Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Super Loose in Tampa

Work sent me to Tampa this week, and whaddya know, the Hard Rock has a casino & hotel there. The casino only has slots and a poker room, but the poker room and a Hurricane glass was all that I was looking for. The poker room is actually quite large. They have about 50 tables. The only thing is they only offer $1/$2 Limit cash games, $2/$2 Limit cash games, or tournaments. The tournament buy-ins start at $120 with $100 going to the prize fund and $20 going to the house. The tournaments start as soon as they have 10 players available to play at the designated amount. I usually prefer the cash games, but since it was all Limit poker with small blinds and that usually means extremely loose play I thought it might be better to try my hand at the tournaments. I got a seat in a $120 tournament, and quickly found out that those were just as loose as I expected the cash games to be. The tournament started with 1500 chips, blinds at 25/50, and levels going up every 10 hands. After three hands, two players were out, and on the other hand, three players went to see a flop when it had been raised to 300 chips, or 20% of the starting stack!! I was fortunate enough to not have gotten involved in any of the hands, so when I found QQ in my hand 4 hands later I had a full stack to play with. One of the benefactors of the early exits had raised it to 200, and a second player had already called. When the action is that loose and furious, the play is made easy…just move all in with the big hand, which is exactly what I did. Everyone folded to the raiser, who called, and then the other player also called! When the flop came T-9-4 and both players checked I knew I was in good shape. The turn came T and the river came 6. Unfortunately for me, the river card was the killer as the large stack had called with 6-6, and made his hand at the river. I was out, but I was very determined since the play was as loose as it was.

I got in what I had planned to be my last tournament, a tourney with a $225 buy-in. I liked the fact that only $25 was going to the house, so the percentage of the rake was significantly smaller. I was able to double up early when I had raised with QQ again, got two callers, and the K-Q-7 board gave me a set of Queens, which held up against the opponent who put me all in with his pocket 9s. I was then able to use my big stack to make my way in to the money. The final three players get paid in these tourneys. During three-handed play I was able to get my stack in against the opponent who had just more than me when I found myself holding AK. My opponent declared, "I finally got you!" and proudly turned over his QQ. Before the dealer put the board out I retorted with, "You realize it's still just a coin flip, right?" and I showed just how devastating AK can be when the flop came K-5-5 and made those Queens look as bad as if they had been deuces. Obviously it's nice to have the made hand, and I've been there myself, but I'll still take AK in three-handed play anytime. The board didn't improve either of us from there, and I had 12000 of the 15000 chips in play with only the three of us left. One of the short stacks knocked the other out, and then my AK held up on the final hand of the tourney against my opponent's A5 and I won that tournament. First place paid $950, and I was now way ahead for the evening.

I decided to give a $120 tournament another crack, and managed to pick up some chips early again when QQ eliminated a player who called his chips off with AJ. I was able to accumulate some chips on a "weird Farkas play" (phrase coined by the Squirrel, soon to be used by Sklansky) where I made an absurd raise out of position with T9 against some limpers and flopped top two pair. I then maneuvered my way around losing a chunk of chips with 88 on a 6-high flop, and recovered what I had lost in that hand when my AJ eliminated an about-even with me stack who was holding AT. The board came 3-3-T and things looked grim, but the Jack on the turn reversed my fortune, and my hand held up. I got to heads-up play with my opponent, and what a see-saw battle it was! My opponent started with a 2 to 1 chip advantage, and I was able to work my way to an 8000 to 7000 chip lead when I ran into KK with KQ. My opponent's hand held up, and I was down 14000 to 1000 in chips. I survived my first all in on the hand immediately following that debacle when AQ held up. I worked my way back to a slight chip lead when my top pair, nut flush draw ran in to two pair. I was crippled again, but worked my way to about 6K in chips. I found KK when I was in the big blind when I decided to slow-play it to trap. The harmless board of J-6-3 looked good, so when I bet 1000 to build the pot and was raised to 4000, I knew it was time to move all in. My opponent called with QJ, and things looked great when the turn came 7, but I drowned on the river when a Queen hit, and I took second place in that tournament. Second place paid $300, so I had done better than doubling my cash in that tournament.

One of the things I noticed over the course of the evening was that I only got my chips in bad once. When I say "bad", I mean something worse than a coinflip situation. The one time I got them in bad it was heads up and I was willing to gamble to get the win with a solid hand, but it's a good feeling when you realize you're able to get your chips in the pot in a dominating situation on a regular basis. It's all about making the right decisions.

I was able to stop at the gift shop and picked up my usual Hurricane glass and some assorted other items before I called it a night. I definitely have to make sure to put the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on my list of places to stop again if I manage to make it to Tampa again and I'll remember how loose they play there!