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Runner runner world champion

Jerry Yang (a new poker millionaire, not the Yahoo! billionaire) took it, with pocket eights against Tuan Lam‘s ace queen with all the money in pre-flop.  After getting outflopped, he runner-runnered a two-gap gutshot straight for $8.25m.  A true champion.

5 Q 9
(unnecessary long pause)
7
(even longer pause)
6

Phil Gordon wins at WSOP Main Event

A novelty side bet, that is.  A bracelet… nah, he still hasn’t got one.

Thanks to some dodgy geezer streaming the ESPN pay-per-view coverage on a dodgy web site, I’ve been able to watch some of the Main Event final table live.  Although, I didn’t exactly sit and watch it intently because it’s just a little bit on the dull side.

Of particular dullness are the incomprehensibly long delays where the dealer dutifully freezes (I think he’s also required to not breath) between dealing each round of cards when a player is all-in.  They must have to take a moment to drag in a few more cameras, as it’s very important to make sure they can catch the reactions of all two players in the hand, get a fresh look at the prize money, and also see all five board cards as they sprint across almost half a yard of felt.  How on earth does the ESPN crew cope with NFL games?

When everyone’s ready the announcer says, "Here comes the turn card".  Thanks for that.  These guys have been playing this tournament for eight out of the past 12 days.  Right now it’s level 32 ($150,000/$300,000 blinds with a $40,000 ante) so that’s about 64 hours, not counting breaks, in total so far.  They all know what comes after the flop by now, even if they didn’t when they paid $10,000 to enter.

The live audience may not have been paying such close attention as the players the past fortnight, but they turned up to watch the World’s Slowest Poker Game – it’s not like there’s nothing else to do in Vegas today - so they must have at least a passing interest in the game.  I’m pretty sure they know that the last card dealt is called the river.

The folks watching at home (some of them at least) paid $19.95 to have 16 hours of their life drained away, so they probably know a bit of the lingo too.  Even if they didn’t, there’s still Phil Gordon and A. N. Sidekick saying pretty much the same thing as the announcer at pretty much the same time.  And when it’s shown to the masses on ESPN proper in August, there’ll still be Norman Chad.  (I can’t possibly even start to go there).

So back to the victory.  Phil Hellmuth was making his way to the commentary booth – which is actually a desk – and Gordon made a bet with Sidekick: how long before Hellmuth mentions his eleven bracelets?  The line was set at 45 seconds, and Gordon took the under.

Hellmuth was given a flattering introduction… and then…

36 seconds.  $100.  Ship it.

A World Champion Speaks

In just three weeks time I’ll be playing the first of four tournaments I plan to enter in the Orleans Open.  Three no-limit Hold’em poker tournaments, and one fixed limit folly.  My backers may be wondering what I’ve been doing in order to prepare for the fixed limit event.

Fixed limit tournaments are quite rare – The Orleans has two $40 limit tournaments in their normal weekly schedule, but they’re the only ones in town that I know of.  I’ve never played one live before.  I’ve played a few online, but mostly by accident on Party Poker, where they still insist on labelling fixed limit as simply "Hold’em" and you’re meant to remember that the default format for a poker tournament is fixed limit.  The infinitely more popular no-limit tournaments are labelled "NL Hold’em" and pot limit is marked "PL Hold’em", so I guess the distinction is there.  But given that even the times I’ve intended to enter a limit tournament, I’ve ended up at a table with at least half the players not wanting to be there, they might consider making a simple change for the benefit of many of their players.  Oh, never mind, I just remembered who we’re talking about…

From what I remember, the first few hands always go like this:

Raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.
Bet raise raise cap call call call call call.

The sound of half a dozen players trying to bust out so they can start again in a different tournament that they actually want to play.  But even after all that action, the losers still have 80% of their starting stack left.  And so the pattern begins again.

You never know, it might be just the same as this in a $540 festival tournament, but I doubt it.

I’ve not really found anything lately, but I’m still on the lookout for some limit tournaments I could try online.  I want to find a tournament with a decent sized field (I remember playing in a field of just seven on Empire a while back) and one where the players do actually want to be there, so I can get a feel for how the dynamics of the game change as the limits increase.

In case I don’t find anything suitable in time though, I can always keep in mind the strategy employed by the youngest ever World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Steve Billirakis.  He won Event #1, $5000 World Championship Mixed Hold’em event – which alternated between no-limit and fixed limit every 30 minutes – aged 21 years and 10 days.

In this interview with Phil Gordon from the Expert Insight WSOP Podcast, Billirakis revealed (obviously I’m paraphrasing) that he is an arrogant rich kid who was desparate to get onto TV playing poker as soon as possible after his 21st birthday, without having – or thinking he might need to have – any idea how to actually play a game that made up 50% of this tournament.  Sadly, he got very lucky.

LOL dickaments.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

"I don’t have much experience playing limit Hold’em, so I pretty much avoided playing limit Hold’em"

Oh, if you still want a piece of my action, I only have 5% left for sale, and it’s going on eBay very shortly if I don’t shift it!

Taupe is very soothing

Tony G does a brilliant job of demonstrating the blandness and complete lack of character at the Rio, by filming his video blog in a lovely taupe room where the World Series of Poker payouts are processed.

Daylight

At 4.10am the pop up banner announced a ten minute break.  I never had a ten minute break on Poker Stars before.  Well, I guess that’s something to be pleased about if I don’t make it now.

Morning has broken, it’s getting light outside.  I need to be up early in the morning to take Claire to school and her car to the garage.  I wouldn’t mind being fit to drive, but that looks like a long shot.  373 players remain.  231 get paid, of which 220 walk away with an $11k package.  Which really is an $11,000 cash prize, as Stars cannot register players into the WSOP.

The chip leader is at my table, and he could easily fold to victory, yet he’s still playing, calling big bets, and knocking players out.  I’d quite like to move tables.  I’d also quite like to see a big hand and have it hold up.  I’m below average now, but it feels like I’m one coinflip away from standing a damn good chance.

That’d be a $5500 coinflip then.  Where did my comfort zone go?

EDIT: Nearly 6am.  The four figure coinflop was 66 vs AJ.  I raised, and the flop looked good.  An ace on the river and it was all but over.  256th.  8 hours, no cigar.

Putting seats on bums

Welcome to stupidly large World Series of Poker satellite night.

On Poker Stars, 150 seats are guaranteed to be given away and on Full Tilt another 100.  In fact, between the two sites there’s over $4 million dollars in play – enough for 359 ten thousand dollar seats, and a bit of pocket change to the runners up.

I never even thought of playing one of these until today, yet here I am, battling with nearly 7000 others on Poker Stars in Probably The World’s Largest Satellite Poker Tournament Ever.  OK, actually it was ever so slightly bigger last year, but not so much you’d notice.

Let’s rewind a bit.

Turbo satellites are silly.  With the blinds at $1500/$3000, plus a $150 ante, I have little more than one small blind remaining.  Click on the thumbnail to see the full table image.  For Harrington fans, does the fabric of the universe falls apart when you have an M that has to be expressed as a fraction?  It all looks grim, and yet I’m loving it.  Believe it or not, I’m in great shape here.

This was an $80+$8 qualifier to the main satellite.  The lobby called it a "last chance" tournament, but I will argue that it was actually my first and only chance.  One in five got a seat, and it looked like a good way to use up my W$ balance, which has been doing pretty much nothing for as long as I can remember.  Sure I could have sold them for 80% of value, but I figured eventually there’d be a more interesting way to spend them.  This was going to be it.

With 350 players remaining and 317 getting paid, I’d been fortunate enough to get two successive table breaks that landed me in a good seat, just as I was about to be blinded out.  Game of skill my arse.  Cards were irrelevant by that point.  Almost nobody could survive one round of blinds, so all that mattered was hanging on longer than everybody else.  With 38 tables left, 33 players left to be eliminated and the luxury of five free hands before I was forced in on the big blind, I needed 6 or 7 players to go bust for every hand played at my table.  No problem.  I was all set to fold pocket aces.

Two hands later, you could probably hear my woohoos.  I’d got a result in the turbo poker lottery, which from start to finish took just 75 minutes to eliminate 80% of the field.

The main satellite will be somewhat slower, however.  30 minute levels and 6702 players to money.  Could be a late one.

WSOP 2007 Schedule Announced

Harrah’s have announced the schedule for this year’s WSOP.  Someone who is disgustingly well bankrolled has 55 ways to win a bracelet in 2007 – 9 more than last year.  That is, of course, providing she is a female casino employee aged 50 or older.

The 52 open events now include much mixed-game fun: a $1000 buy-in SHOE, $2500 and $5000 HORSE and $1500 and $5000 mixed limit/no-limit Hold’em events.  These are in addition to the return of the $50,000 HORSE "real world championship".  Gone are the $1000 and $1500 bracelet events that took place alongside days 3 to 7 of the main event, and in fact you’ll only get to play a $1000 No Limit Hold’em tournament at all if you are a lady or a senior.  The buy-in for these so-called World Championship events is almost as patronising as the fact that they have to take place at all.

"As part of our commitment to innovate for the benefit of all players, we’ve added nine bracelet events", says WSOP commish, Jeremy Pollack.  Yep, that’ll be the reason.  Harrah’s are, after all, world-renound innovators.  Like the groundbreaking conversion of Caesars Palace from one of the classiest, most opulent resorts in the world into - well - just another Harrah’s with a few columns on the outside.  More likely it has something to do with the certain drop in the number of internet qualifiers this year and the huge amount of rake they’re going to lose from the resulting smaller Main Event field.

They’re still planning for 9000, which is 1000 more players than last year’s capacity - the final total also includes several hundred alternates.  The World’s Most Vacuous Cardroom is being expanded to accomodate up to 3000 players at a time and Main Event Day One will be split into three days, rather than the four they had last year.  Day 2, which was split into two, is now scheduled for one day only.  If they do manage to sell 9000 seats – I guess we’ll just have to wait and see about this – it’s going to be a very long first day, with over two thirds of the field having to bust out before the end of play.

The press release and full schedule can be found here:
http://www.worldseriesofpoker.com/news/fullstory.sps?inewsid=393478

My Poker Investment Portfolio Starts Here

I’ve never bought or traded a percentage in another player before, but now I have ten percent of David Buckle in next year’s WSOP Main Event.  Not a big name player, I grant you, but it’s got to be better to walk away from a tournament with a lottery ticket than a big fat zero.  So that’s what I did.

Last night was the £150 WSOP super satellite at Gutshot that I won entry into last week.  With 33 players and a handful of rebuys, the prize pool just topped the £6500 mark – just enough to award one Main Event seat with flights and accomodation.

The complete prize structure looked like this:

1st: £6500 package
2nd: £115

Somewhat top heavy.  With one buy in less in the prize pool, we’d have been playing for three packages with a $1000 super-satellite at the Rio and some spare change for 4th place.  Despite almost everyone in the tournament preferring to play for three places, the prize structure stood and we weren’t able to chop the package.  The final add-on was actually taken by someone who wanted to play all-or-nothing for the big one, knowing that paying the extra £150 would be enough to create the seat.  And that was that.

So with twenty-something players remaining and just one prize greater than the price of a buy-in to play for, I wasn’t going to hang around.  Looking down at AK and having a below average stack, I figure I have to take a shot, even facing a raise and a reraise that already covers my chips.  I’m hoping to run against two smaller pairs, or one smaller pair and a worse ace.  In either of those spots, I’m about one-in-three to triple up and that’s plenty good enough.  In fact, I end up drawing a bit thinner, against QQ and KK.  When the KK is slowrolled after seeing both the other hands, karma kicks in and sticks a queen on the flop right up his arse.  There’s a jack too, so I’m calling for a ten to make a winning straight, and the turn card dutifully obliges.

I should have tripled up here, but somehow I got stiffed on the pot.  I moved in for 3200, but ended up with 7300.  It should have been virtually 10k, but thanks to the excitement of actually still being in the tournament, I didn’t notice until half way through the next hand.  All I can think is that my side pot was only awarded the first player’s original raise; whatever happened it was too late to do anything and I had to try to convince myself that it wasn’t going to matter that much.

Actually, it was about as insignificant as you could hope for.  From that point on, I only committed all my chips twice; once defending my blind with A2s (my reraise was called after an eternity by 35s, and I still don’t understand why but it made breathing difficult for a while) and then when I was actually eliminated in fourth place, with my AJ losing to K9.

With four players remaining and the cardroom still unwilling to chop up the prize the best we could come up with was for the winner to give 10% of any World Series winings to each of the other three.  We hastily scribbled an agreement which the club are keeping in their safe; far from perfect but even a forum post is more than anyone claiming to have a piece of this year’s winner had.  Even though the deal really probably isn’t worth much (although, of course, it could be worth 10% of $12m…) it no longer felt like I’d been playing for six hours with still a chance of going home with nothing.

I was pleased with my performance, and definitely got more out of this tournament than I expected.  Most importantly, I got a lot of high-pressure final table experience.  The stakes were way out of my comfort zone (my seat was worth over £1700 before I busted, and I couldn’t lock in any of that equity) but I didn’t choke.  I stayed patient and made good decisions.  I’d built a table image that I could take advantage of.  I always believed it when I told myself I had as good a chance as any other player to take first place.

I was also very pleased that I managed to walk directly back to my hotel without passing any places that I’d only ever seen on Monopoly squares!  This is a first for me, and although it’s nice to see London by foot, it’s not ideal when you’re alone at 3am and are a little unsure of the way.  Plus, I was disappointed last week when I discovered, by accident, that The Angel Islington was just another Wetherspoons.

Aces, aces everywhere

I’ve left it a bit late to write up the tournament I played at Gutshot on Monday, but I did win… so I think I should still make the effort to recount my moments of greatness. :)

Clearly I rock.  I picked up pocket aces three times in the first hour.  Bad players just can’t do that, it’s the reason they suck.  This was an unlimited rebuy tournament, so I didn’t even need to find opponents with much of a hand to get action.  It’s a satellite into the WSOP qualifier next Monday (a £150 ticket), and actually a freeroll.  You start with 500 chips for absolutely nothing.  Then every time you need more, £10 gets you an extra 1000 and there’s an add-on after an hour where your tenner gets you 2000 more chips.  148 rebuys and add-ons created 10 seats; in fact the cardroom added £20 to the pot rather than create a cash prize for 10th.  ty.

Aces #1: There’s an all-in from early position by a player who has made it quite clear he isn’t going to rebuy.  He’s been playing it, well, like a freeroll.  His bet is called by the player to my right who had taken one rebuy to start with 1500 (as had I) but now has a little less than that remaining.  I move all-in over the top – no point being fancy here, and there’s no real downside to showing strength now.  If the guy stuck in the middle likes his hand, he’ll call.  If he doesn’t, we have a chunk of dead money and a better chance of winning.  I’m not letting anyone else into this pot for cheap.  Turns out he did like his hand: 9Ts.  The freerolling maniac flips up AJ and I take it down.  One player rebuys, the other makes his way downstairs.

I’d been sitting tight for a good 20 minutes.  Usually not even worth thinking about, but in this game chips were flying and dudes and dudettes were gambling.  Everyone except me, that is.  I feared I may have too much respect, so when I looked down and saw the Gutshot Powerhouse, I thought I’d check my table image.  I raise, and all fold to the big blind who thinks for an age and eventually passes.  I throw the mighty five-high face up, and nobody looks impressed.  Yet when someone folds the same hand face up from a blind later in the tournament there is much talk about how they were way ahead, it never loses, how can they fold that, etc.  I’m dealing that hand, so I cheekily rabbit hunt and make him a one card, five high flush to beat the raiser’s pocket tens.  Ahead the whole time, indeed.

It couldn’t get more perfect when the very next hand …

Aces #2: Kerching. AA.  Let’s see how much respect I have now.  Hopefully none.  Blinds are up to 50/100 so I open with a raise to 300.  A newly rebought 1000 chips comes over the top and my hand holds up against another AJ.  Rebuy in seat.. well, who knows what number the seat is in these self-dealt games…?

I’m then moved to another table, and having lost one small pot and a couple of rounds of blinds I am sitting behind a stack on 3300 when the last three hands for rebuys is announced.  Two hands pass uneventfully.  Last hand before the break, and wouldn’t you know it…

Aces #3: Woohoo.  There are two limpers ahead of me, and I make it 300 to go from the button.  I haven’t needed to rebuy yet and I’m feeling a bit frisky, hence the small raise.  I’d like some action please Bob.  It’s not very often you’ll see me trying to build a pot with one pair, but right now I can still pay £20 if it all goes wrong and be back to 3000 chips, roughtly where I started.  The blinds quickly fold and the two limpers call.  These two limpers had history.  The guy in early position had been frustrated by the girl in between us twice since I’d been here, with her moving all in over the top after he bet.  Both times he folded a medium strong hand face up (whereas she showed nothing and just grinned), and though he was probably correct both times he was clearly getting rattled.  So with me last to act behind these two, I have to hold my breath when there’s a bet of 500 and an immediate all-in on a Q-high, fairly raggy board.  Had she not seen me here?  I don’t think the other guy had, as he announced "call" before I had chance to do anything.  Two nits at the table convinced him that the call stood because I had ever so slightly less chips than the raiser.  Which I think is correct, but instead of calling for a ruling he just threw in his remaining 500 with bottom pair (45s) and started berating the nits for getting involved once his hand did not improve (compulsory call for him though anyway in that spot).  QJ also did not improve, and I’m up to about 10,000 at the break after I take the add-on.

The girl does not return, so there’s 125 chips with no owner at the table when we come back from break.  The table gets broken quickly and I have no idea where those chips end up.  Surely they won’t have reseated her with a dead stack for three or four hands?  Wasn’t at my table anyway…

The streak continues at my new table.  I get one customer when I raise with AQ, the flop comes Q-high and he check-calls all in on the flop with 66.  Not exactly pot-committed (the bet was about the size of the pot) but he must not have believed me.  Doesn’t he know how powerfbloody lucky I am tonight?

From then on it did get harder.  Can you believe I didn’t see aces again all night?  Sometimes that really makes you question how good you are…  I was glad to have the big chip advantage because the blinds got silly pretty quick.  I’m still not convinced by the 250/500 and 350/700 levels.  They are uncomfortable numbers, and really just serve to skip three levels for the price of two.  About half the players were pot committed on every hand they played, so I mostly just stayed out of trouble.  No need to win this one, top ten will do fine.  I manage to maintain and creep my stack up a bit to 16k before we are down to two tables.

Playing some great push/fold, crapshooty, throw-it-all-away-on-one-hand poker, I see AJ and have to move in from the cut-off.  The small blind likes his hand.  He thinks for a while and says "I have a pair".  Bad small blind – if he calls and shows a pair, he can’t win this pot.  They only recently allowed any speech play at all at Gutshot, but you still can’t talk about your hand whilst there are other players to act.  Heads up it seems you can do what the hell you like…  So do I actually want him to call, then yell for the floor and let them decide whether I just get his blind or the whole pot?  Or do I say something now, and make him pass whilst also letting the other player still in the hand know that I’m not particularly keen on getting action here?  I decide to keep quiet and fortunately he folds what he says is a pair of sixes.

From then on the remaining players dropped like flies.  I still had to take a 50/50 with my 55 against AT to ensure safety, but I stayed lucky and didn’t finish 13th.  Two simultaneous bustos, one on each table, took ten of us into the next round.  One winner even got all the way without paying a penny.  Living the dream baby!

The £150 satellite is next Monday.  It’s costing me £88 on the train (they just got expensive for Christmas) and £34 for a hotel (and yes, you get what you pay for) to be there.  With my £20 investment, I guess I’m about £8 up…

No WSOP for me. Already.

The timing couldn’t be worse.  Harrah’s have announced that the series will being on June 1st with the final table of the Main Event on July 17th.  There’s no specific schedule information at this point in time, and I guess they don’t actually know when it will start yet because nobody can qualify online anymore. 

But still, there won’t be a poker table in sight at the World’s Most Vacuous Poker Room when we land on July 22nd for Summer O’ Poker III.  I’m still undecided whether this time it will be in 3D.