August 2006
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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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