Ms. Duck and I made the two hour drive to Love Field in Dallas and caught a Southwest bird to our favorite city in the desert. After an uneventful two and a half hour flight, we found ourselves waiting for our suitcases in the baggage claim area of McCarron.
The reason for our mid-summer visit was to play in the WSOP at the Rio. I won a buy-in to a $1,000 event, plus some extra spending money for hotel and other travel expenses in our local poker league. Since I have companion pass status with Southwest, that meant Ms. Duck was able to fly for free. Besides, I would feel naked in Vegas without her. It's "our" spot.
We grabbed our bags and took the shuttle to the Rental Car Center to pick up our chariot. Once we got that squared away, we were off to the Orleans for our first night in Vegas. We both like playing video poker there, plus they have an outstanding poker room.
After checking-in, we had a bite to eat at the Kettle Cafe. Their chicken and sausage gumbo is excellent, so I didn't hesitate to get a bowl and I consumed it with the gusto of a hound dog!
Once our stomachs were full we made the short drive to the Rio and I signed up for the Super Seniors Tournament. The WSOP officials lowered the age requirement from 65 to 60 this year, so I was able to squeeze in just over the limit. Since we're old and everyone know old folks get up at the crack of dawn, the tournament gurus decided to begin the tournament at 10 am. Geez.
I felt a few butterflies churning in my gut as Ms. Duck and I made the long walk down the hallway to the convetion hall that housed the WSOP. It's a feeling I remember from my baseball days and I absolutely love it! Getting ready for battle.
I found my table in the Pavilion Room and immediately ordered a cup of coffee. MOJO mentioned in his blog that he would be playing in the WSOP this summer and since we had never met, I wanted to see if I could track him down.
I had no contact information for him, but since Lightning knows most of the poker bloggers, I sent him a text asking him to let MOJO know I was playing and to give me a call. In a short while I received a text from MOJO and after quite a few years, we were finally able to meet and visit during the first break of the tournament.
Almost 2,200 players began with $5,000 in tournament chips. By the first break I had increased my stack to $6,700. Nothing earth-shattering, but it's always a good feeling to be up a little at the break.
An unusual occurrence happened during the first level. Our dealer called the floor over after completing a hand and said he was not feeling well. The floor person told him to leave, sat down in the box and dealt the next hand. After that hand was completed, a substitute dealer sat down and dealt one hand. It was then time for the dealers to switch tables, so we had a new dealer for the next hand.
That's four dealers in four hands if you're keeping score at home. I've never seen that before.
Another interesting aspect to the early levels was the person sitting to my left. It was none other than Poker Hall of Fame member Jack McLelland, who was the WSOP tournament director for a number of years. I sat and talked with Jack for four hours. He spoke of his time with the WSOP, the WPT, running tournaments at the Bellagio, and helping start an online poker site. He mentioned several big name players in his musings, and not always in a positive light.
But the story that stuck with me had nothing to do with poker. We were discussing our kids when Jack mentioned his daughter had been at the music festival in Vegas where 58 people were killed. She attended with friends and when the carnage was over three of her friends had been shot. He said she has been under psychiatric care since that traumatic experience. When you speak with someone directly affected by such an event, it really brings a news story to life. Such a horrible situation.
Despite all the chit-chat, I managed to add a few chips to my stack and was sitting on $7,300 at the second break.
Shortly after returning from our 30 minute break (old men have to pee, so we get a longer break), we were moved from the Pavilion to the Amazon Room, which ended my time with Mr. McLelland.
In the two hours of play before the dinner break, I called two pushes from short stacks and although I was ahead going in, I lost them both. In the first hand I held pocked sevens, but my opponent rivered a straight. My pocket jacks were up against AJ in the second hand. An ace on the flop and another one the turn for good measure left me with $4,000 and a bad attitude at the dinner break.
After a quick bite with Ms. Duck at Smashburger, I made the stroll back to the tournament area and ran into a friend from Waco who was playing in a different WSOP event. Unfortunately, he had just busted and was making the walk of shame back to his room.
Things made a turn for the better at the next level. My big hand occurred when the UTG raised 3X the big blind. I peeked at my cards and saw two lovely aces. I three bet and was a little surprised when a third player pushed all his chips towards the center of the table. The original raiser called, as did I, and we tabled our cards. UTG showed KJ offsuit and my second opponent had AQ offsuit. My aces held for the triple up and at the break I had $10,200 in chips.
The next level was even better as I doubled up again with AA versus KJ, putting me north of $20,000. I continued to get playable hands and building my stack up to around $30.000.
The tournament paid the top 329 players and we were nearing the bubble (370 left) when I looked down at pocket kings.
An aggressive player raised to $6,000 from early position and the action folded around to me. Normally I would three bet here, but I had a healthy stack size and didn't want to overplay my hand and miss cashing. After all, half the winnings go to the other players in my league, so I felt some responsibility to them. And as my friend Rob will testify, the "dreaded pocket kings" are not always your friend.
I smooth called and planned on folding if an ace hit the board.
The flop was 3-K-4. Bingo!
Mr. Aggressive c-bet another $15,000, which was a little odd since he only had another $7,000 left in his stack. I pushed the remainder of my stack in and he insta-called, slamming his cards face up and yelling, "Aces!"
He became a little more somber when I quietly tabled my set of kings. Then he got pissed. One of the reporters was walking by and he grabbed him and hollered, "Aces versus kings, and he hits his set!" The reporter incorrectly assumed we had gotten it all in preflop and wrote his report that way. (Hummmpf...fake news! :)
I don't know what Rob's problem is with kings, they're the bomb!
A few hands later I got KK again! This time I called a push from a short stack who held AJ and knocked him out of the tournament.
My Gawd I love kings!!! What's wrong with Rob?
As we bagged our chips at the end of day one, I found myself sitting in 30th place with $65,200. We still had not reached the money, but were close with only 347 players still in. I felt we would pop the bubble within the first hour of Day 2.
Ms. Duck checked us in to the Vdara while I was playing, so we made the short drive and parked at the Bellagio. The Vdara charges $30 a day to valet your car (no self-parking) and we decided to pass on that wonderful deal. The Bellagio is a MGM property that also charges to park, but if you have a MGM Visa card, the parking is complimentary. Ms. Duck signed up for one a year ago specifically for the free parking. Smart lady.
This is the third or fourth time we have stayed at the Vdara. Their rooms are basically one room apartments, complete with a full kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, bath and a half, and washer/dryer. It's very quite and just a short tram ride to the Bellagio.
We moved back to the Pavilion Room for Day 2. I didn't get many hands worth playing and the blinds and antes nibbled away at my stack, leaving me with $58,500 chips at the first break of the day.
The cards didn't improve a lot at the next level, but I did get pocket queens twice. The first time everyone folded to my raise, but I did get a little action on the second one and made a little money. My stack stayed level, sitting at $60,000 at the second break of the day. We were down to 140 players.
Then I went card dead for almost two hours, mucking hand after hand. With three minutes to go before our next break, I finally got a hand when I pulled back the corner on each card to reveal AK. I received one caller to my raise, but he folded to my c-bet on the flop. All the folding knocked my stack down to $48,000 as the blinds and antes continued to grow. I needed to get some cards to get my stack back up to a healthy status.
By the dinner break we were down to 93 players and you could feel the excitement level rising among those still standing. I managed to build my stack up to $61,000, but was still well below average and I knew I needed to move some chips and hopefully get a double up.
The double up didn't happen, and I was able to collect a pile of chips. Pocket aces brought a nice pot, as did AK. I also made quite a bit with pocket kings...twice.
Regardless of Rob's opinion, I think KK may be my favorite hand!
At the end of Day 2 I bagged $117,000 chips. There were only 43 players left going into Day 3.
After 26 hours of poker over two days I was exhausted. Ms. Duck and I made the long trek back to our car and she drove us back to the hotel. We would be back at the Rio in 10 hours.
I would start with around 11 BB, so I would be looking for an opportunity to shove and double up. Fortunately there were a couple of large stacks at my table that would be more likely to call.
We were moved back into the Amazon Room, next to the poker television set for Day 3. It was strange to be in this huge room, full of hundreds of poker tables, yet we were only using five of them.
I had a decent seat, with a big stack to my right and Sam Grizzle to my left. Sam and I had a similar sized stack.
Sam lost most of his early on when he call ed a push with AQ. His opponent tabled AJ, but a jack hit on the flop and Sam was crippled. He showed his dismay by tossing the antes and blinds towards the female dealer for the next few hands, along with any hands that he mucked. For the next 5-10 minutes he muttered over and over "F***ing, mother f***ing, mother f***er."
What a pleasant guy. Needless to say, I was not disappointed when he was felted.
I knocked out the player who had crippled Sam when I called his push with my pocket aces. His AJ wasn't kind to him this time and I hit my high water mark for the tournament with $270,000 chips.
I then proceeded to lose $60k on the next hand. I raised from early position with AQ and received one call. I c-bet a K high board and was 3 bet to $90k. Fold. It's a shame I wasn't holding the most beautiful hand in poker...pocket kings. I might have doubled up again.
When we reached our first break of the day, we were down to 24 players and I had $160,000 chips with which to play.
Early in the next round a player pushed all in with a similar chip stack to mine. The action folded to me and as I lifted the corner of my first card, I saw a "K". Nice! I bent the second card back and could not help but notice it matched the first; another king!
"I'm all-in!" I announced, almost feeling sorry for the poor sap who was about to go to battle against the most awesome hand in poker history, POCKET KINGS! Rob is a fool.
The player who was about to double me up tabled A9 offsuit. I thought I heard the soft sound of a bugle playing Taps for my opponent as a harmless flop and turn hit the board.
And then it happened...an ace on the river!
OH MY GAWD... NOOOOOOOO!!!
The table let out a collective "Ooooooohhh" when the ace hit.
Done in by the "dreaded pocket kings."
That Rob guy is one smart fellow. Pocket kings suck!
I pushed my remaining $17,000 chips in with Q7 and was called by AQ, then 3 bet by pocket aces. A 7 hit on the flop, but so did an ace, so I was drawing dead after a blank turn card.
I finished 24th for a $10,016 payout, of which the government gets 28% and my local poker league gets half of the remaining prize money.
It was a great run and a lot of fun. To finish within 14 spots of making a final table at the WSOP was a rush! I had quite a few friends and family rooting me on via text messages and following along on the WSOP website. As always, you wish you had finished higher, but it was my deepest run to date. There was only one hand I felt I played poorly over three days, so overall I was satisfied by my performance and proud of where I finished.
Hopefully I can win a seat for next year's WSOP and have another deep run.
Till next time, win the flips!