I show up early at the casino to make sure I have time to register, and who should be next to me in line but Yurian? We’ve got time to kill, so we get lunch along the waterfront. I let him choose the place, and he selects what is essentially an overpriced fast food pasta place. So much for Europeans having good taste in food. At least he speaks some Spanish and is willing to be pushy about getting the check.
Level 1: Blinds 25/50
The 1 seat is late to arrive, and loses a big pot almost immediately after sitting down. He raises in late position and calls a re-raise from Gustav in the BB. The flop comes down Ace-high, Gustav bets 2000, the guy raises to 5000, Gustav shoves, and the guy angrily mucks, claiming he had KK. Well played, sir. Gustav shows an A.
The next big pot, Terrance raises to 150 from the CO, and Ann re-raises to 300 from the BB. The flop is K85, Ann checks and calls a bet. The turn is an 8, Ann checks, Terrance bets 1500, Ann raises to 3000, Terrance calls. The river checks through, Ann shows AJ, and Terrance’s KQ is good.
Ann picks up a few small pots with no showdown, but in every instance she has made small bets or raises relative to the pot.
Early into the third orbit, the table’s been playing tight, and I have yet to enter a pot. Terrance raises to 100 UTG, and I make it 350 in MP1 with QQ. Ann looks at her cards, looks at me, smiles, looks back at her cards, and calls. It folds around to Terrance, who calls.
Flop Jh2d3h. Terrance checks, I bet 600, and Ann starts shuffling her chips. She studies the board, looks at me, checks her cards, counts off some chips, checks her cards again, and finally raises to 3000. Terrance folds.
Next orbit, I make it 150 UTG+1 with 4c5c. The suave Swede and the short stack who showed up late call. The flop is 4h6c7c. Hello. Shorty checks, and I am about to bet when the dealer, who is talking to another dealer standing next to him and paying no attention at all, burns and turns an off-suit 5. I tell him I haven’t acted yet, and he puts the 5 next to the other cards, face up but an angle, and points to it. What the hell is that supposed to mean?
“Do you want to bet?” the Swede asks me impatiently.
“I’m still trying to figure out what is going on. We need to go back to the flop,” I tell the dealer. He points to the 5 again. The Swede folds out of turn. I call for the floor, since this dealer is making no sense. The floor announces that the 5 is burnt (not really a good card for me, even though it does give me two pair), I bet 400 on the flop, and Shorty folds.
Level 2: Blinds 50/100
The short stacks open limps in MP, Gustav limps in the CO, I limp Ah7h on the button, Ann in the SB completes, Swede in the BB checks. Flop is J T 3. Checks to me, and I bet 450. Swede calls, everyone else folds. Turn 4. Swede bets into me for 1100. I decide it would be fun to misplay this hand and just call, hoping that the river will blank so that I can represent a missed flush. Of course the river is a fourth heart, and Swede check-folds to a bet of 1800.
Not long after, Shorty calls an early position raise from Ann with T8s and pushes over a c-bet on an A-high flop with a flush draw. Ann shows AA and her set holds up, so she knocks him out, and he’s replaced by a fairly aggressive young guy (American, I think) in a PokerStars shirt. I fold fold fold some more, and observe that Gustav to my right is re-raising quite a lot, especially when in position.
With blinds at 500-100, aggro Poker Stars guy opens for 400 from the CO, and Gustav just calls from the SB. Looks like a good spot for a squeeze, since Gustav would almost certainly re-raise a big hand and I have played like one pot in the last hour. I make it 1600 with J4o and they both fold.
Level 3: Blinds 75/150
Terrance opens for 450 from CO-1, and I call with Kc Jc in the CO. He’s got about 4000 behind, and I cover. Flop 8d 8h 3h. He bets 450, I call. If my image is as weak/tight as I think it is, I should be able to take this away a fair amount of the time, and I could even have the best hand. Turn Kh. Terrance bets 800. I feel like so far I’ve represented a small to medium pair, so this is a good card for Terrance to bluff. I contemplate shoving on him, since he’s got less than a PSB left and if he has a heart, he’s got 9 outs on the river. I decide to call and call a bet on a non-heart river. River blanks, Terrance shoves for 2475, I call, he tables A8s, and I take a big hit.
Not long after, I get Aces and raise to 700 against an EP limper to take it down pre-flop.
Poker Stars, who limps a fair amount (generally I think with speculative hands when he thinks he’s been open raising too often, though he has limp-raised K’s UTG), tries to raise UTG but tosses out a black 500 chip without announcing anything, so the dealer makes him call. UTG+1 limps and I decide to just call with Ac Ks in MP2, both because raising when I know he wanted to raise reveals a lot about the strength of my hand, and because I don’t want to give him the chance to re-raise me. Button limps, SB completes, BB checks. Flop is Ac 8s 5c. Checks to me, I bet 500, folds to UTG, who check-raises to 1200. UTG+1 folds, I call. Turn is 6c, giving me the nut flush draw, and we check it through. Although this is a very good card for me and it seems like my hand is best, I can’t expect worse hands to call more than one bet, and I think the river will be a better place than the turn to get value. The river is an off-suit 7, putting a four-straight on the board. UTG checks, and I think for a while. I really feel like he has AJ/AQ, since he wanted to raise UTG, but I don’t know if they call a bet (they shouldn’t, in my opinion). And it is possible that he’s checking a better hand, since there are three clubs and four connected cards on the board. I decide to check behind, and his AJ no club is no good.
Level 4: Blinds 100/200
Terrance raises to 600 from MP1, I call with J T in CO-1, and Ann calls in the CO. Flop is T43r, Terrence bets 1100, I call, Ann folds. Turn is a 4 and puts a flush draw on the board. Terrance checks. I contemplate checking behind for pot control, but he could have 6 outs, and there are really 16 cards that I don’t want to see on the river. I bet 1400, and Terrance shoves for like 4000 more. I think for a long time and fold, and he shows me KK. I think the small turn bet saved me some money, since his river bet probably would have been larger.
With a little over 6000 chips, I find AQo UTG and raise to 600. Ann calls UTG+1, everyone else folds. Flop is Q 9 7r. I bet 900, Ann raises to 2000 (these small raises from her have generally been bluffs or weak made hands looking to take control of the betting). I shove for 3500 more, and she stares me down. “I really don’t think you have a Q,” she tells me, and I try hard to think unqueenly thoughts. “I’ve got to go with my read,” she announces. “I call,” and tables 77. The turn gives her a gutshot, but my hand holds up, and for the only time all tournament, I have a slightly above average stack.
Halfway through this level, we break for dinner, which proves to be the highlight of the event. We’ve all gotten dinner vouchers that enable us to eat at a special buffet the casino is spreading just for us. Holy wow: they’ve got oysters, swordfish, several kinds of shrimp, lamb, ham, chicken, breads, fruit, vegetables, and an equally dazzling array of desserts. As soon as Dan and I take our seats, a waiter brings us a bottle of wine, which unfortunately we’re hesitant to enjoy for fear of inhibiting our play, so it goes largely to waste.
Ann and I are the first two back to our table, and I comment on how great the dinner was. “I have to last until tomorrow just so I can get another dinner ticket,” I tell her.
“They didn’t have any rice,” she notes unhappily.
“OK, but they had everything else under the sun.”
“I was really in the mood for rice.”
Play resumes. The suave Swede limps UTG, Team Hink limps UTG+1, Poker Stars limps, Gustave limps, and I come in with 78o on the Button. SB completes, BB checks. Flop 9s 8c 3s. Checks to Gustave, who bets 600. My instinct is to call, but I think it through and decide that would be stupid. He tends to fire at a pot any time he thinks he can take it with a bet, and this could certainly be one of those situations. And while it’s not a super draw-heavy board, my call could very easily entice one or more overcalls behind me. If I raise now, I should be able to knock out the limpers (or find out that one of them has a monster) and either take it down or get it heads up in position with Gustave. I make it 1600, and they all fold. It probably doesn’t matter much that I have a pair there (though I think it does a little bit, and the backdoor draw counts for something as well).
Level 5: Blinds 150/300
I start catching even more garbage this level, and decide to make the best of it by nurturing my tight image. I definitely notice players, especially the three across the table from me (aggro Brit, Poker Duck, and Poker Stars), starting to target my blind for raises. For the most part I let them get away with, planning on punishing them once antes have kicked in. I do, however, try to monitor my image carefully and get away with everything I can without hurting this image. So from time to time, I just open raise any two from whatever position I happen to be in when I feel like it’s been too long since I played a pot. I’m looking for opportunities to re-steal as well, as there are a lot of aggressive players opening light, but Gustav on my right is jumping on a lot of the good spots first.
He gets caught eventually and ends up relatively short-stacked, so then his re-steals become all ins. Poker ducks, who has started raising nearly 3x per orbit, raises to 900 when I am in the BB, and I am planning on re-raising almost anything (possibly calling if it’s in a certain family of medium-strength hands that will play well OOP). Gustav shoves for 4500 from the SB, and I am severely tempted to shove KTo over the top. I seriously consider it for about two minutes, and decide that it is already a thin play, and the damage that I will do to my image by having to showdown KT in that spot is enough to make it a fold. Ducks calls with AJo (I can’t imagine him calling with that if I shove in for 12K) and his hand holds up unimproved against Gustav’s 98s. Those could have been my chips! His seat is filled by the Portuguese guy I met on the shuttle the other night.
Last hand before break, Ducks opens for 900 in MP1. I haven’t had as many opportunities to repop him as I wanted, and even though this might force me to wait a bit before restealing once the antes kick in, I decide not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, as I could see him opening almost any two, since people are so quick to fold and go on break. I make it 2700 with J5o from the SB, and he folds.
Level 6: Blinds 150/300/25
These are tiny antes, but they do increase each starting pot by like 40%, and it works out well for me since I continue to pick up [censored].
Ducks raises my blind for the umpteenth time, and I find K J. This is one of those hands where I feel I’m better off calling, so I do. The flop is A 6 8, and we check it through. Turn is T, I bet 1200, and Ducks calls. River is A, I think for a while and check, and he bets 3500. I fold suspiciously.
Team Hink busts and is replaced by a guy in a Poker Stars shirt with his name (Simon Young) embroidered on it. I don’t know if this is someone I should know or if that’s just something you can spend FPP on, but he doesn’t seem to be a great player. He limps UTG, Portugal By Way of Connecticut limps in the CO, and I have AQs, the best hand I’ve seen in ages, on the button. My weak tight ass tells me to respect the UTG limp, but I grow a pair and make it 1500 to take it down pre-flop.
Level 7: Blinds 200/400/50
My stack is a little awkward for re-stealing right now, as the standard raise is to 1200 and I have about 12,000. Any re-raise commits me, and 10x the raise is a lot to commit with garbage. Unfortunately, the pot is opened ahead of me by one of the aggressive players on my right pretty often, so I don’t get a lot of opportunities to steal raise, either. Maybe I need to add a pre-flop call and flop/turn steal to my medium stack arsenal.
The aggressive Poker Stars guy busts out and is replaced by an older British guy who seems to know the aggressive young British kid. I’ve always heard there is a stereotype of Americans as boorish hold ‘em players, but this guy is a boorish Brit hold ‘em player. He is constantly complaining about the service, shouting “Senor!” or “Senorita!” and then throwing up his arms in exasperation when a waiter does not respond. He also likes to remind the dealers to muck hands immediately if the player is not at the table and other kind of trivial [censored] that even though he is right about it I wish he would just STFU. His name is Dave.
It folds to me on the button for the first time in ages, and I make it 1200 with 98o. Ann calls from the SB, BB folds, she leads 2500 on an AK5 flop, and I fold.
Suddenly a floor person is standing over our table with laminated white paper cards in his hand. [censored] [censored] [censored] he is breaking the table! Just when I wanted to start capitalizing on my tight image! I really need to get better at tracking when a table is going to break when I play these live events. [censored].
I’m moved to a new, less aggressive table, which is actually bad for me as I was hoping to start re-stealing more actively. Now I’ve got to establish an image and identify aggressive players all over again. Almost immediately I’m in the BB, and it folds around to the SB, a woman (Spanish, I think), who raises to 1000. I want to play so badly, but I look down at 83 and throw it away in disgust.
I find AJ in CO-1 and make it 1200 with like 8000 behind. It folds to the BB, who raises 4000 more. It’s the best hand I’ve seen in ages, but I know I have to fold it. He’s got no reason to think I’m up to no good and almost certainly has me crushed.
Next orbit the Spanish woman opens for 1200 from MP and I shove over the top with AJ to scoop a sizeable pot. Next hand I get AQ and pick up the blinds. Next hand I get 9’s and now I’m in MP1. I make it 1200 again, and a young guy in sunglasses and an Interpoker shirt quickly calls. The BB, a young guy (American, I think) in sunglasses and a Poker Stars shirt raises 4200 more. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. I’ve just picked up some chips, and now I’m going to have sacrifice 1200 of them. I think and think, trying to rationalize a shove, but there’s really no reason for BB to think he could pick up this pot enough to make a squeeze profitable. I raise from EP for the third time in a row, and I get a called quickly. I muck, Interpoker shoves, BB calls reluctantly with his QQ. He’s up against KK and goes busto.
I fold for a while, then get AQs in the SB. I’ve got 8000 chips, so it’s a great hand to shove over a standard raise of 1200. A kind of quiet player in EP min-raises to 800. I really wish he’d raised more. This is how much he raised last time he opened, so I’m not worried that way, it’s just that I wish he’d put more in the pot so a shove isn’t such a big over bet. I guess maybe I could get fancy and make it 2400 and shove any flop or something, but the pot is already more than 25% of my stack, so I just shove and take it down.I fold a bit more and the level is over.Level 8: Blinds 300/600/75
9000 isn’t so comfortable anymore. I go through the blinds once and I’m basically back in open shoving territory. I’ve still got some fold equity on a re-raise all-in, but not as much as I’d like. It turns out not to matter as I pick up 3’s in the CO and shove for 7700. Interpoker quickly calls from the SB, and I know I’m [censored]. He turns over 99, the A25 flop gives me nearly a 25% chance of winning, but I can’t get there, and I am busto! I track down Dan and Yurian and wish them well, then head outside to see if I can catch the Poker Stars shuttle. Oh good, I was hoping it would be raining!
The shuttle is outside waiting, but the only other people on it are Poker Stars staff. None of them say anything to me when I get on, so I just go sit by myself towards the back. I’m not really that bummed, as I don’t feel I made any real big mistakes and just got really card dead/cold decked. Besides, I’d already told myself that even if I did bust, that would be more time to enjoy my Barcelona vacation, not such a bad deal.
The Poker Stars people are talking about TV, and the American woman among them is lamenting that all the movies she wants to see are available in her room, but they are all in Catalan. Then she and a British woman get in an argument over whether US or British TV is better. At one point she remarks that reality TV is “sooooooooo good” and my brain rewards me with some great Teen Girl Squad memories. They ask the media guy for his opinion, and he tells them rather disdainfully that the US produces better scripted shows, but the UK has better reality shows.
It’s like three in the morning when I get back to my room, but remarkably I manage to find someone talking about poker on one of the two English stations I can pick up. Unfortunately, the show is unbelievably bad.
The “commentary expert” is asking the “poker expert” some “frequently asked questions”:
Q: What do you think of notoriously difficult to play hands like small pairs?
A: It’s a bad idea to play anything smaller than 88 in early position (they are talking about NLHE).
Q: And how about Queens? A lot of players aren’t sure what to do with those.
A: When you get Queens pre-flop, you need to raise enough that you can get rag Aces and rag Kings to fold. I advise people to put in a juicy raise, 5-6 times the big blind, to let people know you have a big hand. And even if you are called, you are just off to the races.
Puke. Now they return to commentating on what seems to be an online poker tournament of some sort. Based on the level of play, it is either a $1 tournament or a Pacific Poker tournament (maybe even both). Everyone is real shallow, blinds are 75/150 but few players have 1500. The commentators are approving of players limping suited Ace-rags in early position, overbetting top two pair on the flop “to protect against the flush draw”, and other poker playing abortions. I finally just turn it off and go to sleep.