A report From Florida’s biggest poker tournament.

Background:

Event One of the WPT at the Hollywood Hard Rock. 1,600 entrants, the biggest  field to date in Florida. $350 buy-in, 20K stacks. 4 Day One Events, 1 Day Two,Day Three if you’re lucky. Total prize pool: $480,000. 144 spots cash.

The short story:  Made the final table.

The longer version.I played Day One A, and ran into some extremely ugly hands i.e. my boat lost to quads, then soon the card that gave me a flush paired the board delivering a boat to someone else.  Also, I felt unfocused, which is unusual for me. I’ve never bought into a second Day One, but these bad outcomes, combined with me playing a less than optimal game led me to  buy in for the next day.  This was a high value game and I couldn’t miss it.

Floor person, Troy, indulges me by holding chips going in to Day Two

I reviewed my bad plays from Day One, vowed to correct the leaks within my power, and tried again.  I was super card dead for three levels, at one point having 5 8 in both blinds and the button all in a row. I was patient.   I steadily chipped up, lost a few big pots but remained tiltless and ended Day One with  slightly above the average 70K stack.

Day Two was a roller coaster. I played at lots of different tables vs. many of the best players in Florida. I adapted to every table as necessary. Then, as happens in riveting games, I looked around at 2 a.m. and noticed that not only were there very few tables left, but a rail forming.  The late evening turned into an atmosphere of both a boxing match and a golf tournament.   Various sweaters went nuts (mine included) when their player took a big one…then, during major pots, you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes it seemed like no one was breathing, then it was chaos.   At 3 a.m. the game was stopped with a 2 p.m restart the next day, Monday.  The top stack had 3,690,000 and the bottom had 800,000.  I had 1,490,000 so was in the middle, 11th of the 18 left. I hoped I could sleep.

When I arrived at the following afternoon, I was surprised that there were spectators.  The game was a take no prisoners one from the first hand. Big stacks were shoving pre flop and bigger ones calling, frequently lite IMO. At one point 56, AQ and TT were all in.  It was an intense super-charged fight fueled by a steep payout structure. I felt there would be at least a 4 way chop.

After playing 22 hours of what I thought was pretty good poker, I made a terrible fold that cost me a much bigger payout. The right move would have been a three bet shove, yet I folded. I suspect my opponent had the same hand as I did, but with two kings on the flop, it would have been a difficult call for him, and I had him covered.  Poker is an unforgiving game. I see it like  race car driving in several ways; always looking for an open spot to speed through; but also, take your eye off the road or make one miscalculation, and you’re dead.  During the entire game, I sucked out twice, once when I cracked aces, and once when I was out-kicked and hit my kicker.  More importantly, my good hands held up and as always, many pots ended without a showdown. I’d say not getting unlucky is the best luck one can hope for.

It was super-fun to final table at the biggest turnout game so far in Florida.  If you want to back me in some bigger games, I’m listening.

Hate it when I fold quads.

While I prefer MTT tournaments, decided to try some low stakes cash this long weekend just to brush up on whatever skill I have.  When I start playing in 2005 I played only cash, usually 2/5, and did pretty well with a 3:1 ratio of winning sessions.  Then once I cashed in a a tournament, I focused on those since there were no cash games yet in Florida and I had to go to AC or LV.  Played at Mardi Gras Saturday and Sunday.  Gulfstream is also close to me but I hate everything about it: the players, the floor, and the environment. No action at Dania. The Hard Rock is crazy on a holiday weekend, and I was too lazy to drive the short 20 minutes to the Isle where the action is good and the dealers can generally figure out a side pot.

On Saturday I was given the gift of quads (3 on the board, one in my hand), and bet my sole opponent out of the hand not thinking my single pocket card qualified for a high hand. I put him on a boat and thought he’d pay me off, but he folded and the pot didn’t meet the minimum $20 requirement for a payout. I’m not very tilty, but I don’t get quads much when there’s a liberal $500 high hand bonus, so I was pretty bummed.  The next day, there was only one 2/5 table going, and I took a 1/2. The table was super tight where I’d either lose a big pot or win a small one, and I was about to leave when the whole table changed….four people left and were replaced by my favorite type of players, one bully “buy the pot” older guy, one bully “bet pre, then shove the turn with anything” guy, and a calling station.  I decided to shove my first good hand with the small money I had left, then reload if that didn’t work out.  I shoved the button on the 7 high flop with A2 when I hit the deuce. Three limpers folded and one lady called with her 7.  I made a small rebuy and decided to wait for a good opportunity against one of the three action guys i.e. either good position, or a hand.  When my button pair of 77 hit a set on the A67 two suited card flop, I rr a $38 all in to $85 and the bully player said he’d gamble.  The turn made the flush which I could see he didn’t like, but the river 9 gave his 58 a straight.  I think I played it right, but had enough pain for the night.

Hard Rock cash.

This is always a great game and was even better on the 15th because the levels were 30 minutes,  instead of the usual 20 minutes. Also, lately tournaments have been run better with more oversight and rule enforcement which was much needed. That said, this particular game was a bit out of control by my standards.  Too much running around and people not in the game getting involved, etc.  I especially wished when it got down to the final, that a better floor person was there (when it’s Nick, he watches the final table which I think is great). Scot and Richard stay pretty on top of things too, but they weren’t there at the end. Also, at this final, we had one of the worst dealers which does make a difference. The Hard Rock has so many terrific dealers with a few duds, so that kind of sucked.

The game started on two floors, then moved upstairs, and finally to the small upstairs room with 3 tables…then down to one!  I had around 270,000 in chips which was very competitive and at many times during the last three tables, was the chip leader at my table.  Boy, things change so fast at a final table.

For example:

-suddenly you’re with all the big stacks, and in this case some really good players

-people are getting knocked out, so just when the blinds are huge compared to your stack, you’re somewhat short-handed and in the blinds more often.

I really had my eye on spots 1,2 or 3 which basically means part of a good chop, but was sick to be knocked out 8th.  Poker really is like race car driving, one miscalculation and you’re dead.  That analogy carries further  in that you’re always watching for a hole to race ahead  through.  Can’t wait to try again.