Into Action. And Out. And In. And Out.
Friday, 2 July 2010
So here I am in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, six weeks after everyone else got here. So many Brits have won bracelets this year, they’ve actually broken records. If I’m going to win one, it’ll have to be in the main event. That’s what they call a long shot.
Or I suppose I could win the $2500 No Limit Holdem later today. I’ve got three shots in total, and I already failed to win the $1500 Limit Shootout. That was more to do with admin issues than play, but I must admit I didn’t feel lucky on Day One of the trip.
I travelled out here with Nick Wealthall, the excellent poker commentator (it’s worth watching his TV shows from the UKIPT on pokerstars.tv, they’re very funny and seem to succeed where a million televised poker shows have failed, in actually bringing out the real colour and characters and humour of the game.) As we queued to get off the aircraft, an announcer said, “Would passenger Hoxlebreath please report to ground staff? Mr Hoxlebreath, please make yourself known at the exit.”
“Mr Hoxlebreath?”, said Nick. “What is he, a Beatrix Potter character?”
“That’s me”, said the man standing behind us.
I mean, on a big transatlantic jet, what is that - a 750/1 shot? The plane has TWO FLOORS, for heavens’ sake, never mind the great snaking lines of people on either side. We felt unlucky.
Nevertheless, the Limit Shootout went rather well. I have never really played limit, but I gave this a shot because it was “a bracelet opportunity” and not too expensive. My concern about playing a limit tournament (in which the betting is capped in each round, so you might - for example - only be able to bet 20 into a pot of 200) was that I didn’t understand how you could ever get anyone to fold. They’re always priced in!
Actually, though, I managed to figure out the format pretty well as we went along. You just use old-fashioned poker reading skills to work out if somebody is on a draw or not; if so, and they miss, they’ll fold on the river whatever the price. That is, unless they have a big card or a small pair, in which case they always feel they have to call. So you can do a lot of value betting with second or third pair, which is lucrative on the right sort of table. I was tweeting during the tournament (which is allowed, these days, though it’s a different sort of gamble for me; my sponsors like it, along with about 50% of my Twitter followers, but I always return to my laptop to find at least 200 angry messages from people who don’t understand the tweets and at least 50 people who have un-followed in protest.)
Anyway, I typed out the tweet, “Wow, it’s much easier to bluff in this game than I thought it would be”, and was just about to press send when the chap next to me said, “You’re one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter”, and showed me his Blackberry. I thanked him for the kind compliment, and quietly deleted the tweet. I only have a normal phone myself, so I can send messages but not see any replies; I forgot that the rest of the world is a little more techno than I am.
On a 10-handed table, I got down to the last four. On the break, I bumped into a friend who owed me some money. He’d just been knocked out of a tournament so it’s a bad time to ask for anything - but this is a caked-up kind of guy who always seems to have bundles in his pocket, and I needed the cash because I hadn’t brought any with me, so I broke with formal etiquette. He gave me a large Rio chip. I asked if he could cash it at the cage, but he was keen to get out of the building (quite understandable; the Rio is nobody’s favourite place at the best of times, and when you’ve just been knocked out it’s about as much fun as sticking around in Hades for just one more cup of coffee and a round of mini-golf) so I took the chip gratefully and decided to cash it on the dinner break. Big mistake.
I queued at the cage for half an hour, then handed over the chip. Of course, this was a chip that I had neither bought nor won from the Rio myself. That, I realized from the face of the cashier and her supervisor, opened the possibility that I had STOLEN IT. They looked at me as if I had just arrived at Customs, slapped a pistol onto the counter and asked if they could gift-wrap it for me.
By the time I got back to my tournament table, with no money and the chip still at the cashier’s desk, I had missed two rounds and they were down to three-handed. It was just me, the great poker player Chau Giang and Rob, my kindly Twitter follower. Never mind. I settled back into the game.
Fifteen minutes later, a tournament director who’d been trying to help me out approached the table and said my money could now be collected. “Oh… um…” I said, “We’re down to three here…”
But I was worried. This guy had to get back to work and might be leaving soon. He had been kind enough to phone the guy who gave me the chip - who had been kind enough to take time out from his dinner to explain that I was not a thief. Everyone was doing me a favour. And what if I couldn’t get the money later? I needed it. A bird in the hand… well, let’s be honest, it was several thousand birds in the hand. It wouldn’t take long, I reasoned, to nip back to the cage and pick up the money.
I’d forgotten about the Rio’s love of PAPERWORK. Oh boy, the forms and signatures.
Twenty minutes later, I got back to the table to find my chips severely depleted by the blinds. But guess what? It ended just like it would in a Hollywood movie! A depressing, indie Hollywood movie. I finished third.
Ah well. At least I can blame circumstances, not the action. I can tell myself that if it weren’t for all the legal niceties and form-filling, I would definitely have been the 2010 world champion of $1500 Limit Holdem.
Besides, I was insanely sleepy. The jet lag had kicked in. I was at that dangerous stage where getting into bed was feeling more attractive than winning first prize anyway. Also, I had a quick skim through the Twitter replies when I got in and someone had sent me an encouraging picture for the tournament which - although I hadn’t been able to look at in time for it to bring me luck, not having a Blackberry - I found enormously cheering. Hope it has the same effect on you. Lovely.
Back into action later, for the $2500 No Limit Holdem. Just me and 2000 others.
Update: It was a great day’s poker (in the $2500 NLH) UNTIL a very unlucky last level and a horrible hand near the end of the night. BUT I have made day two. Around 580 people are going back, of the 2000 starting players, and I think I have average chips. It’s just a shame not to have a great chip stack, as I would have had if we’d finished one level earlier! Never mind, maybe tomorrow will be a lucky day.
Update: Day Two. About 40 minutes in, a player raised to 2500 (blinds 400-800). I reraised all in for 19,000 with a pair of nines. Unfortunately, the big blind was waiting with a pair of tens and didn’t want to pass them. So, I’m OUT in about 430th place. I think it was a pretty big call from the guy with the tens, but what the hell, I can’t be upset because I did nothing wrong. The original raiser threw his hand away, and it’s just unlucky that someone else was lurking. Never mind, at least I got a couple of days for my money. I’ll have to win my bracelet in the main event instead.