Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Chip and a Chair, baby!

I have to tell you about a three-week stretch of really good winning poker that I went on during November. It involves some of the craziest stuff I’ve ever had happen on a poker table…

As I had mentioned in my last post, I had taken some time off of poker. When I decided to get back in I started with a terrible run of cards. I would make three of a kind and someone would have a higher three of a kind. I’d hit two pair, and someone would hit their flush draw. Situations were happening that just weren’t working out well for me, and that’s part of the game, too. I was down to $56 in my online poker account and I decided to play a $26 tournament. Now, when I play in these tournaments, my realistic expectation is to cash, and if I get the right breaks at the right time maybe I’ll get lucky and cash big. The event I got in ended up having 1043 players. I was fortunate enough to finish in 7th place. That paid $751! Not bad for a $26 investment. In all seriousness, I was somewhat disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed in where I finished, but I was disappointed that after going that deep that I was unlucky in the hand the eliminated me. I had AK, my opponent had AQ, and they drew a Queen to beat me. Depending how other things would have gone, first place was $5100!! Ah, well.

Well, that 7th place finish set the stage for something that happened the following day. Every week on Sunday, Full Tilt Poker runs a tournament that has a $216 buy in. Full Tilt also guarantees there will be a prize pool of $750,000. You can pony up the full entry, or you can also play satellite tournaments that will allow you to win your entry. The satellite tournaments vary in dollar amount. I was able to win my entry in a $75 satellite. So I settled in for what I was hoping would be a long evening of poker, and I was right. It was definitely a long evening of poker. Things started out very well, as I was able to double my stack in the first couple of minutes when I flopped three of a kind, also called “a set”. My opponent in the hand was actually trying to bluff, so when he bet and then reraised my raise I was able to rake a nice pot. After the early double up not much happened to me. Certainly I played hands, and I lost some and won some, but nothing too eventful happened. The blinds kept getting higher and higher, and my stack was pretty much staying the same. The tournament had 3806 entrants, and of those 522 people were getting paid.

As the money bubble approached, I started losing chips. In fact, just after the money bubble was burst, I only had enough chips to pay for one more big blind and half of a small blind. I was pretty much just waiting to get knocked out as the blinds moved around the table. Well, they don’t use the phrase in poker “a chip and a chair” for no reason. On the last “free” hand I was going to get to play I decided to shove my chips in with Js-8c rather than wait to see what I was going to get dealt in the big blind. Someone raised and another player called. I didn’t need to see that, but the board came: T-9-9-7-A, and I had made a straight and almost quadrupled my chips in that hand alone! Two hands later, I was dealt A-K (Big Slick), and doubled my chips again. Within the next hour I went from last place to about 50th place. In the next hour after that the cards continued to go my way, and I went from where I was to the top 5 in the tournament. In fact, with 119 players left I was the chip leader!! I've never gone on a tear like that. In chips I went from about 3500 in chips to just over 1 million chips. I called Dan at the next break of the tournament and he was watching some of my progress as I played. It was unreal. We were at 30 players, and I was still sitting in the top 3 for chips. I was very excited since first place was $134,770! It was right around this time I got dealt a serious blow. I was dealt K-K and raised the pot. Another player reraised all in. Well, I’m not folding K-K. In fact, I can remember telling Dan how excited I was that my opponent had moved in. I called and my opponent showed 4-4. Unfortunately for me, my opponent spiked a 4 giving him a set of fours. I wasn’t knocked out, but I now had about what the average was at that time. If I had won the pot I would have been the clear chip leader…what a swing!

It was at this point my cards “dried up”, and I was left trying to find spots to get my chips in where I thought I’d still be ahead. Eventually, with 15 players remaining, I was dealt A-8 and raised all-in, only to have the player in the big blind have A-A. I didn’t get what I needed to win the hand, and I was eliminated in 15th place. The payout for that was still the largest single payout I’ve ever gotten from poker…$5405!!

I was able to ride that cash to another excellent finish the following week in that same tournament. Again I had won my entry via a satellite, and in that tournament I finished 33rd out of 3571 players to win $2251! Also, in this tournament, just like the last tournament, I found myself down to my last chips with about 200 players left, and again I got lucky once, doubled up, and then went on a tear that took me very near to the top of the chip leader board. I was beginning to think that maybe this was the way to win, but I really wouldn’t want to try getting knocked down “to the felt” each time. It’s way too stressful. I really did feel as though I was on my “A” game, having finished 7th out of 1043, 15th out of 3806, and 33rd out of 3751 players in such a short span. It was really an incredible feeling. Hopefully soon, I’ll finish a little better in one of these tournaments, like 1st!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Playoffs in Boston, Christmas in New York

I decided to take some time off of poker after the 2007 WSOP, partly because my work schedule was very hectic, and partly because it was summer and I was trying to enjoy getting out golfing, the weather, and being with friends. Work sent me to Windsor, Washington D.C. (twice), Minneapolis, and Denver in a short span of about 7 weeks. I managed to add a couple more glasses to the Hard Rock collection. If you are unaware of it I do collect them as I get to the locations.

As the 2007 year started to wrap up my work load didn't really decrease all that much. I was sent to several more locations, including Boston in early October, Denver in later October, Atlanta in November, and Manhattan in December. The weather in Boston was great for that time of year, and I was able to get out and do a few things that I hadn't in prior trips. The Red Sox had made the playoffs, and I was going to be in town when Game 1 of the Divisional Series was taking place. Everyone knows how fanatic the Red Sox fans are, so I didn't even consider trying to get a ticket since I guessed that scalpers would be selling them for ridiculous prices. Some of the people I was working with that week had suggested that I go to a pub near Fenway called the Cask 'n Flagon to get involved in the atmosphere of the playoff game. I hopped on the subway and made my way over to the Cask 'n Flagon. It turns out the pub is right next to Fenway Park. After exiting the subway I was approaching Fenway and the pub when I heard someone trying to sell a single ticket. I figured it wouldn't hurt to inquire about it, and the guy was selling the ticket for $80! I was really expecting it cost more, and I didn't even try to haggle with the guy. I paid the $80 and made my way in to the ballpark. What a game, too! Josh Beckett threw a shutout that night! It was really cool hanging out with Red Sox Nation for the game. Everyone getting in to it, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the 8th inning, the whole experience was great. I had never been to Fenway Park and I really wanted to do this at some point, and it turned out I picked a great game to go to for my first time there. On my last day in Boston, I was able to walk the Freedom Trail, where I went by historical locations such as Paul Revere's house, the Old North Church, and the Bunker Hill monument. I really enjoy history and hitting those places and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market were all neat places to visit.

After Boston, I was sent to Denver, and with the timing of that trip I happened to be out there for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series that the Colorado Rockies were participating in. I arrived too late to make it over to Coors Field for Game 3, and when I looked in to going to Game 4 the tickets were really expensive for the Tuesday game. As it turns out it's probably a good thing that I didn't go because the Rockies won the game, clinching a spot in the World Series, and the town went nuts! The news was reporting people in the streets partying late in to the night/early in to the morning, and there were severe delays in the train getting from Coors Field to outlying areas, like where I was staying. I did have the opportunity to make it over to the U.S. Mint and take a tour. It was really interesting seeing how the different coins are minted. I also made it up in to the mountains in to a ghost town called Central City and was able to walk around and see some of the historical things. The town was founded in 1859, and several of the buildings still look like they could be originals.

Atlanta in November was a decent trip, too. I had the opportunity to see a friend of mine who lives in the Atlanta area. We were able to get out for a little drinking and it was good to catch up.

In December I got the opportunity to work in New York City. One of the neat things about this trip was the fact that the facility I was working at was located in the Empire State Building! Because the cost of all the hotels in the nearby area during the holiday shopping season, I stayed across the river in Seacaucus, New Jersey. I was really impressed with the public transportation while I was out there. I was able to get from Seacaucus to the Empire State Building using the New Jersey bus, New York subway, and walking, all in about 40 minutes in prime rush hour! Being out there for the holiday shopping season was really neat, too. I was able to get over to Rockefeller Center and saw the Christmas tree. Times Square lit up at night is always a neat experience, and the experience was no different during the holiday season. I got up to the top of the Empire State Building, and that was truly exceptional. First of all, the snow appeared to be flying upward at the 86th floor. The first thing you'll notice though no matter when you're up there is how quiet it is. With all the traffic over a thousand feet below you won't hear any of the traffic below. While I was up there I could faintly hear an outdoor Christmas concert playing in the distance, and with the snow falling it made for a really neat experience. I only wish that my camera could take better pictures at night time!

I know that there's not a whole lot of poker in this blog (none at all to this point), but you can tell I was kind of busy later in the year for 2007. I'll have some more poker in the next posting, as I've got some tournaments to tell you about including my best cash ever.