It has been over a year since I had made the almost three hour drive from Waco to the Winstar Casino, just across the Texas border in Oklahoma. So, when Bobby Dee asked if I would be interested in riding up there with him and playing in a $175 No Limit Hold-Em Tournament, I jumped on it.
We met at my office at 7 am on Saturday, wanting to leave an extra hour for the drive, in case we ran into a traffic jam. No reason to take a chance on missing the 11 o'clock start sitting on interstate 35. It proved to be a good idea, as we did run into a 25 minute delay driving thru Ft. Worth due to highway construction, but still arrived at Winstar in plenty of time.
After registering, we had about 30 minutes before the cards went in the air, so I sat down at a Dueces Wild machine for some video poker action. I pushed buttons for about 20 minutes and walked away twenty-five cents to the good.
Hey, a win is a win!
The structure of the tournament is a good one, with a 20,000 chip starting stack and 30 minute blind levels. Blinds started at 50-100, so their was plenty of time for play.
My first winning hand was with the powerhouse 5-2 offsuit. I had the button and the action folded all the way around the table. I decided it would be a good time to see how the blinds reacted to a button raise, so I slid 250 chips out. The small blind folded, but the big blind defended. The BB checked the flop and I bet 350, which was enough to take the pot.
I had quite a few playable hands during the early levels, including an A-4 that flopped two pair. All looked good until the river paired the board, counterfeiting me. At the first break, my superior poker playing abilities turned my starting 20K into 16K.
Pretty good, huh?
I managed to build my stack to a respectable level by getting very lucky and winning a large pot. With blinds at 250-500, one limper tossed in his chips, and the small blind raised to 1,250. I was the big blind and peeked at my cards... the dreaded pocket kings (© Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog).I three bet to 3,200.
The limper headed for the hills and the small blind called. The one thing you don't want to see when holding pocket kings is an ace.
The flop was 9-A-4. Crap.
The small blind checked and I did the same. Another ace on the turn was welcomed, as it made it less likely my opponent had one. When she checked again, I felt good about my hand and pushed 4,200 chips forward. Needless to say, I wasn't happy when she announced "all-in" and put her remaining 10,000 chips in the middle.
I thought the chance of her having pocket jacks or queens was large enough to make the call. Had she had more chips, I may have decided to toss my hand, but costing me only another 5,800, I didn't and was shown pocket nines, which meant she had turned a full house. With only four outs on the river (two kings and two aces), the dealer flipped over a king, making the high holy angels dance the Watusi and the demons set up and drool. It also gave me a bigger boat and a nice stack of chips.
We had our second break at the four hour mark and I had a slightly larger than average stack. Of the 100+ players in the starting field, we were down to 39, with eleven places getting paid.
I spent the next couple of levels treading water and it was just before the dinner break when I was involved in another big hand. Blinds had moved up to 500-1,000, with a 100 chip ante. Lifting the corner of my cards, i saw A-J soooted and open raised to 2,500 from middle position. I got one customer from the cut-off before the big blind shoved his last 7,500. I was in position to be squeezed, but the original caller was also a short stack, so it was an easy call. I didn't know if he would just call, or shove over the top. He chose the later and pushed his remaining 10,000 chips forward. I called the remaining 2,500 and we flipped our cards. The limper showed Q-T and the big blind tabled pocket eights. Although I was behind for the big pot, I was ahead in the race for the 5,000 chip side pot, so I felt pretty good about my situation. That situation worsened when a ten hit on the flop, but it also gave me a four flush, which hit on the river and brought me the entire pile of chips.
As we left the tables for our dinner break, we were down to 17. I liked my table position, with the larger stacks on my right and the shorties to my left. Of the 17, there were nine large stacks, four average stacks (mine included), and the rest were short.
We played through the 600/1200/200 blind level, losing only one player, but once the blinds reached 800/1600/200, players began dropping with more frequency. I was able to knock one of the shorties out when he pushed with A-5 and lost to my pocket queens. Once we reached twelve, the remaining players agreed to pay the bubble $200.
There aren't many phrases more popular to a tournament poker player than the Tournament Director announcing, "Congratulations players, you are in the money!"
Shortly before our next break (eight hours in) we reached the final table. There were five huge stacks, three average stacks (me), and two shorties. Realistically, my best hope was a sixth place finish. One of the short stacks busted before the break and we returned to nine players.
It was a bad time to go card dead, but unfortunately, that's what happened. I did get two hands during the blind level, which had escalated to 2000/4000/500 and was able to stay afloat. By the time I had a playable hand, we were at 3000/6000/1000. The under the gun player raised to 12K and I pushed my last 35K in the center holding A-K. My opponent called and flipped his J-T over. The flop was 8-9-Q and I felt good that he didn't pair, but then realized he had flopped a straight.
At least it was a quick death.
My final result was a seventh place finish, which paid $750. Not too bad, but after almost 10 hours of poker, I was exhausted. I found Bobby Dee, who had busted in 46th place, at a $1-2 NLHE cash game and asked him if he wanted to grab a bite. We found a burger joint in the casino, had a couple cheeseburgers with fries, and started the drive south.
One side note. While I was in the tournament, a table exploded with cheers and handshakes. Kinda like when you throw a pork chop into a school of piranha. A lot of movement and excitement!
Someone hit a $26,000 bad beat jackpot when his quads lost to a rivered straight flush. The loser received half of the pot, with the winner of the hand banking 25%. The rest of the players split the remaining 25%. Not bad for a $1-2 game!
I mentioned to Bobby he needed to be playing two tables over. So close!
All in all, a fun trip to Winstar.
Till next time, win the flips.