August 2006
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Heat getting to ya?

Big Fun at the Stratosphere (part 2)

With 6 left, 5 of the remaining players wanted to make a deal but the chip leader thought that having about 12 big blinds was plenty to make sure he would take first place and said no. That particular idiot ended up third for a little more than $500, whereas a 5-way chop would have landed him about $650.

After one more player busted there were two large stacks and three that would be forced to move very shortly. Claire suggested a deal with the other two short stacks so that nobody goes home empty handed, basically to split the 3rd and 4th money into three equal prizes for the 3rd to 5th. Floorman Rodney calculated that it would make $228 each leaving the top two prizes unchanged. He yelled “put the cards in the air” and briskly walked off, clearly not caring much for having to work out a deal for such a small amount.

The dealer restarted the game and announced “The next player out gets $228. The player after that gets $228 and the next player gets $228”. Claire busted out the next hand, moving in with a small piece of the flop and getting called by a slightly larger piece. Needing to make 2nd place now to win any more money there was no point hanging about.

Claire wandered over to the floorman to get her winnings, only to be greeted by a bemused look and to be told “we’re paying four spots”. Why? Because one of the players didn’t agree to the deal, he said.

So we went home, empty handed and disappointed.

Like hell we did.

The dealer had announced the deal, and four of the five players and everyone watching thought that this was how the game would being played out. Three players were going to gamble and lose, but still take home more than they bought in for. The other two would probably end up splitting the 1st and 2nd prize money for about $1200 each.

So how did Rodney deal with this situation? His decision, he said, is final. There was no deal. What the dealer says means nothing. You’ve misunderstood and hard luck. Please keep your voice down. There’s nothing more to say. If you want to take it up with someone else…

Yes. We do.

But before that, we sat and tried to calm down a bit. We tried to figure out what actually happened. I remembered thinking that the floorman had walked away rather quickly after he said to restart the tournament, but with the dealer announcing so clearly what the deal structure was I couldn’t see how there was any doubt about the deal. He argued with Claire that a chop is a chop, and if three players agreed on money then they have to drop out of the tournament. Well, I’ve made that kind of deal before. I’ve made it at the Strat, too. Besides, that would be a horrible deal, giving up any chance of the big money in exchange for a share of only the lower prizes. However small your chip stack, you still have equity in the rest of the prize pool.

So did the player that apparently objected – a different player this time – know Rodney? Was there going to be a deal if she was 5th but not otherwise? Well that’s a little paranoid, but it makes you wonder. She didn’t say a word when the dealer announced the deal, but why not? She may actually have said no (even though nobody else heard it) but then decided to keep quiet and let the other players think they had made money and bust each other out whilst she clung on for 2nd or 3rd. Possible, but I don’t even think she had enough chips to be sure of doing that, even if we credit her with the ability to be that deceptive.

We couldn’t figure out why on earth it was being handled this way. We had a floorman who had already failed to communicate with the players and with his dealer, and was now stubbornly waving a “my decision is final” flag without even trying to find out why the dealer and most of the final table players thought the tournament structure had been altered. This man clearly has no people management skills – you’d think there are better career decisions for him than casino floorman.

One of the players made a motion that we should stick around, as if they were going to carve up the money anyway. But it didn’t take long for 4th place to go home, taking the original $171 prize money. He agreed that it was all bullshit, and then promptly left the building. So what do we do? Hang around and wait for a handout? Don’t think so.

The pit boss we approached found it amusing that we were asking to speak to the casino manager. He knew it wasn’t his ass on the line so maybe he just likes to see someone causing trouble. Or maybe he likes to see how people react when they meet shift manager Scott for the first time. Kinda scary, mediterranean looking with a nice bit of bling on his fingers. He’s probably connected, at the very least. And we’re bothering him for what seems like the sake of $200. Hey it’s the damn principle now.

Well we actually got a result pretty quickly, and our car didn’t blow up on the way out. The valet would have been the one getting whacked anyway, not us. Scary Scott spoke to plonker Rodney and to the dealer and the result was that Claire was getting paid the amount the dealer had told her she’d be getting. Scott went back to work, probably looking for cheats to take to a back room, whilst Rodney became very friendly, but still procrastinated and it took a good hour to get paid. He had to bodge it by putting the payout through as a high hand jackpot.

All in all, a ridiculous situation to be in. Claire finished 5th and ended up with a bigger payout than the 4th place finisher, for basically causing enough of a fuss to get paid to shut up and stop wasting the casino management’s time.

Technically it’s +EV but it just shouldn’t have happened.

Big Fun at the Stratosphere (part 1)

Oh we had some fun yesterday we did. That all comes in part two though, because I’m afraid this is a bit long. Let’s start with the actual poker.

We both played in the 8pm tournament at the Stratosphere, which is a $50 buy in with one rebuy and one add on. The structure is pretty brain dead really. You start with 2000 chips for the initial $50, but get 3000 for the $40 rebuy. The $40 add on gets a further 5000 but you can only take it after two hours, and then only if you also took the rebuy.

Overall it sounds like you’re playing with 10,000 chips and blinds starting at 25/25 which should great, even though the 15 minute levels keep things moving rather quickly. Except that because you have to wait two hours for the add on, it all gets a bit stupid. Two hours at 15 minute levels puts you on level 8 before the break – blinds are then 300/600 with a 75 ante. This is a three-table tournament, but with alternates it finished up with 40 entrants, although most of the 10 alternates were players who had already busted out and bought straight back in. This defies logic as you end up making a loss with anything less than second place.

Unless you have been very lucky in the first 90 minutes it seems to me that you have almost no reason to play a hand in the last two levels before the break. If you have an average stack of 6000-7000 chips, you have no room to manouvre (for Harrington fans, your M is about 4) so it’s push or fold time. And in that situation, if you move in and get busted the downside is much greater than the downside to giving up a few blinds and either having to rebuy for $90 or go home without being able to take the great value add-on. By sitting tight you might lose 1600 chips in a round but you can then pay $40 for another 5000 – still better value than the rebuy.

I’d said to Claire that if I was playing this tournament online, I’d be using maximum time bank every hand – often a great tactic in “turbo” tournaments! That didn’t really matter though, as the dealers only managed to get in about four hands every level at that stage so it did only cost one round to survive the last two levels. The 50 and 75 antes really slow the game down with at least half the players needing change every hand.

After open folding pocket 7s twice at the 300/600/25 level (tell me there’s a reason to get involved here – I can’t see one!) I managed to steal one round of blinds just before the break. I saw A8o on the button and it was folded to me. The small blind, one of three Danish guys in the tournament who were in town to report on the WSOP main event, was already making the motion to fold and I had the big blind well covered so I moved in. Even then, I wasn’t sure this was a great move.

After almost everyone added on, the push-fest took a one level break and then continued as normal. We both made it to the final table but I’m short-stacked, even after my crazy double-up with Q5o, and take a long shot gamble on my big blind with 67o. There is an all-in raise and a call ahead of me but I’m in for 3000, have 6000 left and don’t have much choice but to take just better than 4-1 pot odds and hope they both have unpairred big cards. I am against AK and JJ – the flop brings an Ace, the turn makes me a straight draw but the river is no help and it’s a double knockout. I finish 8th.

This structure is just bizarre. The first 6 levels play well, then when the add-on approaches it becomes wrong to play almost any hand. Then after the break you take a coin-flip to reach the final table and it just plays like a short-stacked sit-and-go to the end. It’s not terrible, but breaking after 6 levels instead of 8 would be a huge improvement.

Anyway, 6 players left and Claire is still in…

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