My plane landed at 12:15 (Saturday, June 4th, 2016) and the first tournament I wanted to play was at Binion’s. I have a soft spot for that old hotel where the magic of the World Series started back in 1970. They have not held it there for many years, and overall it is a little run down. But the dealers are great and it has a kind of “history aura” around it.
On Saturday afternoons at 1:00 they have a $160 buy in tournament where you start with 20,000 in chips and have 30 minute blinds. It is a good structure and the dealers are very smooth so you don’t have to wait for cards.
<digression>During the World Series in Vegas it is difficult to supply enough dealers because of all the events at the WSOP at the Rio plus many of the other casinos have their own tournament series. So it can be very frustrating to be at a table where the dealer has trouble shuffling the cards and sorting out the chips with the betting, raising, etc. So I appreciate that Binion’s has their regular folks who do an excellent job, even if the tables have seen better days.</digression>
By the time I got my rental car, drove downtown and parked in Binion’s garage and walked to the poker room, the tournament had been running for over 1/2 hour. There was still plenty of time to get in because they allow entry at least until four rounds (or perhaps even six). You can even re-enter for another $160 if you get knocked out in that time.
So I gave them my money and was seated about half way through the second blind level. I wound up sitting next to a retired guy who was Canadian but lived in some warm place (Mexico?). He had worked for a couple of hotel chains, I guess in some executive position and I had my Marriott Lifetime Platinum status, so we chatted about hotels, travel, Canada etc. This is another thing I like about poker: it’s a social game. At its most cutthroat you have to stop talking so you do not give away too much “information” but generally there is a good conversation somewhere at the table. It is a lot of fun because you are folding 95% of your hands, and other than observing people, there is not much to do. Throughout the week I wound up meeting him a few more times in other tournaments so that was fun.
In this tournament I never really saw many good cards. I think I played quite well and hung in there, but it is difficult when you are “card dead” for such a long time. I had been reading Kill Everyone, which has several great sections in it on different aspects of tournament poker. It is the “advanced” version of Kill Phil which is kind of a “cheater’s guide” to playing tournaments with professionals. They discuss a “shove” strategy: the general theory being that if you get a decent hand you should often shove (i.e. go “all in”) and pick up a pot rather than playing “post-flop” where the professionals have an advantage. Professionals generally like to play “small ball” where there is less room for variance (other word for “luck”) to mess things up. Kill Phil is ok, but I really preferred Kill Everyone with its more detailed strategy. There is a lot of good discussion in there about equity, bet/fold/shove ranges given your chip stack and general strategy around the “effective stack”. I should read it again because any decent poker book takes several readings before you really “get it”.
Anyway, I hung in with this tournament until around 6 pm and applied a few of the “Kill Everyone” strategies to keep me in. I believe in my last hand I went “all in” with something like pocket 9s, and the fellow who called was new at the table but he had a ton of chips and had been winning everything. I believe “steamrolling his previous table” would be the correct expression. I think I was ahead of him when he called, or perhaps he had pocket Jacks. In any event, by the river he’d made a full house so I was history. Sometimes poker is just like that, you play well, but someone comes along who just dominates.
So I went back to my car and drove to the Polo Towers where I was staying.
It was on the strip next to the Hard Rock Cafe so quite central. It was a time share place that also rented hotel rooms so it had no casino and it was nice to get back to a quiet place each day. Aside from the guy who tried to sell me a time share right after I checked in (by offering me several 15th generation photo-copied sheets of “deals”) the stay was quite pleasant. Its main problem was driving there because it was a bit tricky to get into the parking, but the rooms had fridges and microwaves and were very comfortable. I’d stay there again, for sure.
OK, that is all the excitement for Saturday. Next up…..Sunday!