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Day 9: Drive-by shooting

Because American roads are so wide and straight and because big, automatic cars with cruise control are so easy to drive, it’s almost expected that you don’t give your full attention to the road.

So, with only a little shame, here’s a photo I took last night from somewhere along Jones Blvd.  Is it really any more dangerous than driving with a cellphone to your ear, or a cheeseburger to your lips?

There appeared to be storms on all sides of the valley.  This is the view of the mountains to the west – a gorgeous storm at sunset, which the photo barely does justice.  The skies feel so much bigger out here.

To the east the skies were much darker – and less pretty – with lightning cutting through the sea of light pollution every few seconds.  I’m not yet capable of taking pictures of lightning whilst driving, but I do want to learn how.

Day 8: In the money!

We’re in the money!

From 219 entrants, 22 will return for Day 2.  The top 27 get paid, so I have $1470 (minus a tip, to be decided) in the bank.  With the $920 from Thursday, that means all my backers are already getting virtually all of their money back, with a possible profit on the horizon.

The next money checkpoint is when 18 are left – we’re playing 9-handed – and then 10th to 18th place receive $2525.  Top prize is $57,000, but that’s a long way off.

Don’t get too excited, though.  I only have 9500 in chips left (the second shortest stack), the next level is 1000/2000 blinds with a 500 ante.  Oh, and I’m also on the big blind next hand.

I had to survive two 50/50s to get this far (pocket 9s and 6s both holding up against overcards, all in pre-flop) and I’m going to need to gamble again almost straight away tomorrow.  I never really managed to accumulate chips, after seeing almost no cards at all for the first nine hours!  I’d seen ace-king twice (one time folding it pre-flop when facing a raise and re-raise) and pocket tens once.  No pair higher than that the whole time.  It was a tough table to steal from, so generally I stayed out of trouble.

My key hand - and in fact probably the most difficult hand I ever played – was when I was finally dealt QQ.  Blinds were 400/800 with a 100 ante, and I raised to 2500.  The player to my immediate left, who had come to the table with a large stack and played very aggressively since arriving, just called.  The small blind also called.

Flop: jack-eight-something.

I can’t remember exactly, it took me quite a while to settle down again after the hand!

The small blind checks, and I bet 5,000 – I have 11,000 left.  The aggressive player moves all in and the small blind folds.  I change my mind about what to do 300 times, amazed that nobody calls the clock on me as I must have taken at least five minutes to finally call.  He flipped over ace-jack for top pair, top kicker and I didn’t get unlucky.  For the first time in the tournament, I was above average in chips!

I’d love to be able to explain what exactly convinced me to make the call, but it’s just a bit of a blur. :)

We’re back in action at noon (8pm UK time) tomorrow (today, in fact, just about everywhere now).

EDIT: I’ve pulled the live update graph for Day 2.  It didn’t serve much purpose.  I saw 98s on my big blind and moved all in after one player raised.  I was just hoping that I wasn’t dominated, getting more than 2-1 on my money with the high antes.  No such luck – he flipped up A8 and I didn’t get there.  One hand played, and 22nd place.

Live updates: Orleans Open $1050 No-Limit Hold’em

 Click on the graph to enlarge.

 Tournament begins at 12 noon (8pm UK time)

Day 7: Limit folly

I don’t want this to sound like a bad beat story, because I played it bad and put just as much money in the pot when I was behind as when I was ahead, and should have lost less.  But this is what went wrong in the limit tournament, and why it just felt like I played a slot machine for six hours.

For the first three hours, you spin the reels and win or lose a small amount of chips.  If you run hotter than the Human Torch then you might be able to double up by the end of level 3.  Likewise, if you’re incredibly unlucky or repeatedly try to force moves that are doomed to fail in a limit game, or call down with crappy middle pairs, you might be broke sometime before the start of the fourth hour.

I never thought I’d criticise a tournament structure for being too slow, or starting with too many chips, but this one was.  You wait around five hours, your good hand doesn’t hold up, you’re dead.  Could have done without all that waiting around and passing 2% of my stack back and forth, really.

For most players, the game actually starts round about level 5, where you can start to dent another player’s stack and improve your own significantly enough to make a difference.  At this point, you’re betting your tournament life on a couple of spins of the reels.

My first moment of significance – and my moment of doom – came in level 6.  Blinds were 200/400, and I raised to 800.  The player to my left called, and the next player in turn raised to 1200.  It’s four bets from me.  Piggy in the middle called, and the other raiser did his best to cap it (it’s a five bet cap) but only had 150 more.  We saw a three-way flop with 3750 (about 16 small bets) in the pot.

With one player all in, I checked in the dark expecting to see no further action for the rest of the hand.

Flop: 9 T Q

The cold-calling suckout monkey bet.  I realise now that I should just call down here, but instead I decided to unleash a mighty check-raise.  What purpose does that serve?  None, really.  He is folding nothing for 19-1 pot odds, and the last thing I need to do is cripple my stack.  Yet that’s what I did.

After he called, I then spitefully bet out on the small turn card.  Why didn’t I pay attention to the fact he was betting a dry side pot in the first place, and consider that just perhaps I was already beaten?  Why not take into account that being able to play another hand if I’m not going to win this one is more important than pushing a tiny edge that I might not even have?

Only after he raised did I realise that pocket kings were no good.  But with 12-1 pot odds to draw to the gutshot, and possibly two more outs to catch a set I had to call.

There’s no getting away after that.  Just in case he overplayed top pair, I check/call the river.  His set of nines is good enough to beat me, but not the set of tens from the all-in player.

So I lost 1.5BB more than I should have on the hand.  It doesn’t sound that significant, but it was.  With only a thousand and change left, I was committed to whatever hand I decided to play next.  The best sniff of anything I got the next two orbits was A7o, and I barely lasted long enough to pick up the dinner buffet coupon (although I do have a 100% record of surviving long enough to collect this extra food comp) before busting out.

I finished about 60th out of 90 players.  A big disappointment considering this was the extra tournament I wanted to play that made me decide to look for backers to cover the additional cost.

However, I can now say with some certainty that I’m not going to go out of my way to play a limit tournament again!

Live updates: Orleans Open $540 Fixed Limit Hold’em

 Click on the graph to enlarge.

 Tournament begins at 12 noon (8pm UK time)

Day 6: Comp and circumstance

I already wrote about how badly Terrible’s breakfast buffet sucked, but with a ton of points to spend we’ve already been back twice for free lunches.

Here’s the deal with Terrible’s, and the reason we can’t stay away.  Every day apart from Thursday and Sunday (which are double point days) you can get a $5 gift card to spend at their gas stations (in fact it looks like they will work at any Chevron pump) with every 1000 points earned – PLUS you get to keep the points.

One point is awarded for every $1 pumped through a machine.  They have 9/6 jacks-or-better video poker, which is a 99.5% payback and so with every $1000 played, your expected loss is $5 and the gas card freebie makes it a break-even game.  We’ll use a lot of gas this trip so it’s just as good as money.

The Jeep may have to be swapped before we go anywhere outside the valley, as there’s a very peculiar leak that seems to be coming from the air conditioner.  It gets wet under the passenger side mat as well as dripping onto the ground after stopping – quite a worry for a vehicle that’s only 500 miles old.

After the free gas, you still get to spend your points.  That same 1000 points is worth just over $3 at the cafe or $5 in the gift shop.  I already blew some on a shirt, a bottle of Jim Beam and some tickets to see George Wallace.  The buffet though is the best value by miles.  Breakfast is just 250 points, lunch 350 and dinner 500.  We could already eat there for the next three weeks for free – if we wanted to.

A $14 bottle of my mate Jim – yes, that’s about 7 quid – was 2800 points.  A bargain if we paid for it and even better for free, but the same points would be worth five dinner buffets – if we could ever possibly eat that many!  George Wallace was 2000 points for 2 tickets, worth (apparently) $87 each.  I don’t expect anyone ever pays full price, but it’s still a pretty sweet deal.

Lunch really isn’t too bad, if you don’t expect the same spread you’d get for $19.95 at the Bellagio.  It’s pretty much canteen food, functional and nothing special.  There’s a taco station, some kind of pasta or spaghetti, some kind of stewed meat and a salad bar.  If there were pizza slices it would be perfect, but it’s still absolutely fine to keep you going through to dinner!  Remember, we’re here for four weeks – it doesn’t have to be prime rib and shrimp every day!

So am I winning so far?  Nope.  But Claire is more than making up for it.  "Can I have a jack of hearts please", she turned to me and asked.  "OK", I said, pretending to do a jedi mind trick to the machine.

And there it was.

Day 5: Profiteroles

Congratulations to my backers – you’re sort of in profit!

I made 18th place in tonights (by which of course I actually mean last night’s – Thursday 26th – because of the time difference) $540 tournament in the Orleans Open, scooping a whopping $945 prize.  After a $25 tip (a little tight, but with 4% already withheld from the prize pool for dealers, I wasn’t going to go overboard) that’s $9.20 coming back to you for each 1% share.

Plus, as I’ve only paid $870 in buy-ins so far, that’s an overall profit from the two events I’ve played so far.  $50 in total, so fifty cents for each share!  Ship it!

It could have been so much sweeter had just one of three potentially huge hands won for me.  After a massive pot just before the dinner break I was up to over $27k in chips, with the average at about $12k.  I then lost 3 big pots; with a nut flush and gutshot straight draw that didn’t get there against two players all-in, and with AK losing twice against shorter stacks all in pre-flop – AQ and T3 if you must know.  Any one of those pots would have put me in much better shape than the $6k I ended up when we were 3 off the money.

I don’t really know how, but I pulled off a survival miracle with blinds at $600/$1200 with a $200 ante, after deciding that it was probably better to try to creep into money (as 10th to 18th place all paid the same) than gamble it up and go broke on or near the bubble.  After nobody was eliminated for what seemed like a week, I would have been all in on the big blind the very next hand when two players went broke at the same time – including one from my table.  I thank them very much for paying no attention whatsoever to my stack size.

So it’s not a spectacular result, but it’s a start.  Bring on the limit tournament!

Live updates: Orleans Open $540 No-Limit Hold’em

 Click on the graph to enlarge.

 Tournament begins at 12 noon (8pm UK time)

Day 4: This is an ex-casino

I took the opportunity to have a posthumous snoop around the New Frontier.  The doors were open to allow viewing for the auction of the entire contents that takes place today.

I’m not really interested in three dozen trash cans,  or the contents of 920 guest bedrooms (sold as one lot), so I won’t be rushing to go back and bid for anything.  I just wanted to have a look inside a closed casino.  It was very eerie indeed.

This hotel has passed on.

The casino bar is no more.

It has ceased to be.

This coffee shop has expired and gone to meet its maker.

The pool area bar is a stiff.  Bereft of life.

The sports book rests in peace.

[Message reads: Sports book closes 6pm.  Mail those winning tickets in to the address on the back of your winning ticket!]

If you hadn’t nailed the mechanical bull to the perch it’d be pushing up the daisies!

[Sign in window: Mud wrestling cancelled]

The casino has kicked the bucket.

This guest suite has shuffled off its mortal coil.

It’s run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!!

THIS IS AN EX-CASINO!

Day 3: Lucky 13

So I have no chance now.  Thirteenth player to enter.  Not sure whether to expect an early exit, or a long hard slog followed by a cruel elimination on the bubble.  Out of my hands really.

 Live updates will appear here:

EDIT: The bust out was in 45th place, 27 were getting paid.