few feet away and literally tells me that "those two guys right there just told me that you can't use it." Really? How did we miss them coming up and telling you that? So I get up from the table...walk over to them, very politely explain the conversation I just had with the dealer, and ask them if they told her that, and if so...why, since I was just told the night before that I could. Well, much to my surprise...they told me they had no idea what I was talking about. The dealer had simply lied to me.

Well...this went on for about another hour. The final vote ended up being 4 votes for YES I can use my iPad to 3 votes against. The final vote was the Shift Manager. I guess that made it official. Never...in any poker room...have I seen such inconsistency and ridiculousness. And these dealers? It's like...wouldn't you think they would be bending over backwards to help their players? Instead of fighting them on everything? It makes no sense. But then...you know something? (another Monkey Analogy coming) When you spend two or three days in an insane asylum, you can't believe the shit you are experiencing. You think it can't possibly be real. Like you are being 'Punked.' But then...magically...after the fourth...fifth...and sixth days pass, its kind of funny. Everything starts seeming pretty normal. By the second week...you aren't sure why you ever thought the place was weird. Then when newbies show up...you just giggle at them, making fun of their inability to fit in. Ya get where I'm going here? If you don't...you are a moron. If you do...then I don't even need to spell it out for you.

So...I sat there watching my TV show...which by the way..is without a doubt one of the best TV programs I've ever watched...and which I am now in the middle of Season 4....with only 5 seasons made before it was cancelled. So I am about to be on TV tilt in about three days. While I was doing that, I was massacring the table. One guy in particular, from San Diego, and there for the bowl game...was nice enough to ship me his stack three times. Once, and this was the funniest, I had raised to 17 with QQ...to which five people called, of course. The flop was a very convenient Q-2-2. He checked to me...and like I often like to do when I flop the nuts, led out...this time for 35. I got one call from the button. And he calls. Hmmm. If someone has quad deuces, its just not my day. The turn is a 6. He bets out 75. Huh? Okay, I call. The other guy folds. The river was....pffft, I don't know...maybe a 4? He bets 100. Well, now I raise...and put him all in for his other 75. HE CALLS! And turns over Ace high. A7 specifically. No shit. It was like a little chip fairy had flown down and decided that I was going to play the Main Event the next day.

Yeah....see this stack? That is what I had at the apex of my 'sickest run ever' in a piddly 1/2 game. Those bottom stacks are 100's...oh why am I telling you guys. We both know that ONE of you is going to add up every single chip and leave some comment. At some point I had around 2150. All signs were pointing to 'GET UP AND LEAVE, MONKEY!' I even posted on Facebook my current status and let my buddies on there try to guide me to a decision.

Then our table breaks. They send me to a table that looks very fishy...and by fishy, I mean...filled with fish. So I fight the urge to do the right thing. I sit. I play. I lose...not bad...but slowly...over a two hour period...and when I got down to $1770...decided to get up and GO!

I got a hotel at the Ambassador, compliments of Gene D...who was cool enough to hook it up for me. A room, on a Friday night, in New Orleans...with a bowl game in town...for $77? Wow. And you know what? The room was actually pretty decent. Had a very New Orleans flavor to it, high ceilings, wood floors, french doors. It was really quite quaint and charming. And I enjoyed the 5 hours of sleep I got. Know what I didn't enjoy? Starting at 1pm....playing until an ungodly 3am...then being ordered back the next day at noon! Yeah. Noon!

Early in Day 1...well, not THAT early I guess, it was 20 minutes before the dinner break, actually. I had gotten very careful about how I was folding to avoid the dreaded penalty for exposing a card. One good way to do it, was putting both hands on top of my cards...and slowly pushing them to the middle, lifting up my hand...and pulling it back. Ahhh...good strategy, unless however...the room in which you are playing in is very hot and humid. Then your hands get clammy, even sticky. This is what happened. And I had even asked if they could call engineering and ask them to turn on the AC. Something we had already done three times earlier in the week. Always about the same time too. 

Well, I go to fold...and when I lifted my hand off of my cards, one of them stuck to my hand and came back with me, flipping over. And then of course your natural reflex is to hurry up and flip it back over. And you can see all the other players getting that look on their face. The 'oh shit, not this again...no...no...dealer just muck the damn card.' I mean...we are all experienced players here, we all paid $1600 to play this fucking event. It's a damn accident. Let it go. But nope. She just sat there...then calls floor. And boom! I was on a damn one-round penalty. And I did go a little nuts...not bad, just expressing how stupid I think they are being about the rule, over managing the shit out of it. Using zero judgement, no discretion whatsoever. But the one good thing about it...was that I got to head down to Rock N Saki and get Barth and I a table and put our order in so we wouldn't be late going back.

On our 3rd visit of the week, the gang was starting to know us...and when we ordered a Dragon Roll, presented us with this awesome presentation. One of my Facebook friends said it looked to him like Bart Simpson on his back wrapped in a green blanket. Hilarious!

So we had a great dinner again...between that place and Grand Isle, me and Barth had some awesome meals that week. Its hard to find someone who likes oysters as much as I do...but I guess I met that guy. We sat at the oyster bar one night and wolfed down about 3 dozen oysters each, of all difference styles. And the service we got from the dude who did all the shucking was great. If you ever hit that place, I strongly recommend sitting at the oyster bar to eat. 

Yeah, so anyway. Here was the one that left me deciding that I was going to make a very painful decision. The decision not to tip after I cashed (if I cashed) in the Main Event. Barth and I were talking about it over dinner...and he literally said "Man...what they did is fucked up...and I'm going to tell you, if they pull that shit on me when we are down to like 3 tables? I am going to raise holy hell!!!" So...guess what happens?

I have 45,000 chips. Each round is now costing 6500...or 15% of my stack. I am needing a big hand pretty soon...badly. We are down to 22 players. I am under the gun...and I get A3h. Geez. One of 'those' spots. Bad position. But getting low. Have a decent table image. Might be able to squeeze out a round of blinds and antes here...which would help a lot. But if someone re-raises I can't call...and there goes 7000 of my stack. Damn. So I am going to fold...and pull my hand back to think about it, but as I pull it back, the ace kind of catches an edge and kicks back into my hand...I quickly grab it and flip it back over...then just decide to quickly fold. But again...the dealer pauses. Everyone at the table is just encouraging him to kill the card...to let it go. But he doesn't. He summons the floor guy. And I just cringe. And then get stuck in a one-round penalty. Costing me 15% of my stack. Now I was fuming. I walked over to one of the booths and just sat there. Several of the players came over to console me, which was actually very cool of them.

When I finally got back to the table, Eric Cloutier was going off on them about it...and suggested all 9 of us at the table expose a card at the same time...which, I guess if they were following the rules, would put all of us in a one-round penalty...which would result in no one losing any chips for ten hands. They (the floor) didn't find that very funny...telling us they didn't allow collusion. It did make me feel better that the players were kind of acting out on my behalf. I would win a pot of about 55k to get over 100k and didn't have to sweat making the money. But I was now pretty firm in my decision not to leave a damn penny at the tip out desk. Oh...well, that and being told that 'maybe if I would be more careful I wouldn't have to worry about getting a penalty.' That was like a fucking dart hitting me in the eye. In his defense, that particular floor person DID actually apologize for making that comment to me...which I did appreciate. But as far as I was concerned, the damage had been done.

I ended up making a post on Facebook about the penalty, and how it was making me question my intent to tip...and that was after the FIRST penalty the day before. The comments blew up. There were something like 85-90 comments...and half of them were like college essays. You had those who were taking up for the dealers. You had those who, as players...were supporting their position on not ever tipping. You had some torn and somewhat supportive of both sides. If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you may have read it...it got really nasty for awhile.

This is a very difficult topic for me...mainly due to two factors. (1) I grew up in the food and beverage industry...and supported myself for a lot of years on the tips I was able to earn from people I provided a service to. (2) I have played professional poker now for 7 years...and have made a lot of friends on both sides of the felt. I never want to see anyone taken advantage of, mistreated, or screwed over. There is a lot of good things about poker and how it is run. And there is an equal amount of bad things. I guess at some point...it becomes a bit like religion or politics. It comes down to your point of view, and what you believe in. And no one can convince you otherwise. I don't know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. It's just kind of a painful reality. You are never going to convince everyone to line up on the same side of any issue. So what do you do? I'm not sure. Try to walk a thin line between two sides of all issues? Easier said than done.

Fast forward to my demise. 16 players are left. The money goes up at 15. I have 5 guys at my table that know me and know me well. Dan Schmeich is one of them. He is on my right. The blinds are 2k/4k and he raises to 12,500 on the button. I look down at AJ. I know Dan likes to play the button pretty hard. So I am fairly confident that I am way ahead. I have 105k. Which I think is too much to shove all in. In fact, I think all in just looks weak sometimes. To me...when a solid player re-raises about three times my raise, unless I have a top 5 hand...I am folding, and doing it pretty quick.

Well, that is precisely what I do. I re-raise. To 42,500. Or just about half my stack. Now, if Dan has a ton of chips...and by a ton, I mean like 250k or more, I can see flatting that raise to see a flop. But with 135k...the only thing I can really see him doing is either (a) insta-folding or (b) shoving all in while making a move and hoping it works out. Hoping I was three betting with trash, and can be forced still to fold. Of course, I would never have folded to his shove there...and he would have just gotten lucky, and I could have lived with him making a move and getting lucky. 

But what he actually did...was shocking. He smooth calls. Barth was sitting in the 9 seat and we both exchanged a similar look...one that said..."what the fuck!??" I was pretty much determined to ship all in on any flop...which is what I did when it came 10-7-2. Well, he calls...and turns over 9-10. Jeezuz effing......no way! Well, at least I still had two overs...right? Fuck that.....10 on the turn. Drawing dead. Game over. 16th place. Dammit. Went, got paid...left nothing...and played cash game while I waited on Barth.

He busted 11th. We went to his Christmas party at one of his bars that night...joined by BJ McBrayer...who had busted just shy of the money...when he took a stand against the constantly shoving Eric Cloutier...with 88. Eric had A7. He rivers a four card flush. I was bummed for BJ. Luckily, we had a really good time that night. And to top it off...Barth surprises me by telling me that 2 tickets had mysteriously appeared for the BCS game and that Cheryl and I were welcome to have them...for face value!!!! That became Squirrel's Christmas present...and don't think she wasn't thrilled to find that out. Section 111...which is at about the 5 or 10 yard line...and is behind the Alabama bench. You kidding me!??? So, I had to go and buy a ticket for a flight from LA to New Orleans the night of the 8th...go to the game on the 9th, hop back on a plane at 6am on the 10th...and be back in LA in time to play the Main Event at the Bike on that same day. I think it goes without saying that I really REALLY hope Alabama wins that game!!!

Okay...that's my Main Event story. Sorry I got so behind. To those who care. And I'm sorry if this blog just got really long. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

MONKEY

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